Gino looked worried, and dropped the basket. It rolled off and he could hear Pussy clawing from the inside, very upset at being dropped. “Now this is a surprise.” Dawes spoke, his eyes locked on Gino. “Why on earth are you in the city, so close to the capitol? Shouldn’t you be off with your sheep?”
Gino shook his head. “I have a duty beyond that, Dawes. I’m sure you know of it.” Dawes laughed. “I’m sure. You’re here because of Opal. Predictable, as always.”
Gino found himself getting angry. Dawes, once a close friend, had betrayed his comrade for a share in Nya’s empire. It had been him who had tracked down the two Chosen long ago, and it had been him since who had pursued them so mercilessly. Indeed, Dawes now held in his hand Opal’s consciousness. The betrayal kept getting worse.
Dawes realized Gino’s mixed feelings and began to take advantage of them. “You know how easy you’ve made it now, Gino. If I have you, and I already have Opal, what will these rebels do? Wander around in the dark, most likely, making bad decisions and eventually falling off a cliff.”
Gino didn’t say anything. If anything happened to Opal, truly the band would be directionless…and purposeless! But if Nya’s henchman knew that, he would test them sore. He couldn’t take that risk.
Suddenly, Dawes turned on him. “Why won’t you say anything?” He asked, angrily. “What could I say?” Gino asked meekly, before answering his own question. “Nothing. I will say nothing.”
Dawes laughed. “This silence becomes one of your class. Of course, you probably think that you’re perfect, with your ‘secret religion’ and your ‘special gifts’. It makes me sick.” He spat on the ground. “You used to believe in the One True God, just as much as I did.” Gino said quietly, though inwardly chafing at the rude remark.
Dawes shook his head. “And I also used to believe in sprites. What matters it? Your ‘strange’ friends won’t be able to get by without you. And believe me,” He thrust out his hand and grabbed Gino’s arm “I intend to find them, every last one of them, and destroy them. Men and women alike.” He hissed.
What happened next surprised both of them. Gino suddenly felt the ground spinning under his feet, and Dawes turned red in his eyes. He pulled his right arm back, while at the same time reaching with his left behind him. There was an explosion.
The next thing they knew, Dawes had fell back, and was shrieking and cursing. Gino stood there for a second, triumphant, with a pistol in his hand. “You took my fingers years ago, Dawes. How do you like it now?” He cried, stepping back.
The sky had been overcast for a few hours, but now lightning sparked its way across the sky. The sound jolted Gino out of his triumph, and he dropped the weapon as if it had been made of fire. Then he collapsed, and hid his face in his hands.
“No! No, Lord! I….” He sobbed, shaking violently. The slight pattering of raindrops mixed with Dawes’ curses and Gino’s sobbing. “Ruined! Oh, Creator, forgive me! Forgive me!”
Dawes’ men came running up and stopped at the strange sight. “Don’t just stand there, fools! Help me up!” Dawes yelled, half-ashamed at the cowardly way he had been carrying on. Gino didn’t move. “To fail now, and for such a thing as revenge.” He muttered. “Ruined.”
The rainstorm met the rest of the band under the grateful cover of the great forest that led into the capitol city. “We’re so close.” Caro remarked wistfully. “If only Opal would awaken, and we could continue our purpose.” Davis, who had been following (and indeed seldom left the prince out of his sight) agreed. “If the princess would awaken, and bring peace to this land, even I would believe in fairytales. But what’s all the ruckus down there?” He asked suddenly, as he heard the sounds of a great commotion coming from the camp.
They descended the hill that had given them a view into the city, and were met by Rora. She looked as though she had seen a ghost. “Donnae blame me, sirs.” She panted, “Because I know nothing of it. One leaves, one comes back, and then she’s out of bed and babbling like…I don’t know what!” Caro and Davis exchanged worried glances. “What?”
Rora pointed behind her. There, pacing back and forth through the ranks of surprised men, as if life depended on it, ran Opal, with her cat in her arms. Puss had scratched her way out of the basket and had returned to her mistress, who was now awake.
Caro ran to Opal, who was weeping and whispering at the same time. “Woe! For hope to me means death to another.” She cried, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Prince Caro, Gino is taken, and all is lost.”