“How did you know Raven?” Penelope demanded, unwilling to drop the sword from his direction.
“I met her a month back,” he said holding the sword ready but it was no longer as threatening, “I killed for her and let her take my life so that she might have a momentary reprieve.”
“What do you mean? You stand before me perfectly alive but yet she killed you?” Penelope demanded shaking the sword as though it was an accusing finger.
He took a step back with his hands up, “How long have you been here sister to Raven?”
“By my guess about an hour,” Penelope responded with a little shrug.
“I have been here for four years,” he said in a somber sort of way, “Four of a twenty year sentence. You know little of this place and the way it works. If you are truly Raven’s sister, I shall help you. Tell me her crime.”
“She had none,” Penelope retorted lowering her weapon after he had stuck his own in the ground, “She was only defending herself. I can’t remember more it as though I only need to know enough to find my sister. The rest are lost memories.”
“Where did you come from?” He asked glancing around, “This is a male only realm.”
“The mirror at the bottom of the pond,” she said gesturing with her chin.
He turned back to her slowly his eyebrow raised, “The mirror?”
“Yes, as I have two before then,” she said, “It is the fastest way to travel.”
He pulled the sword from the ground and pointed it at her, “Only members of the staff can pass through the mirrors, how can you?”
“I know not,” she said holding her sword up in defense as they began to circle.
“Then you must be one of them,” he lunged and she twisted away.
She backed up and every inch of her body tensed from the anticipated fight. He charged again and she stepped around his thrust to punch him in his wounded shoulder. He let out a cry as his knees buckled. He held his sword to keep her at bay but she knew the first fight had exhausted him. She kicked his arm aside and pressed the tip of her sword to his chest.
“Tell me of this place,” she said raising her sword to his throat, “and I shall spare your life.”
He let the sword drop from his hand as he looked up at her, “Perhaps you are not of them. They kill without mercy because they know we will just be born again in our own realm.”
“I am not one of them,” she spat, “I detest them as you do, but I know nothing of this world.”
“You cannot be of it if you pass through the mirrors,” he said taking a deep breathe, “We fight for paradise. Every month they take volunteers and put them in a battle to the death. The last one left standing gets paradise until the next fight. I met your sister in a partner’s battle, where a man and woman pair up, usually one weak and one strong, and fight alongside one another. I had grown tired of fighting alone.”
“You said she had killed you,” Penelope said, “Explain that.”
“There was a charm to her,” he said with a smile, “She had an innocence that made me fight harder for victory. However, I was unable to succeed. We were killed and I felt as though I had failed her. At the next battle, months later, I saved her and kept her with me until the end. I forced her to kill me so that she might be free. I have not seen her since, though three months have passed since her victory.”
“She is innocent,” Penelope said offering him her arm, “For your service to my sister, I will leave you to your fight.”
“We fight and die throughout what seems to be eternity,” his voice was a little crazy, “Welcome to Pandemonium, let the mayhem ensue.”
For the first time she saw the madness in his eyes as she had helped him to his feet. Four years in and sixteen to go; his mind would slowly deteriorate. She remembered now, the spiraling down of humanity and the creation of this prison. The name, Pandemonium, made her shutter with disgust.
She said turning away from him, “I must go.”
“When you see her,” he said putting his hand on her arm, “Tell her Thaddeus wishes her safety.”
“I shall,” she said before turning and looking to the tattoo on her arm as a guide.
Time had been wasted watching the battle and speaking with the man but she had been unwilling to wait. They had sent men to take her, to force her from her mission. The closer she got the more determined they would become. She glanced to her wrist as she looked to the dark forest, and her heart beat with the truth; the next mirror was somewhere ahead in the forest.
“You cannot go into the Dark Forest,” Thaddeus said behind her, his hand on his wounded shoulder, “It is suicide.”
“I must, but as you said,” she said glancing back at him, “I cannot die.”
She turned back and began walking through the swamp before the forest’s edge, as she heard him call, “It is a place of nightmares.”
“I am not afraid,” she whispered to the wind.
The trees seemed to excrete black water as though they were crying dark tears. There were creatures with wings hiding in the branches. She paid them no mind as she walked through the forest. The sword was heavy in her hand but she would need it.
The lights on the inside of her tattoo seemed almost red now, as though there was fire on her arm. She was closer, Raven was within her grasp. She had a strange feeling that when she reached Raven, something important would be remembered.
She heard a screech and instant before one of the creatures tried to pounce on her. She took a step to the left and swung the sword down. It grated against its back and opened up a great gashing wound. Penelope looked down at it with disgust as steam rose from its carcass.
She looked up at the creatures as they looked upon her with an almost menacing expression. They were circling around her, like vultures. The question was, were they after her or her kill? Without hesitation she turned and fled further into the forest’s dark embrace. Their screeches followed her as she ran.
Chapter Six: http://wp.me/P3LyhT-1l