Author: Jos Mous
Sam took a good look around. It turned out that that was rather pointless since there was nothing to see. Sam briefly wondered if she had gone blind, but since she could still see her hands and the rest of her body she quickly dismissed that idea. Sam looked up again and looked around once more. There was still absolutely nothing to see.
"Well, this is boring." She muttered.
Sam quickly turned around. With a slight sense of bewilderment she looked at her sudden companion. The woman smiled friendly at her. She had red hair and green eyes. But, other than that, Sam couldn't really see how she looked like. Which was not just strange, but also rather unsettling.
"Who are you?" Sam asked suspicious.
"I think you already know who I am."
"I wouldn't be asking if I did, now would I?"
The woman shrugged. "Maybe."
"You're the one who brought me here, aren't you?" Sam asked a little angrily.
The woman laughed. It was clear, almost tingling sound. "Sorry, but no. You brought yourself here. But I am here to help you further on your way."
"My way? Way to what?"
The woman offered her right hand to Sam. "Come with me."
Against all her instincts and against her better judgement, Sam took it.
"Where are we going?" She asked.
"Somehow I doubt that 'home' is my nice, comfy bedroom back at the Palace."
"You would be right." Said the woman.
Sam sighed. "Yeah, I was afraid of that."
Sam opened her eyes and saw a clear blue sky. Using her ears she heard the joyful singing of birds all around her. Using her hands, she noticed that she was lying on a dirt path. Sam quickly got up and brushed off the dirt. She looked around and saw that her suspicions were confirmed and that she was indeed in a forest. What she had not expected, however, were the four other bodies lying on the ground. Slowly the four of them woke up and they too looked around confused.
"Sam, what's going on?" Brooke asked.
"I really wouldn't know."
"Hey, did you guys also have some weird dream with this woman with red hair?" Carmen asked.
The others nodded.
"So I take it this is 'home' then." Nicole said, looking around. "Call me old-fashioned, but a bunch of trees is not what I would call home."
"No." Lily said. "But that could be."
Everybody looked in the general direction where Lily was pointing her little finger.
"Yeah, that could be what she meant." Sam remarked dryly.
"You're not considering on actually going there, are you?" Carmen asked.
"Why not?" Sam asked. "I mean, yeah sure, I could stay here in this lovely forest and all, but somehow I like the idea of being inside before the night falls a lot better."
"She's got a point." Brooke said.
"Yeah, but, look at it." Carmen said. "It's a castle. A castle! In the middle of a forest! I mean, it could be me, but isn't there something horribly wrong with that picture?"
"Where we live, yeah. But I don't think we're in Kansas any more." Sam said with a smile.
Carmen opened her mouth to say something, but was quickly interrupted by Nicole.
"Are we done arguing now? Because it's not going to help." The blonde said. "If we just stay here or walk the other way we just might starve or something. I'm going."
"For once I'm in complete agreement with Nicole." Lily said. "Sorry Carm."
"You're nuts." Carmen grumbled.
"Maybe." Nicole said. "But at least we're going to be alive nuts."
Nicole sharply turned around and walked away. Sam, Brooke and Lily followed, but they only followed because they had decided to go to the castle as well and that was just exactly in the direction Nicole was walking.
Carmen shook her head and sighed.
"Idiots." She muttered. Then she set off on a small run to catch up with the little group again.
"Changed your mind?" Sam asked.
"Somebody has to make sure nobody gets hurt." Carmen said. "So it might as well be me."
Sam patted Carmen on the shoulder. "Right you are, Carm."
Five girls walked through the forest. And, as always when a small group of people is walking, one of them has the thankless job of complaining almost constantly. In this case it was Carmen. She was constantly reminding the others that it was just not a sensible thing to do to just walk up to some castle, which by the way turned out to be a lot further away than it had seemed at first, without knowing who lived there. If anybody even lived there in the first place. After a while everybody got tired or Carmen. Nicole viciously snapped at her for several minutes in order to shut her up. And it worked. Carmen remained suspiciously quiet for quite a long time. That is, until she suddenly yelled.
It had been a rather pointless thing to yell since the others had also seen a small pack of five wolves strut out of the forest and onto the path. The wolves sat down and looked at the five girls.
"OK, don't panic." Brooke said, since it was the fitting thing to say. "It's well known that wolves never attack people."
"That's only said by the survivors of a wolf encounter." Nicole quietly pointed out.
Brooke winced slightly. "I wish you hadn't said that."
"Sorry, just thought I should've pointed it out."
"That's all very nice, but what're we going to do?" Carmen asked, standing just as completely motionless as the others.
"Could I suggest running?" Sam offered.
"No." Lily rejected. "Running away almost ensures an attack."
"Maybe we could outrun them?" Sam asked hopefully, but without a lot of conviction.
"You don't even want to hear me reply to that." Nicole said.
"So we're just going to keep standing here until they go away?" Brooke said.
"Sounds like a plan to me, considering our options."
The wolves remained just as motionless as the humans. The two groups stared at each other for several minutes. The humans stared at the wolves with a hint of fear in their eyes. The wolves did not. After those several minutes the wolf in front of the pack stood up and carefully walked over. There were a few sharp intakes of breaths. The wolf looked intently at each of the girls for several moments. After his brief inspection the wolf walked back to the waiting pack. The wolves seemingly lost interest since they all walked back into the forest without looking at the girls even once.
"That was close." Carmen sighed with relief.
"No it wasn't." Brooke said. "I don't know much about typical wolf behaviour, but I do know that wasn't it."
"Yeah, but we already know weird stuff is going on around here." Nicole countered. "Let's just get on with it. I would like to be inside before night falls."
Lily looked up at the sky. "Still pretty clear day."
"Maybe. But as soon as the sun starts setting it's going to be real dark real soon. And I for one do not look forward to walk through a forest with wolves in it during the night. Hell, I don't even look forward to it during the day. So let's just get going."
They walked again in silence after that. But now each and every one of the girls looked a lot more careful at the surrounding forest. It was Lily who first noticed it. She quickly walked closer to Sam. She then slowed her pace so that she and Sam got a little behind the others.
"We're being followed." She whispered.
"By who?" Sam whispered back.
"I don't know." Lily said. "But I definitely see human-shaped shapes between the trees sometimes."
"Really?" Said Sam. She then proceeded to wipe some imaginary dirt of her jacket and risked a glance between the surrounding trees. "I don't see anything."
"They hide." Lily said. "I was just lucky enough to look at one directly."
"Did he see you?"
"I should think so." Lily said. "Though I'm not sure if he actually saw me seeing him if that's what you meant."
"I see." Sam said with a smile. Then she shrugged. "Oh well, guess we can't do a lot about it."
"You're not going to do anything?" Lily asked.
"Lily, please, think. We have no clue where we are and those people _do_ know where they are. I think they have a huge advantage in that department. We don't know how many of them there are. Hell, we don't even know their intentions. There is nothing we can do about it."
"We can keep an eye on them."
"OK, yes, we can do that. If we can actually see them. But that's all."
"Should we tell the others?"
"Better not. It'd just worry them and there isn't anything we can really do about it."
"But I still think we shouldn't tell them."
"OK, whatever you say." Lily said. "We'll keep them in the dark."
"Speaking of dark..." Sam said, looking up at the sky. "It's already getting a little orange up there."
Lily looked up as well. "You're right." She said. Then she looked back at the path. "And that castle seemed so close."
"Maybe it's moving just as fast as we do." Sam suggested smiling.
"That's just ridiculous Sam."
"Is it? And the way we got here in the first place isn't ridiculous? Led my some woman in a dream?"
Lily looked at the castle in the distance for a while, then groaned. "Great, now I'm worrying about moving castles. Thanks a lot Sam."
"You're welcome." Sam said with a large grin on her face.
It was almost dark when the girls finally arrived at the castle. And it was huge. The large stone building easily towered over even the tallest of trees. In contrast, however, the gate was not so big. It was about three metres high which, in comparison, made the gate a tiny little door.
"I suppose this is where we knock." Carmen said.
"Yeah." Lily nodded.
Nobody really moved. They all kept staring at the enormity of the castle.
"Oh, this is absurd." Nicole said.
She walked towards the gates and knocked on it twice. A small slot opened and two blue eyes looked through it.
"Can we come in?" Nicole asked.
"Because it's almost dark. We'd like to spend the night here."
"How did you get here?"
"How did you get here?"
"That's not what I meant. Your clothes are not from here. So, one more time, how did you get here?"
Nicole fell silent and looked doubtful at her companions.
"We were brought here." Brooke said.
"I don't know." Brooke answered. "Some woman with red hair."
The slot quickly slid shut. There was a sound of keys turning in locks and a few moments later a small door in the gate opened.
The five girls walked inside and into a large hall. The gatekeeper closed the door behind them. He was a young boy of maybe fifteen years old. He wore a simple tunic, a plain pair of pants and a couple of boots. His entire outfit was made out of brown leather.
"I'm sorry about all the questions." He said. "But you wouldn't believe what kinds of folk walks around the woods these days." The young gatekeeper then walked towards the doors at the other side of the hall. "Wait here for a sec, will you?"
Then he was gone and the girls found themselves alone in the great hall.
"So? What's the verdict?" Sam asked. "Stay here or not?"
"That guy acted friendly enough." Brooke said. "And this whole place doesn't really have a 'Dracula' feel to it."
"So we stay here for the night?" Sam asked.
The others nodded in agreement. Even Carmen.
"And tomorrow?" Sam asked.
"Tomorrow we start looking for a way to get out of here." Nicole said. "What else?"
"Nothing. Just so long as we're clear on that."
The door opened again and the gatekeeper came back in. He was followed by a man who seemed to be somewhere in his twenties. He sort of dressed like a monk, but the fact that monks normally don't have long brown hair tied into a ponytail and a small goatee easily gave away that this wasn't one.
"This is I'mph Ud'f-dolph." The gatekeeper introduced him. "He'll take you to your rooms. I'd do it myself, of course, but I have a gate to keep."
The monk who wasn't a monk smiled faintly at them. "Walk with me please." He said. Then he turned around and walked away, not looking back to see if he was followed.
The girls looked at each other, then quickly followed. Carmen walked up next to him.
"So... err... you have a very interesting name." She said, not really knowing what else she could say.
"Thank you." Said Iímph Ud'f-dolph.
"I don't think I can even pronounce it without breaking my tongue at least twice." Carmen said. "Do you mind if I call you IU-dolph?"
I'mph Ud'f-dolph winced visibly.
"I take it you mind then."
"If it's any easier you could call me Shane." He said. "That's what I used to be called."
"Shane." Carmen said relieved. "Now that I _can_ pronounce. Why did change your name?"
The man shrugged. "I came here." He said.
The small group walked in silence after that. They walked through corridor after corridor of dull grey stone. Occasionally somebody walked by them, but that was about it. After having gone up a rather large staircase they entered a gallery overlooking a large courtyard. Nicole briefly glanced down once. Something evidently caught her attention since she quickly walked over to the side and looked down.
"Knights?" She said. "There are knights here?"
"What?" Brooke asked as she stepped next to her.
Looking down she saw the courtyard was filled with people wearing steel clothes. The sound of clashing swords could be heard.
"I think they're training." Sam said as she joined them.
"Why would they be training in the dark?" Lily wondered.
"Who cares what they're doing!" Nicole snapped. "The point is, how many knights do you think there are left in the world?"
There was another silence.
"Definitely not Kansas any more." Sam said.
After a few more minutes walking the small group ended in a small corridor with five doors.
"Your rooms." Said I'mph Ud'f-dolph calmly. "I hope you will find them to your liking." He looked at the girls and Nicole and Brooke in particular and smiled. "Though I doubt it." He added. "Sleep well."
Then he turned around and left. The girls stood around uncomfortably in the corridor.
"So..." Brooke started. "Pick a room."
"I think they're already picked for us." Lily said as she walked over to one of the doors.
"What do you mean?" Carmen asked.
Lily pointed at the small brass plaque on the door. "It says 'Samantha McPherson' right here." She answered.
"Guess that's my room then." Sam remarked.
"Somebody knew we were coming." Carmen said.
"And why is that a surprise to you?" Sam asked. "We have seen one strange thing after the other. Nothing can surprise me any more. Not today, anyway."
Sam walked over to her room and opened the door.
"I'm getting some sleep. We'll figure out what to do tomorrow."
Without waiting for a response Sam entered her room and shut the door.
Her room was dark. That was of course to be expected since the single small window in the room confirmed that it was night. The room itself was fairly small. There was bed against the right wall. Against the left there was a desk with chair, a closet and a small table with a bowl filled with water on it. Above that table hung a mirror. Sam carefully squeezed herself between the closet and the bed and started undressing. After she was done she sat down on the bed and tried it out. It was not very hard, but you couldn't exactly call it soft either. Curious, Sam opened a door of the closet. I didn't go open very far since the door quickly hit the bed, but it was open enough to see what was inside. As Sam had more or less expected it was filled with tunics, pants and boots made of brown leather. Sam closed the closet door again and got in bed. She felt tired. Her legs that had gone through the day without much complaint suddenly felt extremely tired. Sam also realised that she hadn't eaten in quite a while, but she was too tired to worry about that.
After fifteen minutes she was already sound asleep.
NOTE: Hope, I profusely apologise for everything I'm making you do (or, to be more accurate, say) in this part, but alas, I simply could not resist.
Sam woke and was quite surprised when she found herself to be quite rested. Which was a bit of a surprise to her since she wasn't one to sleep well in an unknown place. She had briefly hoped that all the events of the previous day had been just a dream, but a quick look around soon contradicted that hope. A quick look out the window indicated that it was probably just after sunrise, though she couldn't be really sure. Sam got out of bed and put on her clothes that still lay in a shapeless heap on the floor. She left her room and stepped into an empty hallway. She considered knocking on doors, but decided against it. She wouldn't want to wake the others. If they were going to figure out how to get out of this place it would better be after a good rest. Instead she decided to walk around a little. Explore the castle. But not too much, of course. She still wanted to know the way back to her room.
Sam's little exploration trip quickly came to a screeching halt, however, when she entered the gallery overlooking the courtyard. Brooke was looking over the edge and down on the courtyard.
"Hey." Sam greeted.
Brooke looked at her. "Hi."
Sam walked over next to her and looked down as well. It was a little foggy down at the courtyard. A few people walked around. There were no knights in sight. The one thing that was most obvious was the silence.
"Sleep well?" Sam asked.
"Yeah." Brooke answered. "You?"
They looked down at the courtyard again. There was still little to see except for the fog.
"We're not getting out of here any time soon, are we?" Brooke said, not looking up.
"What makes you think that?"
"As Nicole so subtly pointed out last night, we're probably not even on Earth."
"There was a way to get here so there's bound to be a way back."
Brooke didn't respond. Instead, she just kept staring down.
"You're not considering jumping are you?" Sam asked jokingly. "Cause if you were you'd better go up a little higher."
"That's not funny, Sam!" Brooke snapped.
Sam was rather surprised from the sudden outburst and it showed.
"Sorry." Brooke muttered, looking away again. "I guess I'm a bit jumpy."
"It's OK." Sam said. "I understand."
"No you don't." Brooke said.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Damn it Brooke! Don't be like that!" Sam yelled.
"Like what!?" Brooke yelled back. "I want to go home, Sam! I just want to go home. But I'm not home. And the probability that I'm stuck here forever is overwhelmingly huge. And you don't even seem to care!"
"What makes you think that?" Sam asked. "Because I was so calm about everything? What else do you want me to do? To be suspicious of everything like Lily is right now? Or maybe just extremely disgruntled like Carmen? Face it Brooke, the only way to get out of here is to remain calm and I'm sorry if that seems like I donít care!"
"Damn it!" Brooke yelled. "It'd be easier if you weren't making so much sense."
"What would?" Sam asked whilst yelling at the same time.
"Guys, could you keep it down?"
Brooke and Sam turned around to see Nicole. She stood there with her arms crossed in front of her chest. She looked very much like she was waiting impatiently for something. The thing she waiting for was probably some comment about her clothes. Nicole wore the simple brown clothes that many of the others in the castle wore.
It was Brooke who first regained enough coherent thought at the surprise of seeing Nicole in what many would describe as a fashion disaster.
"Nic, why are you...?"
"Wearing this?" Nicole finished for her. "Did you see my clothes last night? Well, you probably didn't seeing as you're still wearing your own clothes, but the dirt of an entire forest is clinging to my clothes and I'm not going to be wearing _that_ until I find some way to clean them. So in the mean time I'll just have to settle for this. That answer your question?"
"Err... yes, actually." Brooke admitted.
"Good. So there will be no further questions?"
"Not from us." Sam said. "Though maybe a couple from Lily and Carmen."
"And why should I explain myself to them?" Nicole asked, in her typical cold bitch fashion.
"Because..." Sam trailed off helplessly. "Never mind."
The door to the gallery opened and Carmen and Lily joined the small group without really knowing it. They were so submerged in their own argument that they didn't notice anything else until they passed Nicole. After that their fight slowly got quieter and quieter until, at last, they stopped talking altogether and stared at the blonde.
"Funny, you _look_ like Nicole." Carmen said finally.
"Don't." Nicole said. "None of your business."
"Fine." Carmen shot back. "Come to think of it, you're not really worth paying too much attention to."
"Guys." Brooke said tiredly. "Let's not fight, please?"
"Speaking of which, what were you fighting about?" Sam asked.
Carmen and Lily briefly glared at each other.
"Nothing important." Lily said.
"Yeah." Carmen said. "It was nothing."
"Nothing, huh?" Sam said. "Yeah, I so believe that."
"Guys, no fighting, remember?" Brooke said. "Why don't we just... put our differences aside or something until we get back where we're supposed to be?"
"I dunno Brooke." Sam said. "I vaguely remember something that this was where we were supposed to be."
Brooke cast a devastating glare in Sam's direction. Sam, having been on the receiving end of those kind of glares countless of times before, merely smiled friendly and raised one eyebrow.
Brooke sighed. "Let's just get something to eat, shall we?"
The dinner hall was easily found. Which was strange. The castle was larger than huge. It should've taken hours to find the dinner hall. Yet the girls found it in just one go. More proof that this place was just not normal. Or at least, not normal in the sense of 'their own home' normal. The dinner hall itself was huge. Which made sense since quite a lot of people apparently lived here. The walls were lined with torches, but they seemed to be mostly decorative. High against the walls were several lattice windows. There were four on each side and one very large one inside the wall opposite of the doors. On the left side the windows showed the Unicorn, the Griffin, the Dragon and a strange black thing surrounded by flame which was aptly named as the Demon. On the right side were a rather strange collection of animals: the Wolf, the Crow, the Deer and the Bat. The last window showed the castle, Terratras.
"Well, this has a Harry Potter-feel to it." Nicole remarked dryly as the five girls sat down.
"You read Harry Potter?" Lily asked. "You? Nicole Julian?"
Nicole looked uncomfortable for a moment. But, since she was, after all, Nicole, she quickly recovered.
"I just saw the movie." Nicole said indifferently. "Brooke insisted on going there for a 'girl's night out' or something."
"You dragged Nicole and Mary Cherry to Harry Potter?" Sam asked disbelieving.
"What?" Brooke said defensively. "I like Harry Potter."
"Guys can we get back at what's really important here?" Carmen said.
"You're right." Sam said. "Let's get some food."
"Good idea." Lily said ignoring the protests that were about to come out of Carmen's mouth. "But how?"
The girls looked around. There were people in the dinner hall and they were indeed eating. But they couldn't see where the food had actually got from. Then Lily noticed something.
"OK, I think I know." She said. Then she looked at the table. "Water."
The other looked at her like she had gone mad. Those looks quickly turned into looks of a different kind of disbelief as a pitcher filled with water and a mug appeared out of nowhere.
"Huh." Sam said. "Who'd have thought."
Lily carefully filled the mug and took a sip.
"Water." She confirmed nodding.
Carmen looked at the table and decided to simply go ahead and try it.
"Butter. Peanut butter."
Both the butter and the peanut butter appeared.
"Plate and a knife?" Carmen asked.
And then there was plate. With a knife.
"Cool." Carmen said. She then proceeded to eat.
"Rolls Royce?" Brooke asked the table.
The blonde shrugged. "Worth a try I guess."
After the girls had eaten they found themselves in the hallway outside the dinner hall. There was a brief discussion of how to proceed. Finally they all agreed to split up and look around a bit, talk to people. They were to meet inside the dinner hall again when it was about noon.
Carmen carefully pushed open a large door. She stepped inside and discovered that she was in a library. Fortunately for her, that was exactly the place she had wanted to be. As with all libraries there was a pressing silence that nobody really dared to disturb. Carmen walked around between the rows and rows of books and scrolls until she stumbled across a table. At that table sat the man who had led them to their rooms last night. An idea already forming in her mind, Carmen decided to sit down opposite of him.
"Hi." Carmen greeted.
I'mph Ud'f-dolph looked up from his book. "Hello." He said politely.
"So, you live here or something?" Carmen asked.
"Most of the time."
"Could you tell me something?"
"Are you... I mean... can you do magic?" Carmen asked, before she broke out in nervous laughter. "Of course you can't, 'cause, hey, magic. Never mind."
"Yes, I can work magic." I'mph Ud'f-dolph answered calmly.
"Oh." Carmen said. "Really?"
I'mph Ud'f-dolph uttered a word under his breath and held up his right hand. A small light appeared in his hand. It danced around through the air for a moment before disappearing again.
"Wow." Carmen said.
"It was nothing." I'mph Ud'f-dolph said. "Pretty simple trick."
"I couldn't do it."
"Not yet." Said the mage. "But even Deer can do it after a little practise. And if they can, then so can anybody else."
"Deer?" Carmen asked. "As in, the animals?"
The man smiled faintly. "No, not the animals. The humans."
"Oh." Carmen said. "Say, are you pretty good with magic?"
"I'm not the best or something, but I can hold my own."
"Do you know of a way to send me back?" Carmen asked hopeful.
"Yes." Said I'mph Ud'f-dolph. "But I'm not going to do it."
"What?" Carmen said disappointed. "Why not?"
"There would be no point in it. You were brought here. If I bring you back now you will be brought here again and again."
Carmen stood up a little angrily. "Fine. If you won't tell me, I'll find it myself." She said and walked off.
I'mph Ud'f-dolph smiled to himself. "But when you do, will you still be willing to use it?" He asked the empty air.
Nicole wandered aimlessly through the castle. She didn't really know where she wanted to go, or what she would do when she got there. She found the whole 'talk to people' a little absurd. It was clear everybody here was insane. Oh, they looked normal enough, but Nicole could notice it. A small hint of madness lurked behind their eyes. A little hint of fanaticism. So Nicole kept to herself and was simply exploring the castle.
"Title or money?" Someone asked.
Nicole turned around to see a blonde girl looking expectantly at her. She was dressed in elegant black and for some reason that Nicole couldn't quite define she did not really stand out. But not in the way of shy wallflowers. This girl was trained in not standing out.
"Excuse me?" Nicole asked.
"Title or money?" The girl asked again. "A fairly simple question, or so it seems to me."
"Who are you?" Nicole asked.
The girl bowed gracefully. A mocking grin was on her face. "Shanter. At your service." She said. "Now then, might I ask you once more to which part of the aristocracy you belong?"
"I don't have a title if that's what you mean."
"Then I take it your father is quite wealthy. Though you wear the apprentice apparel, the arrogance of many an aristocrat surrounds you like a wall."
"My mom has money, yes. How do you know?"
"My dear Lady, I grew up amongst the higher nobility. One might say that I myself was once an aristocrat and as such I am quite accustomed to recognise the filth of this planet. And, it would seem, other planets as well."
"You were an aristocrat?" Nicole asked tauntingly.
"Indeed I was. My father is the Duke of Libby and his court is the foulest place one could ever look at. There I grew up, seeing the folly and decadence of those who posses both power and money. In time, I became quite experienced at recognising the tell-tale signs of aristocracy and the corruption that inevitably comes with it."
"And I take it of course that you were immune to this so-called 'corruption'?"
"I must honestly admit I was not. I became quite the expert at deceiving and manipulating. I have no doubt whatsoever about the fact that my soul was as black as yours must be. Little did I know that growing up at the court of Libby had been preparation for the day that I would arrive here, at Terratras. This castle is no ordinary building, as I am sure you have already noticed. It will not take long before the walls of Terratras will start tearing away at your personal walls of aristocracy. And then the day will come that your walls will crumble and you will find that they had been a prison of your soul. Though you show no outward signs of this yet, I know the siege to free your soul have already begun. I have seen it happen over and over again."
"So you're saying that this pile of rocks is going to kiss the pain away and make it all better?" Nicole said sarcastically. "You're all talk, Shanter. You should be careful or you'll break your tongue one day."
Shanter grinned widely. "My tongue is well experienced, I assure you. And concerning the manner of my speech, it is, I suppose, my personal way of saying 'up yours' to my father, his court and everything they represent. There is a great deal of satisfaction involved when one can adopt certain things of what they loathe and turn it into a mockery of their former meaning."
"'Up yours'?" Nicole asked.
"What?" Shanter said. "You don't expect me to talk like that _all_ the time, do you?"
It did not take long for Brooke to find the chapel of the castle. She knew very clearly she had not been looking for it, but there she was. The chapel was not very large and completely empty. There was a strange silence here. Not the silence of the early morning, or that of the empty night for that matter. There were benches and an altar, but there were no visible signs that tied this chapel to any religion. There were paintings hanging against the walls, but they clearly did not represent the crucifixion of Christ. In fact, humans played a very small role in the paintings. They were only seen on the last two in the series. Curious, Brooke walked over to the paintings and read the text.
"And the Animals summoned Man to their forest." She read, then moved on to the next painting. "And there, with the permission of the Animals, Man built Terratras to learn and teach."
"And they all lived happily ever after."
Brooke turned around to see two things that weren't quite possible in her mind. The first thing she saw were the two piercings the knight had. One through the bottom lip, the other through the left eyebrow. The second thing she noticed was the interesting the shape of the armour of the knight. Especially in the chest area. In Brooke's mind knights were barbaric brutes from the middle ages who rode on horses and chopped off heads. Not friendly-looking young girls who looked like they belonged in the modern age.
"Nice paintings, huh?" The teenage knight said smiling.
"Err... what?" Brooke said before she came over the shock of seeing a strange mixture of past and present. "Oh, yeah, right. Very nice."
"I've never been really interested in paintings." The knight said. "But I do like the story that comes with these ones."
"I haven't really looked at them thoroughly yet. Just these two."
"That's just the ending." The girl said. "That's pretty boring. The beginning of the story, on the other hand, that's one worth telling. After that it gets a little too sappy."
"You're not from around here, are you?" Brooke asked.
"Nope." The knight said. "And neither are you. That's pretty much the reason we're having this pleasant little conversation. In case you haven't noticed we're heavily outnumbered here." The girl shrugged. It made a very distinct clanging sound. "But then, it is their world after all."
"How did you get here?" Brooke asked.
"The first time? I don't really know any more. I was like, five. But after I got my Guardian I just had to say the word and I was here."
"You mean that there is a way home?" Brooke eagerly asked.
The knight smiled. "You're really new here, aren't you? So eager to leave. Well, can't help you. That's something you've got to figure out on your own."
"Oh come on, cheer up. There are far worse places than this." The knight patted Brooke on the shoulder with an armoured hand. "Besides I could use the company. You have no idea how frustrating it can be when you're the only one who watches Buffy."
"Who says I'm going to keep you company?" Brooke asked unfriendly as she stepped a little away from the knight.
"OK, then _don't_ keep me company. But I swear by every divine being that just might exist in some place or the other I _shall_ find someone to talk about Buffy with."
Brooke couldn't help it. The knight seemed so severe and grave when she vowed her oath. The blonde simply cracked up.
"I'm Brooke." Brooke said when the laughing subsided.
"L'Esperance." Said the knight with the dark hair. "So, you want to hear the legend first or shall we get straight to Buffy?"
NOTE: OK, this part is a little shorter in comparison, but I have a very good reason for it. This reason has not presented itself to me as of yet, but I am positive that it is a very good reason indeed.
Sam carefully opened a door and stepped out into the open air. She looked around and noticed that she was atop one of the towers. Which made absolutely no sense. She was certain she hadn't climbed enough stairs to get all the way up here. Yet here she was. Sam walked over to the edge of the tower and the person standing there. From behind she could only see that the person wore steel armour. Stepping next the person revealed that she was a girl about her age with black hair. She seemed far too fragile to be able to carry that heavy armour. She was looking down on the vast mass of treetops that surrounded the castle.
"Err... hi." Sam greeted hesitantly.
The girl looked at her and smiled faintly.
"Hi." She greeted.
"You come here often?" Sam asked. She immediately kicked herself in the head for asking such a dumb question.
"Sometimes." The knight said. "When I want to be alone."
"Oh." Said Sam. "I'd better get going then."
"Won't help." Said the knight.
"Why not?" Sam asked.
The girl sighed. "Terratras isn't a normal castle." She chuckled briefly. "Though I'm sure you've already figured that one out. It automatically takes you to one of two places."
"Either the place you want to be or the place you need to be."
"I take it this is a place where I need to be?"
"And if I _want_ to go to my own room I'm taken there?"
"Normally. But places where you need to be have priority."
"Yeah, well, we'll just see about that." Sam said determined then she turned around and left.
Five minutes later she was back atop the tower again.
"What the...? How is this possible? I walked in a straight line!"
"Told you." Said the knight.
Sam groaned annoyed. "At least tell me why I'm here!" She shouted to the sky in a sudden fit of irrational anger.
"Yeah, that'll do you a world of good." The knight said sarcastically.
Sam looked a little closer at the girl. She seemed sad. Almost as if some black cloud hung around her.
"Is there something wrong?"
The knight looked at her. "It's not something I share with strangers."
"I think you'll have to." Sam said. "I don't think I can leave until you do. But, if it makes you feel better, my name's Sam."
"Tralin." Said the knight. "Well, sometimes."
"When you've been here long enough you receive a Name." Tralin explained. "A Name that determines what you'll become later on."
"So, if I get a name that means something like 'child of magic', I'd become a wizard?"
"It goes a little deeper than that, but yeah."
"And I take it then that you're not really happy with yours?"
"You could say that." Tralin said. "Don't get me wrong, I like Terratras and I like being a knight. It's just... sometimes I really don't like my Name."
"What's it mean then?"
"Not a really pleasant prediction for my future, huh?"
"Well, maybe." Sam said. "But look at it from the bright side." She added, trying cheer the girl up a little. "Maybe it just means that you go out into battle alone and then return home to your wonderful husband."
"Whatever. The point is, that that name of yours simply means that you fight alone, but not live alone."
"You think so?" Tralin asked hopefully, clearly trying to grab a firm hold onto something that might drag her out of the black gap she was currently in.
"I know so." Sam said reassuringly. "And to prove it, why don't you come show me the rest of the castle? It'll be fun."
Lily ended up outside the castle. She followed a small dirt path that seemed to lead around the entire castle. As she walked there she suddenly heard someone shouting.
"Get out of the way!"
Lily looked up and saw two horses come racing at her. The brunette quickly pressed herself against the castle wall. The first horse raced past her, the second on the other hand stopped in front of her. The rider of the second horse was a blonde girl in her late teens. She wore one of those shapeless brown habits Lily had seen people walk around in before.
"You OK?" The girl asked.
"I'm fine." Lily said. "Just a little shaky."
"Yeah, sorry about that." She looked up towards the other rider, standing a small way off. "Drykster get back here!"
Slowly the other rider rode over to the two girls. He was a fairly tall guy with brown hair. He wore green clothes and a simple chain mail.
"What? What'd I do?" He asked.
"What did you do?" The girl asked. "We almost hit this girl, remember?"
"Oh yeah." Said Drykster. He moved his horse closer to Lily. "Sorry 'bout that. I'm Drykster and you are?"
"Lily." Lily said, looking a just a little nervous at the mouth of the horse just inches away from her face. "Could you please move that?"
"What?" Drykster said. "Oh, right. Sure."
"You idiot." The girl said. "Why are we friends again?"
"Because you're desperately in love with me?" The guy offered.
"Get real." The girl laughed. "You know I don't."
"Well, you know what they say: 'It just takes the right man...'"
"That's just a testosterone-induced fantasy and you know it. Besides, in my opinion it just takes the right woman." The girl said smiling.
Obviously Lily was missing something in this conversation. Though she could fill in the pieces all by herself.
"So, what takes you to Terratras?" The girl asked.
"I'm not sure." Lily answered truthfully.
"Very new then." The girl said. "I should've guessed it from the outfit anyway. You off-world people always wear strange clothes when you first come here."
"And I bet you'd just love to get her out of them as soon as possible." The guy said.
"Drykster, shut up!" The girl yelled. She shook her head and looked back at Lily. "I'm Aquila." She said.
"Are you two friends or something?" Lily asked. "Because I'm not quite certain."
"Most of the time." Aquila said. "When his blood is flowing to his brains for a change." She added grumbling. "Which, by the way, doesn't really happen very often."
"Hey Aquila, you still want to finish that race?" Drykster asked.
"Of course. You know I never miss an opportunity to mercilessly beat you." Aquila responded. "See you later." She said to Lily.
"Yeah, later." Drykster said.
The two riders and their horses turned and dashed off once more.
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