Yin Part 3
No Child of Mine
She that had no need of me,
Is a little lonely child
Lost in Hell. Persephone,
Take her head upon your knee,
Say to her: "My dear, my dear,
It is not so dreadful here."
-- Edna St. Vincent Millay "A Prayer to Persephone"
"There it is!" Rhianna pointed to the beautiful castle
surrounded by thick stone walls. The walls were twisted into a maze to trap
the unwary. "You can land in the courtyard."
"But what if the sentries see us?" Rosary asked. Biting her lower lip, she looked down at the castle. She had the disturbing feeling that she had been there before, but quickly dismissed it as being due to the castle's resemblence to a Mana Palace.
"They won't report it," Morbius answered. "They know why we're here."
With an electrical crackle and a strange whooshing sound
which soon settled into a low, rhythmic hum, the Soul Machine switched on.
A black aura began to settle as if all the shadows and dark places in the
dungeon were collecting around it.
Standing beside the Emperor and Empress, the Boss of the Scorpion Army, Jessiset, beamed with pride. Never before had her Army built something as superbly evil, as malignant as the hulking machine before them.
"Magnificent," Vandole breathed and ran his hands along the Soul Machine's metal sides. "Splendid."
Jessiset touched the machine briefly before jerking her hand away. The aura surrounding the device didn't burn or freeze, it felt more like a dense, slimy fog. The Kilroy robot hadn't been like this, she thought. But Kilroy was for battle, this thing was for vengeance.
Flammie landed in the courtyard, pausing only long enough
for the travelers to climb off of his back before flying away. There was
a sense of waiting around the castle, as if everyone and everything was holding
its breath. Rosary felt as if all eyes were on her, that even the spout-mouthed
gargoyles were staring. She shivered and shook her head.
"It was only a dream," she said to herself.
"What about a dream?" Lucius asked her.
"Nothing," she said dismissively. "I was just talking to myself."
"I do that all the time, sometimes I even answer," Edgar laughed tensely, trying to break the somber mood.
"Follow me," Morbius said and walked to a place on the outer wall. He then stuck one hand into a chink in the mortar holding the stones together. With a grinding sound, a hidden door swung open into pitch blackness. The dark elf pressed a button on the other side of the door and a narrow staircase was revealed in the resulting light. "Watch your step!" he cautioned as he started down the steps, Lucius, Rosary, and Edgar staying close behind him, while Rhianna followed followed after them to close the door.
"This takes us under the dungeon where the Soul Machine is being built," Rhianna said. "It was constructed long ago by the Mana Tribe to rescue Imperial prisoners."
"But you said before that the dark elves moved into this castle recently,' Edgar looked puzzled.
"Right," Rhianna nodded. "But this castle has been around for a long, long time. . .We just moved back in."
Hours later, the passage opened into a large room filled
with beds and the remains of medical supplies. "Many of the prisoners that
came to this castle long ago were tortured," Morbius explained. "They were
fixed up here so they could survive the journey home. You all can take a
nap here if you like, I don't think we'll get much of a chance to rest later."
Rosary twisted around in her sleep, troubled by nightmares. In her dreams she was bound to the back of a blood-red dragon, a gauntlet-covered hand clamped over her mouth to keep her from screaming. She felt like she was being taken from her home, but the surroundings weren't anything like the area around Pandora. Her abductor was saying something to her or someone else, but she couldn't remember the words.
"Here we go," Rhianna said and opened the door that led into the dungeon.
"Scared?" "Not at all," Lucius said boldly and drew his sword.
"Liar," Rhianna laughed and went through the door. "My brother and I were born in this castle and we're even scared. Right, Morbius?"
"Right," the second dark elf nodded. "Behold the Soul Machine."
"That thing?" Edgar asked as they looked at the sprawling machine that had pipes leading out of the dungeon and into the walls. Every visible surface of the Soul Machine was covered with the rippling black mist and the metallic smell in the air reminded them of blood.
"What now?" Lucius queried.
"What indeed," the Emperor stepped out from behind the machine. "Fancy seeing you children here," he smiled like a knife. "And you two, you were supposed to be working on the west turret."
"We're not your slaves," Rhianna spat. "We're Empress Yin's subjects."
"And Yin is my wife, what's hers is mine," Vandole said matter-of-factly.
"Not in the eyes of her people," Morbius snapped.
"Then maybe she should decide what to do with you five," he said and a group of soldiers dragged the adventurers up the flights of stairs to meet their fate.
"Yin, these children were found toying with the Soul
Machine," Emperor Vandole scowled at the five.
"Melusine!" Empress Yin jumped down from her throne and embraced Rosary. "My daughter," she gasped. "My beautiful baby girl."
"Daughter?" Lucius, Edgar, and Vandole repeated.
"Funny isn't it?" Yin laughed as Rosary/Melusine tried to squirm free. "You banished me because you were angry that you didn't have an heir and it turned out that I was pregnant. Don't act so innocent with me, either, your soldiers stole her from me when she was just little more than a baby.
"I didn't order it, Yin! I didn't even know about her!" Vandole protested.
"Then who did?"
16 years ago. . .
Fanha ran through the maze, clutching a map. Now it's
time to claim what's mine, she thought. The Great Imperial Fools had no right
to separate us. Upon reaching the castle, she began to bang on the door.
"What is it at this hour?" she heard Sheex growl before opening the door.
"Fanha! What are you doing here?"
"I'm here to take you back to the Emperor," Fanha said and whistled for the dragon she had arrived on.
"But the Emperor ordered me to stay at this castle and the Empress has assigned me to guard her child."
"He changed his mind," she lied and climbed onto the back of the blood-colored dragon. "Besides, we can just take her child with us. You can guard the kid just as well from the air as in the castle."
"I'll be right back," Sheex told her before disappearing back into the castle. He soon emerged carrying a sleeping two-year-old girl. He handed the girl to Fanha before joining her on the dragon. "Let's go."
The dragon then took to air, the jolt causing the young Melusine to wake up. Before the child could even scream, Fanha clamped her hand over Melusine's mouth. "What do we do with the kid now?"
"We'll think of something," her companion said simply. On their way to the Emperor's castle, they saw the kingdom of Pandora. "This looks like a good spot," Sheex said and knocked the girl unconscious with a spell. "Could you fly us by that castle? I have an idea."
The dragon hovered next to a window, while Sheex set the unconcious Melusine outside the door of the nobleman Elman. After that, he jumped out of the window and onto the dragon's back. The three beings then flew back to the Emperor's castle.
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