The Shadow Priestess Part 2: Power
Author: Moanna

Chapter 19
Chapter 19

"Dear Spirits," was Demetri's first word when he entered the room I stayed in.
I could not really blame him. Paper littered a black-spotted floor where small explosions had taken place. Blood was splattered here and there from the side-effects of the potions. Several books on alchemy were strewn all over the floor and furniture, along with Lord Niklaus's massive alchemy book.
"And good morning to you too," I said groggily.
I had just gotten up and was sitting on the edge of the bed, my elbows resting on my knees and my hands clutching my face. I felt as though I had not slept at all the past few days.
"Take a look at what I've done so far," I said, standing up and gesturing to the journal lying on the desk, "I'm just going to get dressed."
He grunted in response and I took a bunch of clothes to the small bathroom attached to my room. After I had gotten dressed, Demetri spoke the moment I opened the door.
"You know, this journal only further proves my suspicion that you're making weaponry for Klaus, not healing potion," he said.
"That's because these damned herbs are impossible to brew," I snapped.
"And that's why you need my help," he said smugly, turning to face me with the journal still in his hands, "I think you need fundamental knowledge on these herbs before you destroy the village. First of all, Peacebloom is potent, but not sustainable, and if you don't brew it correctly, it becomes highly flammable. Silverleaf can only be used on cuts, to mend the skin and muscle tissue of the wound, and becomes poisonous if you don't brew it correctly. Kingsblood's main use is to improve the five senses, and if it is brewed very carefully, it can be used as a sleeping draught, but if it is brewed incorrectly, it can become acidic. Mageroyal has a different reaction toward every kind of herb, and if it's brewed incorrectly, it can cause explosions. The potency of the explosion depends on the amount you had used, and how badly you screwed up. Liferoot is a very potent and sustainable healing herb, which has no side-effects, but its uses vary depending on what it's mixed with."
"So then that should be the base of my potion," I said.
"Luckily for you, I knew that you were too foolish to be aware of this, so I brought extra."
He took a large vial of the pale blue flowers and placed it on the table, and I could not help but feel grateful toward him.
We somehow managed to work harmoniously during the day. We simply brewed several vials of Liferoot and added a little of each of the other flowers in minuscule amounts. With Demetri's help, no flower tried to bite, poison or burn us, and each had some sort of healing effect, but not strong enough for what I was looking for.
The following day, we did the same, only heightened the amount of the other herbs we added to the Liferoot, but still it did not have the desired effects.
More days passed, and my stress levels were reaching an all-time high. In just a few days, I would need to return to Lord Niklaus with some results, but I had none.
When we started brewing the herbs and simply adding a little Liferoot, its effects changed altogether. The potions started bubbling, sizzling, burping, gaping, biting and hissing at us, and we had to rid of them.
"I give up," I said three days before I was due to return to the mansion. I was on the verge of bursting into tears. "Lord Niklaus will have my other eye within the week. I might as well swallow a Mudo thorn. It might be a little less pain-"
"That's it!" Demetri said, his face breaking into the widest grin I had ever seen it.
"You want me to swallow a Mudo thorn?"
"If you're not going to become helpful, then yes, but that's not what I was referring to," he replied. I stared at him. "Look, Victoria had once fallen into a Mudo thorn bush. I had to cure her."
"A delightful, but not very helpful story," I sighed.
"Do you not know that the blossoms of a Mudo thorn bush are used in the manufacturing process of Spirit Tools, which are used for-"
"Mending Ceilos wires-"
"And that means-"
"We've got the answer!" I finished.
I stopped. We stared at each other for a moment, living through what must have been the most awkward moment in my entire life. Both of us were grinning at each other like idiots. I had never wanted to have a happy moment with this nose-in-the-air moron, yet here I was. But then my grin faded.
"Wait, where are we going to get Mudo blossoms?" I asked, dropping the fist with which I had punched the air.
"We are going to do something that I never thought I would have the courage to do," he said, and my heart leapt. Was it something dangerous? "Defying a direct order."
"Are you serious?" I stared at him. He was insane. Had he really never, ever defied a direct order from anyone? I decided not to bother. I was never going to understand him anyway, and after the next three days, I was probably never going to see him again. "So, whose order are we defying?"
"The High King's," he said, "The Black family had grown all kinds of dangerous herbs in their back yard, most of which had died out. But not the Mudo bush. It is nurtured with Ceilos and so, by the time it matures, it can fend for itself by feeding on the Ceilos in the air."
"But that means-"
"It's still alive!"
I stared at him again. What the hell was it about him that made me want to bash his head in? Honestly. He was like a ten year old girl. I decided to break the second awkward silence we experienced.
"So what are we waiting for?"
"My conscience to shut up," he said. The expression on his face was something akin to a dog that had just left a very special gift on its owner's carpet without 'meaning to'.

***

Niklaus.
I was pacing around the room. Even vampirism had no cure for stress. I could not think straight anymore. Victoria Narlith's corpse was still in the basement, frozen until I could figure out how to revive her. But in the meantime, Victoria Black would do, only she was slipping from my grasp as well.
The butlers reported that she was beginning to fear everything around her, worse than the last time this happened. She slept through the whole day, and muttered while doing so. Even my presence would not give her rest, like it had last time.
I clenched my hands into fists to stop them from trembling. My heart, usually beating perhaps once a minute, now did so almost eight times. I did not know if I would be able to handle it. Perspiration was forming on my brow for the first time in almost a century. My breath came out in rasps, and I felt the cold around me. My nerves were working again, due to the increase in blood being pumped in my veins. I had drained to girls in the last hour. Nothing was going as it was supposed to.
I could not do it.
I was not able to create the cure in time. None of the combinations of hand seals or alchemy or potion-making could create the counter to the abominable technique I had created. Victoria was slipping from my grasp, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I was the villain.
I was not supposed to have the burden of emotions on my shoulders. That was the way my father had taught me. Never succumb to feelings, and always achieve what you want, no matter who or what must be sacrificed.
And yet there I was, burdened with two people I cared for very dearly, both out of my grasp.
As if that was not enough, that blasted, faceless monster, the leader of the Shadows, was beginning to breach my defences. My warriors were growing restless. I had made them train day in and day out, and yet now it did not seem to be enough.
Would my house be able to protect me against the horrors contained in Morrow's body?
I doubted.
"My lord?"
My head whipped to the side, my eyes resting on the girl in Sebastian's arm. She was drugged, and did not seem to know where she was. It was I who created the drug so that they did not scream. And it was I who requested this girl but minutes ago.
And it was I who would take her life to fuel my own, because I needed to find a cure for my beloved Victoria, and I needed to do it on a clear mind and a blood-filled body. I needed to achieve my own ends, no matter who was sacrificed in the process.

***

Sapphire.
Demetri and I set out for the north-western corner of the village, where Lady Victoria's house used to be. I saw that the entire neighbourhood was lifted about three feet off the ground, and Four-Eyes told me that it was as a sign of respect. Even though only normal villagers resided there now, the coat of arms over the gates holding the entrance to the grounds had not been removed. People mourned over the Black Family, even though they, apparently, had not been the friendliest people.
"Why be so respectful toward a family that was rumoured to be so cruel?" I asked, thinking about Alexudo had told me all those years ago, about how his father had taught him never to hesitate before killing an opponent.
"They were strict, but never cruel," Demetri replied, "I was not here when they were still alive, but the King told me. Mordax Black only ever wanted to protect the village, and he did not care how he achieved that. None of the people who were here at the time - half of the teachers at the Academy - can figure out why he went rogue. Not even the Nox family knows."
"The Nox family?" I asked as we reached a large house that could only be Lady Victoria's. Apart from the fact that it was surrounded by yellow tape, it was the only house in the neighbourhood that was dull. We started climbing over the wall.
"The Black and the Nox families both founded the village."
"I don't recall ever seeing them, or hearing of them," I said, landing on the other side of the wall and wondering where they were when we invaded the village the previous year.
"They lay very low," Demetri replied, "They pass training down through family, not by joining the Academy. And when war breaks out, they attack from the side-lines where no one can see it's them. They are the strongest family in the country now that the Blacks have been eradicated."
"They sound like cowards."
"That's true, but if you tell them that to their faces, it will be the last thing you ever do," he replied.
I followed him underneath a lean-to and took the time to observe Lady Victoria's old house. It was in the shape of a square, but the centre was open. The garden was in the open section. A small, moss-covered and forgotten waterfall flowed idly in the corner and, right where Demetri and I can climbed over the wall, an eerie-looking plant grew. It was black and brown, and its very appearance gave one a sense of doom.
"They produce only one blossom in a cycle," Demetri said, circling around the plant. I followed him, and gasped.
In the midst of all the thorns and branches, a flower grew. At first I wanted to describe it as a yellow flower, but then I saw that orange streaks flowed in patterns all around both the inside and the outside. The core of the flower, right on the inside, was red as blood; the pistil turned maroon as it wound upwards, and the stigma ended in a purplish colour.
"Wow," I breathed, completely at a loss for words. "Do we really have to cook this?"
"Unless you want to wait another two years," he said sarcastically.
I groaned and whined during the whole procedure of taking the flower. It seemed a crime to take something so beautiful for such a selfish reason as a healing potion.

***

Lunarian.
There were several eager knocks on the door, and I called for the source to enter. Sapphire entered with a grin, closely followed by Demetri, who looked equally gleeful.
"We did it," she said. I looked downwards at her hand, where what seemed like a ball of fire glowed through a red velvet cloth.
"Let me see it," I told them. I already knew what I was going to do, but I wanted to see what I was bargaining with.
"No," she said, tucking it into the bag at her side, "I'm sorry, your majesty, but the only person who may see this potion as of now, is Lord Niklaus. I am leaving tonight. I just wanted to say goodbye."
I sighed. "But you're not leaving tonight."
"Excuse me?"
"I can't let you leave," I said. I really regretted that it had come to this, but Klaus had left me no choice.
"And why is that?"
"You are going to be my leverage," I said. When her expression turned to one of outrage, I added, "You must understand, Sapphire. I am out of options here. Klaus is a sought-after criminal, and I was willing to overlook that, provided he helped me keep Victoria safe."
"She is safe-"
"Not safe enough," I interrupted, "Morrow Obsidian knows where she is, and that is our disadvantage. I want her hidden until she has fully recovered." Before she could interrupt, I told Demetri, "Take her to the dungeons, to the room Victoria stayed in. I will contact Klaus."
"Sire, are you sure-"
"Do as I say, Demetri!" I growl, the lion snarl escaping along with my voice for the first time in years. My control was crumbling. I could not handle this unbearable stress anymore.
Sapphire refused to follow Demetri, so I told the two guards standing at the door to help him. Together, they knocked her out and took her away. I hated to do what I just did, but Victoria was not only an important person in my life, but also a great asset to the village. She had been destined to become High Queen, if it had been her choice. The Nox family were unreliable. They were cowards. So I would do whatever it took to bring Victoria back, including keeping an innocent girl in the basement prison as hostage.
I wrote a letter to Klaus:

"I have your servant girl. She made the potion, and she believes that it will work. But I will not let her go to you until we have reached an understanding. Victoria belongs to this village, not to you, and her life is in danger. If you really want to protect her, let us come to an arrangement. While she is protected under both our reigns, she will be safer.
Consider carefully about what is at stake here.
If you are interested, meet me at the place we last battled, three nights from now, at midnight. I will be waiting for you.
High King Lunarian."

I placed the letter in an envelope and stamped it with the royal seal before sending an Animos to take it to Klaus, hoping against hope that this letter will reach him.

 

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