There was a rush of magic as I stepped through the portal. It felt like stepping into a liquid, but it looked more like I was inside one of those magical veins that I had run into so many times on Daegal. The river of violet energy rushed against us, like a tube of rushing water. Then, with a sudden halt to the motion, the magic disappeared and I stumbled forward in a room I didn't know.
I tried to gain my bearings by looking around, but the motion sickness hit me all at once. I bent forward and puked, the world still seemingly spinning around me. I heard yells and forced myself to look up.
There were Gnomes charging us with staffs that held purple crystal's on the tips of them.
"How did they get in here?" one of them yelled as they closed in on us.
"Take them out!" said another.
One charged me with the staff held forward. I tried to push myself to my feet but the dizziness was still working against me. I looked up in time to see the Gnome shove the crystal into my side. It hit like one of those lightning wolves, but in a different kind of way.
My vision blurrred and turned to back to a swirl like when I was being teleported. Except this time I could only see bright lights and stars. I tried again to stand, but I had no concept of where the ground was. I placed one foot underneath me and smacked backwards against the ground. I tried to push myself back up, but it was no use. Instead, I just laid there as I listened to the confrontation.
There were more incoherent yells, and the sound of scuffling feet. There were flashes, and I couldn't tell if they were flashes in the room or residual effects from the illusion staff that had zapped me. Then, a voice drowned out the others.
"They're safe," said Sillius. "We have them tied up. And they came here to help."
"Other races aren't supposed to be here!" yelled a voice I didn't know.
"I know that," said Sillius. "But I think that King Slepenstein will agree that the rule needed to be broken in this case. If you'd just let us speak—"
"The king is dead," said the unknown voice. "Who are you? Prove you're a Gnome or we'll be forced to take you out as well." The voice raised as tensions did as well.
"Woah. Woah!" said Sillius. There was silence for a moment.
Then the unknown voice said, "He's okay. But how did you not know about the King? Where have you been?"
"Daegal," said Sillius. "It's the reason we're here. There is a very big problem. Who is in charge now if the king is dead?"
"General Bygny has been chosen to take his place for the time being."
"Bygny," repeated Sillius. "Zef Bygny's daughter." He spoke the words more to himself—a way of clueing us in. I wasn't sure if I should count us lucky or not knowing that she was the one we would have to talk to.
"Then bring us to her," said Sillius. "We'll plead our case and she can decide what to do with us."
There was another pause. The guards must have been contemplating what to do.
The stars and lights still danced around my head, but the room was starting to come into view. It was a colorful building, but that was about the extent of what I could see.
"Amara is very busy taking over the king's duties. She doesn't have time to see just anyone." said the guard. "You brought us prisoners. Thank you. We'll take it from here." Another pause. "Lead these two out of the palace."
There was the sound of shuffling feet. My vision was starting to come back to me. I looked around and saw Sillius and Porthos being escorted out of the room.
"General Amara needs to hear this. For the sake of all Gnomes," said Sillius. The guards continued to escort them toward the tall doorway.
"We have information about her father," I said. The guard's heads snapped toward me. One pointed a crystal staff at me again, but didn't yet hit me with it.
"No one said you could talk." said the Gnome with the staff.
"He's dead," I said. "We were there when it happened." I knew the statement wouldn't look good. They were probably assuming that I killed him. If only they knew what actually happened. Even if they thought I did it though, it might get us an audience.
The two guards standing over me glanced at each other and then back at me.
"If one of Amara's loved ones died, she would want to know," said the guard standing over me without the staff. "She'd want to talk to them."
The Gnome with the staff sighed. "Fine. Get them up." He turned his gaze back to me. "You are our prisoners. You do not speak unless spoken to. Don't make me explain what happens if you can't listen."
I only responded with a nod. These people were hostile. I expected it, but it hurt to let them push us around like this. I was so tired of the hatred at every turn. I still missed Zef, and wished he was here to help us convince his people. Everyone of them reminded me of him in one way or another. It was like you're friend dying and then spending all of your time with his twin. Everytime I saw a Gnome, my heart lept hoping it was him. But it wasn't. And instead, we were stuck here as prisoners—enemies.
I looked over at Tigala. She growled at the Guards as they pointed a crustal staff at her. Lolan was standing, but also surrounded by guards. Geralt was getting pushed toward Lolan. He stared up at the ceiling and walls of the room in admiration.
One of the guards pushed my back, causing me to stumble forward. "Move."
I listened, and the four of us stepped off of the platform that held the teleporter we had entered through. It was a large ornate gateway made of white stone with ten more like it standing offset behind it. The Gnomes pulled us by the ropes that bound us until we had caught up to Sillius and Porthos. Sillius's forehead was creased with frustration, while Porthos gave us a smile.
I had no clue how this was going to go, and based on the reception, I doubted it would go well.
The Gnomes began to march through the giant white doorway that marked the enterance to the room. Why they needed the door that big was beyond me, especially for small folk. They led us out into the halway which was decorated with colorful tiles, placed in swirling patterns along the ceiling. The walls were a pale purple.
I looked around, trying to find landmarks, or something that I could remember for later—an escape route, if it came to that. The problem was, it seemed that the same pattterns on the ceiling kept repeating over and over again. I looked back down the hall, and it looked like we hadn't moved any further down it, despite being in motion the whole time. I turned to look back at the door we had come through and didn't see it anywhere. We hadn't been walking long. It should have been there.
I looked at the others. They seemed to be having similar confusion at the static wallway. I looked at the Gnomes next. They stood in formation around us, leading us forward, even though the hall never progressed. None of them seemed to be using magic, but was this one of their tricks? I noticed Sillius and Porthos's expresions hadn't changed much from when I saw them in the teleporter room. They looked around though like nothing was out of the ordinary.
After a few moments of walking down the endless hallway, we were led toward a wall. The Gnomes walked straight at it. There was no opening that I could see—no hidden doors. The Gnomes didn't care. They walked straight into the wall and it swallowed them up. The ropes that led us still pulled us forward. I continued to follow it, but hestated before hitting the wall. There was a tug on the rope, pulling me. I stumbled forward, and instead of hitting something solid, my vision shifted as I passed to the other side of the illusion.
I could see the Gnomes again in front of me. They didn't even care to give me a glance as I realized the illusion that I had just escaped from. The others in my group looked equally disturbed by the experience, all except for Porthos and SIllius. Were they able to see through the illusion? Or were they so used to it that it didn't phase them?
I couldn't know. I looked around the room we were now in. It was massive. Again, I wasn't sure what the obsession was with huge rooms for the Gnomes. Maybe it was because they were so small. DId they need their buildings to be intimidating to make up for the fact that they weren't very intimidating themselves?
The room had similar tiled patterns circling around the room. It had a round ceiling with echoes of the swirl patter in the corners of railings, floor tiles, trim, and even furniture. Gold and silver accented the colorful ceiling and curtains, and a large curved double staircase took up the center of the room. It was white with silver spiraling handrails.
"Queen Bygny. We have people that—" started one of the guards.
"I'm not your queen," said someone beyond the staircases on the upper floor of the room. "And I have enough to do."
There was a sound of more conversation from the woman, but it must have been to someone else with the words barely audible from so far away.
"I don't feel comfortable calling you 'general' when you're taking the King's place," said the Guard.
"Do it anyway," said the woman up top. "I was put in charge, wasn't I?"
"Yes," said the guard.
"What do you want?"
"A group teleported into our warp room. One of them was a Treek. They say they have information for you about your father."
There was silence in response, and then the clack of boots on the bright marble floor. A female Gnome appeared at the top of the double staircase, looking over the silver railing at us. She had brown hair that was wound in tight curls. A scar marked her neck and continued into the collar of her metalic purple armor. She had freckles, and Zef's eyes.
"Well, good for them," she said. "I could care less about my father." She shooed us away. "Lock them up. We'll deal with them later. How did they get into our warp room?"
"These two Gnomes brought them," said the guard, motioning to Sillius and Porthos.
"And why would you bring enemies into our nation's best-kept secret?" said Amara as she glared at the two.
"There is a monster, loose on Daegal," said Sillius. "We need your help. And they are the ones leading the charge against it."
"I don't see why I should care about any of this," said Amara. "We are fighting enough battles as it is. If Daegal has a monster, we'll pull our forces out until other races defeat the monster." She began to walk back up the stairs. "Lock them all up, and we'll deal with them later."
The guards turned to begin ushering us away. I couldn't let our chance slip away this easily. "He's dead," I called out.
The Gnomes that had been leading me turned on me with a staff ready to shock me again. "I told you not to speak—"
"He is?" said Amara, stopping in her tracks. "How did you do it?"
"I didn't," I said. I wasn't sure how to approach this. I thought Zef's daughter would love him. Having been separated from my own for so long, I coundn't imagine caring so little about whether he lived or died. "He wanted us to tell you that he loves you."
Amara's face had looked casual, but after hearing that it twisted with anger. "Who sent you here?" she snarled.
"It's true," said Sillius. "He died trying to save people. He died working with this group to find the missing colonists. If you'd just hear us out."
She looked at him and then back at me. "No. That seemed targetted. Who sent you here and what do they want?"
"We came on our own," I said. "We need your help."
"Hah," she laughed. "A Treek, of all people, wants help from me? Help from the Gnomes? Do you know why I don't have a mother? It's because your people were so power hungry that they killed even the innocent. I lost her when I was a child." She spoke the last words with a fury that I knew all too well.
"Amara. I'm sorry we brought her here," said Sillius, referring to me, the Treek. That hurt, especially because we were now effectively on the same side. All of us were about to be thrown behind bars and he was apologizing for me being in the room. "But there are bigger problems. We found the colonists. They were held captive as slaves to help uncover a giant monster. That monster is not just going to stay on Daegal. It's only a matter of time before it attacks the Gnomes, along with the rest of the world."
Amara glared at me the whole time Sillius spoke. I was beginning to think that maybe Sillius was right. Maybe I shouldn't have come. Maybe it would have been better if I stayed back. What would she do with me now that I willingly came into her custody?
"If you'll let me, I can show you the monster," said Sillius.
"What is your name?" she asked looking down at Sillius.
"Sillius Addleblat," he said. "I am the Gnome representative on Daegal."
"Well, Sillius," said Amara. "We have never heard of such a monster. I'm more inclined to think that the Treek, or this group, or maybe even my father has messed with your mind."
"Please, if you'll just let me show you," said Sillius. He held out his hands in a defensive position, trying to ease the tension. I tried my best to avoid eye contact with Amara in the meantime.
"Fine. Show me," said Amara.
Sillius began to spin the magic in his hands. A shimmer of purple poured out of them, forming a translucent wall in front of him. The purple faded and was replaced by an image of the cavern as the monster crawled out of it. I could see the shadow of Malcolm riding the monster to the surface. The monster clawed it's way up from the rubble and stepped out into the daylight. It roared, making a sound similar to the dragon, but this was much more unatural, like its vocal chords we broken.
"This monster is loose on Daegal." said Sillius. "From what we know, it craves destruction. It's only a matter of time until it finds it's way off of the island and starts destroying whole cities. The figure riding is the same one that abducted our colonists. He plans to use the same magic that he used to capture the colonists to control the monster. Regardless of who is in control, if this situation is left alone, it is only going to get worse."
"It's not attacking us now," said Amara. "And we're far enough away from that island that I don't think we have a reason for concern."
She stared down at us. I looked away, escaping her gaze.
"So thanks for letting me know, but we'll deal with it when it actually becomes a problem," said Amara. "I expect you'll have the colonists back here shortly?"
Sillius looked at us and then back at Amara, looking a little defeated. Maybe he was, but he was giving up too easily. "Yes, of course," he said.
We needed this. Without the Gnomes, there was no chance of us stopping that monster. The first time anyone tried to fight it, they had the strength of all forms of magic. And even with it, they barely stopped it. I wanted to say more, but I couldn't think of a single thing I could say that might convince her.
"Good," she said. She turned to her guards. "The Gnomes can go free since we will be able to clean up this mess without our secret getting out, but if you tell anyone else about our warp room, it will be the end of you." She glared Sillius and Porthos, making sure she was understood.
Then she motioned toward me. "As for them, do as I said. Lock them up and we'll deal with them later."