Chapter Two: The Shattered Empire
" This above all:
Well, I have managed to get this far before I have made anyone mad, so I might just live through this ordeal. So far, I have found out that my husband, my horrible husband, is planning to construct something -- what did he call it? A fortress. It had something to do with my name... Oh, yes. The Mana Fortress. How, in the name of the Tree, could I forget such a thing?
I have been near this monstrous thing... the Fortress. They cannot see the pain, feel the evil strike deep into their hearts, penetrating the bravest of souls and striking fear in deep. They are incapable of such feelings, those -- monsters. Anyway, the Fortress... I think Satan is going to use it to take ahold of my Kingdom, my family... and then the rest of the world. With its people cowering at his name, he should have no difficulty in doing so. This is a pity.
Today I have done almost nothing, except take a stroll around my surroundings. This is the darkest of all places I have been -- I thought I had seen the worst. Well, you thought wrong, a nasty little voice says in my head. I have do admit, that voice is right. This is the most depressing place I have ever been. No wonder everybody goes crazy around here.
Somedays I think of running away from here, but then I remember that he can part magic and trick or charm the truth out of one's lips in some way or another. Damn him. I will get my revenge... My saviors should be coming soon. Thank the Tree for them... I don't know what I would do if I knew that they weren't coming. My one faithful teacher should have told them by now... Lila and Lily. James is on the way. He will come to them soon enough.
The one teacher that has helped through all this... Cladie... How I miss him. He is so kind and gentle... he reminds me of my grandfather... Cladie is the nicest person to ever grace this earth with his presence. Thank the Sages for him. He helped me plan this out before I was kidnapped and brought here... he could tell fate was coming. Destiny, he called it. Thank the Sages...
The very next day, I rise to yet another gloomy morning, alone. I stretch my arms and feel my hand gently brush the silky texture of the satin on my canopy. The bed I have been sleeping in for nine years is a black satin canopy bed with close curtains... I protested sharing a room with that monster that calls himself my own. Ha. What a joke, I think.
I grin devilishly as I get up to pick out an outfit for the day. So far, he has provided me with robes and dresses -- all of them black. But instead, I pick out a floor-sweeping, white velvety number with a head piece to go with. Forget the crown today, I say to myself, and test him. Just to see what he does...
A few minutes later I step outside of my chambers and get an idea. Thinking it over, I quickly but hesitantly walk to Satan and, disgusted with myself, link my arm with his. If it'll take this much to get what I want, so be it.
" Dear... would it be a tad too much to ask if I went above today? " I say slyly, convincingly, as we walk towards the Fortress area. He smiles, but the smile is empty... as always.
" Whatever makes you happy. Sheex! " Satan snaps his fingers and Sheex walks over to us.
" Sir? "
" Escort Serenity above today... she has wishes. Though I wonder why... " He looks at me, as if trying to read my thoughts. I do not shrink back, as I would have years ago -- I am used to this. He can't get in my head. I won't let him.
" As you wish, sir. Serenity, if you're ready? " Sheex looks at me too, questioningly, but kindly. He offers his arm to mine, and bading a stiff farewell to my husband, we leave. Thank the Tree I won't be here today. I have this horrible sinking feeling that something worse than normal will happen while I'm away... I have to wonder... Do I dare leave Fanha here, alone, with her terrible father...?
No, I decide. I can't leave her alone. I turn Sheex to the direction of her room, hastily explain why, and for some odd reason, he agrees and doesn't protest. I open the slanite gray door quietly and step inside, then gently rock my daughter awake. Fanha yawns, stretches, then looks at me and smiles sleepily. " Good morning mommy! "
" Morning dear, " I smile back and sit on the edge of her bed, which is exactly like my own. " Would you like to come with me today? "
" Where are we going? " Fanha sits up and rubs her eyes, the red of her hair bright against the black covers. " Are we leaving? "
I nod. " Your father is allowing me to above today. I need to speak with Vandole... And maybe we can even manage to go to Altena, so you can meet grandmommy and daddy. How does that sound? " We smile at each other for a moment, then I wrap her in a hug.
" Me want to come! " She jumps out of bed and bounds to her closet, then opens the doors. Fanha picks out a deep blue outfit with a sky blue hood, then also picks up a same color belt as the hood. The fabric is soft, like fur, but it's not the same.
I get to my feet and walk to her door. " I'll be right back dear. I need to get something. " She nods as I shut the door quietly, then turn to face Satan, who is standing very close to me. Too close for my liking.
" What? " I ask, looking over his shoulder towards my own room. I try to move around him, but he blocks my path.
Satan slips his arms around my waist, pulls me close and looks in my eyes. His eyes are empty... emotionless. It makes me shiver and I glance away. " How bout' it? Before you go? " His smile is cunning at the moment. I don't like it and push him away.
" How bout' NO?! " Quickly, before he has time to react, I open my door and step inside, then slam it hard. I change my clothes to an emerald green outfit, like Fanha's, also with a hood, but mine is olive green. Then I go back to her room.
" Why do you want to leave anyway? You can't escape. " He is leaning against Fanha's door, arms crossed, his face hard.
" I don't really care, sir. Does it matter to you what I do? So I miss my family, I miss my land! I HATE IT HERE! " I snap. Angrily I shove my stunned husband out of the way and push the door open. " Fanha! We are leaving now! "
Fanha runs to me, smiling, her red hair trailing bouncily behind her. She has her tiny hand grasped tightly around her bag. I put Fanha's heavy blue cloak on her small shoulders, then button my own emerald one. I pick her up. " Sheex! Let's go! "
Sheex opens the door for us and holds it as we step outside for the last time, Fanha in my arms.
" Where do you think you're going, my dear? Fanha stays with me, " Satan growls from the shadows. Fanha hides her eyes and buries her face in my cloak.
I feel my anger rising again.
" Do you really think I'd leave her here, with a horror of a father?! " I motion for Sheex to follow, and we start on the way out. Satan walks beside me, still determined to keep up.
" Serenity you are not taking my daughter! I won't let you! " He makes to take Fanha from my arms, instead, he gets a punch in the eye. Satan backs away, holding his now black face.
" I said no! She's coming with me and you cannot do anything about it! SO BACK OFF! " We start off, until my husband's shouts meets our ears again.
" Serenity, you gave me your soul! There's no point in arguing! Fanha will do the same in time! "
Slowly, I set Fanha down and stand straight. " No, I didn't. You'll get what's coming to you, you heartless, vile monster. Stay away from us! " I take Fanha's small hand, which is shaking at the moment, and clasp it inside my own.
" Go play, dear. But don't go far, we'll be going soon." These are the words I say to Fanha before she runs off to play with the other children in the pub (the restaurant, ok?!) This is actually the first time I've been alone with Sheex... with no interference... just talking, like friends do.
We've become fast friends over the years I was staying in the Underworld. This was good for me, because it gave me someone to talk to, which if I hadn't had, I would've gone crazy like the others. As of now my eyes avoid his, I sit stirring the soup that the waiter brought us. Sheex plays with his hands, I guess he is not exactly sure what to say.
" Serenity... why did you want to come here today? " His words make me look up, and sit back into the chair. Sheex looks me in the eye, as if trying to determine what I'm going to say. For some reason, I find that I cannot lie to him. Must be a demon thing...
" You know I can't tell you that. "
" I brought you here, I didn't have to come. The least you can do is tell me why. "
I sigh and look at my daughter, Fanha, who is sitting and playing with the other kids. She's laughing. That's something I haven't done in years. But it makes me smile somewhat, to know that she won't be like me. She won't have to go through this again. That's simply a joy to know.
" Sheex, look over there and tell me what you see. " I point to Fanha and the other children, having fun. He smiles too; I guess he senses what I do.
He looks back to me, his expression now kind. " Is this why...? You wanted to see her happy? "
" Oh Sheex! It's everything! " I now feel his arms, strong as they are, gently wrap me in warmth. " I miss everything he took away from me... my mom, my family, the land... everything. He can't do the same thing to Fanha... I won't let him... " I close my eyes and bury my face in his shoulder, hoping this was all a dream.
" Neither will I. "
" Serenity! It's been ages! " A very surprised Vandole walks towards me, his cape trailing behind. When he stops, the hem puddles on the floor, as if it were made for a taller man. At the moment his face is a kind smile, the same holds true with his eyes.
I force a smile to please him. " Vandole, do you know why I'm here? " I make my tone curious, as someone would ask questions to know the answer hidden inside. He shakes his head.
" To warn you. "
Vandole looks at me, surprised, his smile fading. " A-about what? " Now his tone is no longer kind, but edgy, as hurrying me to tell all I knew.
" Send word to Altena that I was here, do you understand? My mother needs to hear this. I'm here to warn you of the Underworld. They're planning to start war soon, I don't know when, but you, Altena, Tasnica, Lorima and Pandora must be on the alert for anything new. Got it? "
He snaps his fingers, and his messenger quickly writes down what I said. Another snap, the small, skinny boy runs out the door. " Why are you telling me this? Why can't you go to Altena yourself? "
" Because I haven't the time, not today. And another thing Vandole -- " I turn to leave, still grasping Fanha's hand and her bag. " If you don't heed what I say, do you know what your Empire will do? "
" What? "
" Shatter. "