The Shadow Priestess Part 2: Power
Author: Moanna

Chapter 7
Chapter 7

"All right, I have had enough."
I recognised the voice to be Niklaus's, but my eyelids were too heavy to lift. I felt my whole body trembling, and could not move anything.
I was sure that, had I been able to move, all I would have been doing was trembling and vomiting. Mordax's torture left me weak.
Fear gripped at my insides at his words. What did Niklaus mean, he had had enough? Was he going to execute me because I was losing my touch? Because I lost to Mordax?
My memory swam at the thought of Mordax. He had re-killed my family in front of me, letting me see exactly how he made art of their deaths, before stabbing every part of my body he could find. My body started trembling worse at the recollection of the unbearable pain, and my mind swam worse at the mixture of thoughts.
"What do you mean, my lord?" Claude's voice said from my other side.
"Who is scaring her?" Niklaus growled angrily, and I knew that, if they could, tears of fear would be leaking from my eyes. I hated it when he talked like that.
"I do not-"
"She is even starting to fear me," Niklaus said, cutting across Sebastian, "Me, butlers! Are either of you tampering with her mind?"
"Of course not!" they chorused, alarmed.
"What about the other servants? The warriors?"
"You would have sensed if anyone was invading her mind, my lord," Claude said softly, "Or we would have."
"Have you considered the possibility that she might be lying to keep you close to her, my lord?" Sebastian said softly. Anger flared inside me - how dare he assume I would subject myself to such weakness? - but my body was too weak to respond.
"She would never throw away her pride like that," Niklaus replied, "And she does not think that highly of me. She only wants me near because she believes 'they' will leave her alone if I am near."
"They?" the butlers chorused.
"Whatever is tormenting her," Niklaus sighed, and I felt his cold fingers softly brush my fringe away from my eyes and caress my jaw line before pulling away, "Stay by her side, and call on me when she wakes."
"Yes, my lord," they chorused again.
When I heard the door of whichever room I was in close, I knew that he had left. My heart started hammering. He was right: they left me alone when he was with me. I needed him with me. I tried opening my eyes, twitching my fingers, anything, but nothing worked.
I felt my stomach churn when a shadowy figure with leathery wings swam behind my eyelids. Still my body refused to move. Were the idiots not vampires? Could they not sense my heartbeat accelerating?
Suddenly I was in Mordax's black and white world, and the recollection of having him stab me over and over again replayed in my mind.
I faintly heard Claude and Sebastian arguing over something, and I heard my name once or twice, but the creatures that were haunting me left me no time to ponder over what the brothers were arguing about.
Wild beasts - wolves, bats, large cats, all with glowing eyes - chased me through dark forests while shadowy beasts hovered over me, chasing me toward the black abyss which was the only escape route from the forest. I was suddenly chained by the wrists and ankles while the deaths of my family replayed in front of me. I felt like screaming. I knew I was dreaming, but I could not wake myself.
I felt a tear leak from each of my eyes, and the moment's distraction was all I needed. I decided to focus all I could on the two brothers' argument.
"Brother, you could not overtake me even if you sold your soul," Sebastian was saying cockily.
"I care not about being better than you! Victoria is our responsibility! Stop acting like such a child, Sebastian!" Claude said heatedly, a growl similar to Niklaus's in his voice, and my heart thumped painfully.
"You are pathetic, brother," Sebastian said incredulously, "You fell in love with a girl who is more than three hundred years younger than you! Are you not ashamed to feel this way towards your master's ward?"
"Is it so different from the king's feelings?" Claude shot back.
"Lunarian is but six years older than her. We cannot understand his feelings if we try a hundred years more. If Lord Niklaus ever found out about this-"
"You will not tell-"
"I said 'if', brother. Calm yourself," Sebastian said, "If he were ever to find out, he will have you executed. You know how he feels for her. He would die for her."
"Do you really believe that?"
"What else could the reason be for him to go to such lengths to make her happy? There are thousands of women from which he could choose any one, or several if it be his will, so why on this dear earth would he choose a sixteen year-old girl who cares for nothing but power and no one but herself?" he asked, then added quickly, as though Claude was about to interrupt, "I will tell you why, brother. It is because she is the spitting image of the late Lady Victoria. I think you care for her only because you cared for our mistress, as well. Look at the girl. Her hair, her eyes, her smile, even her body and the way she moves it in battle. You would swear they were twins. Do you really think that, if this girl did not look so much like his soul mate, he would have sought her assistance for the ritual, and not somehow forced Mordax Black to? Of course not. He would have given his everything to recruit Mordax, who is much stronger and much more experienced in battle."
"Then why would he go to such extreme lengths to try and make her happy? To ensure her safety?" Claude hissed angrily.
"Because if she is happy then she will stay, and if she is safe she will remain alive, thus our lord's wife is not completely erased from his memory. We both bore witness to the madness he succumbed to for centuries, trying to revive her. He finally found something better than covering his wife's corpse with balsam each morning and laying her on his bed beside him. However, I do not think he feels for her in a romantic manner. I think he only wishes to protect her image. The last living memory of Victoria Narlith."
Suddenly I was so annoyed. I did not care that I was not loved by the owner of this mansion. What I cared about is the context in which the two butlers used my name. I would never make the mistake of falling in love again. I finally managed to make my body move. My fingers clenched over the delicate material of the blanket underneath me, and a low, hateful growl escaped from deep within my thought.
"How much did she hear, I wonder?" Sebastian said with a hint of amusement.
Silence rang through the room, and I could practically feel the butler brothers' gazes on me. I was going to make the lot of them pay for using me this way. They had no right to demolish the little pride I had left. All thoughts of the leathery winged creature, the ghosts and my family erased, I forced my eyes open and let my wolf ears and tail appear with a flash of deep purple light.
The brothers were staring at me silently. I hated the two of them. How dare they reveal such a horrible truth to me right after I had been tormented out of my mind? A quick scan told me that I was in Niklaus's room. The chandelier hanging from the ceiling was lit and the curtains were drawn. Tio was lying on the bedside cabinet.
In a flash, I had grabbed Tio and swung it angrily, aiming to slice Sebastian in half, but he blocked my hit with a silverware fork he had taken from the inside of his jacket. Tio's blade cut through it, and he jumped to the side to avoid his hand being cut clean off. Instead, I swung Tio to the side and aimed at Claude, who blocked the blow equally effortlessly. I twirled on the balls of my foot and swung Tio wildly at the two butlers, but they blocked the hits easily.
"My lady, please calm-"
"Don't tell me to calm down," I said, a menacing wolfish growl in my throat.
I manipulated water out of my body and turned it to spikes, letting them fly across the room so that the butlers barely had time to defend themselves. Just when a spike was about to shoot through Sebastian's eye, it shattered along with all the others, and strong arms gripped at mine, holding them behind my back. Tio fell from my grip.
"I told you to call on me when she woke," Niklaus hissed from behind me.
I glared at him angrily, "Your little pets revealed everything. I want nothing to do with you. You did not agree to train me so that you will let me go when I'm strong enough to kill my father. You intend on keeping me here to preserve your memories of her."
Niklaus's gaze shot upwards at the butlers behind me, and I was almost sure they were not looking him in the eye.
"What have they told you?" he asked softly, looking back at me.
"We told her nothing-"
"They thought I was asleep," I interrupted Sebastian. I let out a demented chuckle, "What kind of person balsams their dead wife and lets her sleep next to him? What kind of madness did you get up to for the last few hundred years? What kind of experiments did you carry out to try and revive her? What kind of person are you, using me to preserve your memories of her?"
Niklaus said nothing. I pulled a face in disgust, "I do not want to be associated with weakness such as this. I'll find refuge elsewhere."
Before he could try to stop me, I manipulated the water inside me and shot it out, forming a bubble of water around me. He had been in the process of reaching out to me, but froze when the water covered me. Water was fatal to vampires. I grabbed Tio from the ground, covering it with water, as well, before strapping it to my back and exiting the room.
As soon as I exited the short corridor outside Niklaus's room, my body started trembling again. I was really foolish for walking out of there. Niklaus had still not trained me, and neither had Sebastian. I could not shield my mind and I would be no match for the Shadows if they appeared before me. Not to mention the ghosts and Havec and other creatures preventing me peaceful sleep.
"My lady, wait a moment."
I turned around to face Niklaus, his face hardened with contained anger. I stared through the bubble of water around me at him, waiting for whatever excuse he was thinking up for his behaviour.
"I am sure you are aware of the fact that you are not strong enough to defend yourself against anything outside this mansion," he said, "Are you planning on leaving before you are strong enough?"
"I want nothing to do with you," I said, turning my back on him and facing the drawn curtains, "I will order my angels to teach me to shield my mind. Releasing more Ceilos during my Summoning will call stronger ones, who I can spar with. When I am satisfied with my training, I will return here so that you can train me."
"Victoria-"
I turned back to Niklaus and the force of my stare shut him up, "You're much stronger than me, but also much more insane. The fact that I look like her grants me a certain power over you, and I am sure that you will do everything in your power to keep me safe. That's all I need."
With that, I focused Ceilos in my arms and legs and made for the window. I muttered at incantation and, breaking through the window, I bit my thumb and pressed my palm to the windowsill and called with my mind, Appoloin!
The male angel appeared above me, grasping my coat from the back and soaring through the night air with me.
"Where to, mistress?" he asked.
"The clearing," I replied. He knew which one I referred to - the one where we used to train every morning. Looking down, I saw a lot of movement in the forest. The creatures living there were restless now. I wondered why.
"Why are you troubled, mistress?" he asked.
"That is not of your concern at the moment," I replied, "Are there other, stronger angels with whom I can train?"
"Mistress, I mean no disrespect, but would you not like to be able to counter Manakel, Elemiah, Forfax and myself simultaneously before moving to the higher-ups?"
"Very well," I agreed, "Can the four of you teach me to shield my mind, too?"
"Yes."
"I will spend the entire day from this moment outside," I said, "Your purifying air will keep away evil, so one of you must always remain by my side."
"What kind of evil do you speak of, mistress?"
"A kind that needs to be kept away," I snapped, "If anything causes you uneasiness in the slightest, set it right."
"To be honest, mistress, your presence emanates evil. What should I do?"
"This is not evil, this is bloodthirst. I need to kill Mordax. I need my pride back."

I spent the night hidden in Appoloin's wings. The night air was ice cold, and the only form of heat I had was the angel's flaming sword; I refused to let him touch me.
I woke up several times, screaming, after reliving the horror of Mordax's hallucination, to find that I was surrounded by strange creatures, glaring at me from behind the shadows of the trees, while Appoloin seemed perfectly at ease. At one point, a group of imps appeared and woke me. Imps were small, ugly creatures with pale blue skin and hand-sized wings. They had strong jaws and the power of absorbing Ceilos, weakening their foe little by little. I finished all seventeen off effortlessly before Appoloin could even lift his sword, mainly from fear of having my Ceilos sucked out. As it were, they had managed to get a little, but luckily not much.
Appoloin woke me at noon, and I was glad that I had finally been able to get some proper sleep in. I Summoned the other three angels and sparred with all four throughout the whole day. They were strong, and I could not counter them properly. This fuelled my need for power.
Manakel stayed with me that night, and I had to manually light a small fire for warmth. Her presence, however, was slightly more comforting, and I was able to get a relatively good amount of sleep in. If it had not been for the frequent visits from the monsters in the forest, I would have gotten a solid ten hours in. I trained with nothing but my water manipulation the following day, not unclasping Tio from my back a single time. Still, they were much stronger than me.
I sent the angels to fetch me food, glad when they brought back no messages from the people in the mansion, except that Niklaus had tortured the butlers so that they, now, moved around like zombies. I grew angry as the days passed by. The angels were a nearly unbearable amount stronger than me. There was no trick to any of my attacks, which made me predictable, but I did not know how to change that.
My fear never ceased completely, and I was woken easily by something as simple as a rustling in the leaves, killing anything apart from my angels. After a week I Summoned Appoloin, Manakel and Forfax and sat down irritably beside Elemiah.
"Teach me to shield my mind," I ordered them.
"We must do that separately, mistress," Appoloin said, "I will be the first. You must be able to fully counter my interference before moving to the next. When you are strong enough, we will attack your mind simultaneously, and then we will move aside and call the higher-ups for you."
"Fine," I said, clicking my fingers at the other three. They bowed their heads in respect and disappeared with quick-to-disperse puffs of smoke.
"There are several ways with which to shield your mind," Appoloin said once we were alone again, staring at me pointedly, "Each has advantages and disadvantages. You must know them all. The first is simply concentrating on a certain object or image in your mind so forcefully that your opponent cannot penetrate your defences."
"Simply concentrating on something?" I repeated, "What do you mean?"
"For instance, should I attempt to penetrate your mind at this moment, you can focus all your energy on a nearby rock, a leaf or even Dominatio per Malum," he explained, "Let us try it."
Before I could search for something, a sharp pain that had me crying out struck my head. I suddenly felt a flaming hot sensation swirling around my head, and memories flooded behind my eyes: having Lunarian whip me daily, the sight of my family murdered and finding Mordax hovering over their corpses, the years that followed, struggling to no avail to get back my pride without even realising it and the Warrior's Exam. I realised Appoloin was seeing these memories, and fought the sensation with all my might, but nothing happened.
This is private! I yelled in my mind, trying to cling on to some simple object in my memories, but before I could focus, Appoloin would move to the next. Stop it, I tell you!
I felt the hot sensation and the pain ceasing and found myself on all-fours on the ground beside the lake; sweat was dripping from my face and my whole body was trembling.
"Perhaps I was a bit too forceful," Appoloin said expressionlessly. I clicked my tongue irritably.
"I didn't know people could read minds," I said.
"Only very skilful ones. Like your Lord Niklaus, for instance," he replied. My eyes widened in spite of myself, and he added, "But he has never penetrated your mind. I would have felt it."
"Can Mordax read minds?" I asked.
"Yes."
I swore and said, "What if he found out about Manson?"
"That would be a problem. That is why you must master this as soon as possible. There are too many secrets hidden in your mind. Let us continue."
This time I was a little more prepared. I focused all I had on the nearest blade of grass; saw in my mind's eye the thin membranes running along in a different shade of green. But it made no difference. Soon I saw my mother's last smile before she died, Alexudo's condescending look, Miraxio's admiring one, the sight of them piled on top of each other in my parents' bedroom, all my pride crushed, the funeral.
Unfamiliar pain struck my chest and I erupted with madness, pushing back with a force I did not know I possessed. The blade of grass meant nothing now; I instead focused on a picture I had created in my mind's eye. I was holding a knife to Mordax's throat. Nothing was stronger than that.
Instead, I suddenly saw Appoloin's shocked face before it faded away to reveal him being brutally tortured by several people, but he continued serving them. These were his memories of his former masters. I saw them kicking him in the face, spitting on him, telling him he was weak. These memories faded away to reveal him training on what seemed like a cloud, moving with speed I have never seen before.
Suddenly I saw a thick steel wall, and then I was lying on the ground on my back, cold sweat dripping into my hair, while Appoloin hovered over me, his face twisted into an expression of pure hatred.
The rest of the day was wasted with barely any progress. He explained to me that I had, without realising it, used another method of shielding the mind: the forming of either a memory or a vision so powerful that it retaliates against the intruder.
By sunset, we were both so tired that we simply fell on the nearby rocks. When I complained of a sore head, Appoloin's explanation was simply, "Your mind is tired, mistress."

 

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