“Where are we going?” I asked, out of breath, stumbling a little in the dark.

“As far from here as possible,” he responded, pushing me forward with his hands. “And through here,” he suddenly turned right and took the lead. I struggled to keep up with him.


The passageway was dark and narrow, there was barely enough room for us to face forward between the cool stone walls. At one point we had taken stairs leading downwards, so I assumed we were somewhere underneath the castle. I was still unsure why we had to make this escape, but as long as Kiran kept his promise, I would keep mine and follow Amory without question.

“Stop,” Amory whispered fiercely, pressing his body against the wall and thrust out his arm, forcing me to do the same.

We were quiet, both afraid of the unknown. The only sound I could hear was my own frantic breathing; I wiped the sweat from my brow, pushing my long hair behind my ears. Amory also breathed heavily, but I had been surprised at his level of fitness. He was awfully spry for someone of his age.

“Eden,” he said softly, but gravely. “I need you to turn off your magic completely. I need you to repress it like you did before you knew what it was. Hold your magic in until we are safe. Can you do that?” he turned his head to give me a serious stare and I nodded my reply.

I pushed the magic down, making it dissolve completely from my veins. I was suddenly tired and sluggish. I hadn’t realized how much the magic had kept me going; but after several days of no sleep and extenuating travel circumstances, any normal human would have been delirious by now.

At our stilled position and with our backs pushed heavily against the cool stone, the exhaustion began to take over. My knees became weak and without my permission my body started to slide down the rock wall towards the uneven floor. Amory pulled my exhausted body back into a standing position by the arm and shook me roughly.

“We have to keep going. Will you make it?” he asked, forcing me to look into his eyes by gripping the sides of my head firmly.

“I can make it,” I mumbled weakly, not sure if it was possible, but determined to try. I shook my head feebly, trying to wake myself up.

“Think of Lilly,” Amory coaxed, “Think of Kiran,” he finally had my attention and I brought my body into a strong standing position.

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“Let’s go,” I said with more energy.

Amory grabbed my wrist and pulled me along behind him. We ran, half stumbled in the darkness through the cool corridors. I never heard another footstep or sound other than ours, but I had no doubt that we were being hunted. I kept up with Amory the best I could; with my magic gone, normal, human adrenaline was forced to take over.

Suddenly we were faced with a dead end. The hallway had narrowed considerably and then came to a point where the two parallel walls met. I wondered what we were going to do now.

Amory let go of my wrist and I fell hard against the cool stone. I could barely keep my eyes open, but curiosity gave me a few more moments of consciousness.

Amory felt the point of the wall, letting his hands fall over every stone and every crevice. He started at the top of the wall and worked his way down to the floor, quickly and efficiently. He pushed firmly on random rocks, as if looking for one in particular.

Finally, he let out a small grunt of approval, and I watched his fingers disappear in what seemed to be the middle of the floor. He braced his body and then grunted louder removing a large block of stone from the floor and revealing a ladder leading further under the castle.

I forced my body away from the wall and began to descend the ladder without any instruction needed. Obviously this was our only option. I heard water beneath me, but was blinded by complete darkness descending slowly into the black abyss. I could still see Amory’s face as I took the shaky ladder, rung by rung, deep into the blackness.

After I was far enough down the ladder for Amory to follow, he stood on one of the top rungs and slid the rock floor back into place. I saw a type of handle underneath the faux floor that made it easy to be returned home. Once the floor was in place we were completely in the dark and I was nearly paralyzed by fear of the unknown.

The ladder hung precariously from the ceiling of the cavernous hole and swayed back and forth with our body weight. Every move, every step, every breath we took evoked a rusty creaking sound that had me seizing up in fear. I forced my appendages to move and forbade my mind to consider the possibilities of this ladder crashing to the black chasm beneath us.

The sound of water grew stronger the lower we climbed, and I made the assumption of a creek or brook flowing through wherever we were headed. My eyes began to adjust to the blackness, but it was too dark to make anything out for sure. I wondered if Amory was using magic or if he repressed his as well.

Eventually my foot found the ground in an awkward step that made my knee give out. I didn’t catch myself in time and fell to the solid ground in an uncomfortable heap.

Once on solid ground, I pushed myself up to my hands and knees and felt through the dirt as I crawled forward or at least in a forward direction until the ground ended and another stone wall ascended in its place.

I gripped the wall, using it to pull my body up into a standing position again. Wherever we were now was clearly far beneath ground because the temperature had dropped drastically. The water source was definitely a running stream of some type because I could hear the water moving purposefully. The air was clean and clear and I took a big breath in, happy for the moment to rest.

I heard Amory’s feet reach the solid ground and the ladder ceased from creaking. I listened for his footsteps to move in a direction, but I heard only the sound of the water. I was afraid to call out to him, since he had yet to speak a word.

I heard a scraping sound and my heart jumped, but when sparks flew through the darkness I realized Amory had only lit a match. A small flame burned alone until Amory used it to ignite a larger torch. The darkness was illuminated and I finally made out my surroundings.

We were in a type of cavern, with rock walls on every side. A single river ran through the middle at a quick pace. The surface we stood on was wide, and the ladder leading to the castle above was positioned closer to the stone wall than the river and its dangerous current. I pressed my cheek against the cold stone one more time before joining Amory at the river’s edge.

There was about a ten foot drop from the dirt surface to the rushing river below. I saw another rusted ladder built into the earth leading directly down into the water, with a small row boat tied to the orange metal. Two sets of oars lay on the bottom of the boat and a lantern was positioned at its stern. I looked at Amory with controlled fear, and he stared back with the same trepidation.

“Eden, we have to row upstream. It is very difficult, I won’t lie to you. But if we follow the current it will take us straight back to the Citadel. We have to row against it, do you understand? I am not sure if you will make it,” he was honest with me, and I saw the pain in his eyes through the flickering light of the torch.

“How far?” I asked, afraid he was right.

“At least two hours in the water, and then another three and a half hour hike after that. Can you repress your magic that long?” his eyes lost their pain and became determined. We both knew there was no other option.

“Yes,” I said simply, I had no other choice.

“I can’t do it alone. You will have to help me row,” I nodded with determination and took off my Nebraska Sweatshirt stuffing it into my backpack, and then tossed it into the rowboat.

Amory rolled up the sleeves of his suit shirt, and I realized that he used his suit jacket as the kindle for our torch. Amory handed me the torch and lowered himself over the edge and onto the ladder. He pulled the boat towards him with his long leg and then slowly took his steps onto the bow. Using the ladder for balance the entire time, he was eventually able to take a seat on one of the small boat’s two benches.

I lay down on the dirt floor and lowered the torch to Amory who had to stand precariously to reach it. Once it was in his grip he lit the lantern at the bow and put the torch flame out by dunking it in water. Instead of discarding the burned jacket in the river, he brought it back into the boat and set it at his feet. The wet clothing left a puddle of water at the bottom of an already damp floor.

Once Amory was able to give me his full attention, I swung my legs over the edge and found the ladder with my feet. I began my descent carefully, if not a little shakily. Eventually my feet ran out of rungs and my toe swept the river, flooding my navy blue clogs with ice cold water. I stretched my leg behind me until my toe bumped against the solid wood of the row boat and I used the force of my leg muscles to pull the boat closer to the edge of the dirt wall.

Gripping the lower rungs tightly with my trembling fingers, I placed one foot and then the other firmly on the bow of the row boat. I used my stomach muscles this time to pull the drifting boat closer still and took a step off of the bow and on to the wet, slippery floor. Sliding precariously, I let go of the ladder rungs and fell heavily onto the bench.

Satisfied with a somewhat safe landing, I gripped the sides of the boat tightly as it rocked roughly back and forth. I was positioned on the first bench near the front of the boat, with Amory behind me. He handed me my oars and I slid them through the paddle holes, so that I would not lose them. Their cold wood was wet and slippery. I regretted taking off my sweatshirt as the river water splashed over the sides of the boat and sprayed my bare arms and face.

“Are you ready?” Amory asked gravely. I took a quick moment to throw my hair onto the top of my head, securing it with my hair tie. I then gripped the oars, braced my body and nodded in agreement. “Start rowing now, and once I release the rope I will fall into a pattern with you,” I nodded again and took a big breath. “Eden….” Amory paused, “however hard this may be, we have no choice but to succeed,” his words held such gravity that I could not even respond.

I focused what little strength I had left and began to sink my oars deep beneath the turbulent surface of the river. I brought them high above the water and then deep beneath over and over again, fighting the strong current, determined to win.

I heard Amory struggle with the knot and then felt the quick release of the boat. At first we were taken violently downstream, and I forced my weak fingers to hold onto the oars. Amory joined my struggle and eventually we fell into a labored routine; the oars dipping under and over the water simultaneously.

I began to see progress as we forced our bodies to do the impossible. The cavern shrunk to only a rounded tunnel where the water was allowed to flow through. As we left the large grotto and began our journey against the current and through the narrow channel, I felt a glimmer of hope. No matter how difficult this flight may be, something deep inside warned me that it was necessary.

I glanced back at Amory Saint working with all of his strength to propel us forward. His face was set and his eyes were hard with determination. I may not have any idea what we were running from, but whatever it was, had scared the hell out of him.

Chapter Forty-Two

Amory and I rowed through the dark silently; the only sound in the narrow tunnel was our oars dipping in and out of the strong current and the rush of water against the stone walls. My body was shaking violently from weakness and my arms did their best to move us forward. I braced my body on the small wooden bench, using every muscle I had to row.

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