I looked back at where the glowing portal once was, but it was gone. There was no turning back now. We were in the arena.
No one else was in sight. I slid off Veradis's back, running my hand along her feathers before walking forward. I looked out at the mountains on the horizon, then behind me at the mass of forests. Wherever we were, it would be testing out survival skills along with how well we fight. The silence was eerie and deathly quiet, the only sound being the rushing river water below. I shut my eyes as the wind whipped stray hairs across my face, as if angry that I had volunteered for the competition. I turned back to the forest, not wanting to stay on the cliff any longer. If I was going to die, I at least wanted to know where I was.
The sky was still a bright, Riverdeen-esque color, the sun sending its light down to the forests.
It was peaceful if I managed to forget why I was here.
Should I try and make Eriene my ally? No. I can't trust her. Not yet, at least. Until I know her motives, she's like the others.
I stayed on a sharp lookout, though there's no one in sight. No one, except me and Veradis. We continue to walk, the cliff thick with trees. There seems to be a faint path, so we follow it across the plateau until it drops. Small rivers run across the the land, pooling into a lake and tumbling down in a thin, sparkling waterfall.
I can tell from the length of time it took that the stretch of land isn't very large. I stare down at the cove, eyes flitting back to the forests before looking back at Veradis. She seems to know what I'm thinking, and I climb on to her back with ease, as if I had done it a hundred times.
The feeling of wind in my face is exhilarating, a wave of euphoria crashing over me. I've never flown before, even though my Element is wind. I've only controlled it to bring me objects, like a book. But I've never done this.
We soar over the forests and rivers. My eyes narrow as my eyes fall on another section of land far off in the distance. It seems to be a building- a temple, of sorts. Sunlight reflects off a large circle of mirrors in the center, causing a dancing fire to spring to life between the columns.
That area is centered around fire, as the cliff was wind. Could there be a different area for each of the Five Elementals? Would my powers be strongest back on the cliff?
"Let's go back," I say to Veradis, eyeing the building before we glide back to the cliff. I direct her to the cove, and I jump off of her back as soon as we land.
Veradis enters the darkness first, and I follow her into the tunnel. The light is soon swallowed, and I look back at the sky once more before I am, too.
If I can kill them all, then I can end it. I can kill them, then the people who started this death trap. Everyone except for her. I wish there were other options, but there aren't.
"Shh, it's okay." I whispered as Seridian began to look around wildly and claw at the ground. He stares as I reach out to touch his dark green scales, letting out a huff of breath as I press my hand to his nose. The color reminds me of Forane's crest. It hurts to think of home, so I don't. Instead, I focus my mind on her.
I've seen her with Luke Castor, who seems to have gained her trust. For Eriene's sake, I hope he wasn't deceiving her. Used correctly, her power could be used to end whatever the Dragon Races has become.
It's dark, but the cracks in the stone allow me to see well enough. We travel down the twisting tunnel, continuing until it branches into a central chamber. I lift my hands as I hear the scuffle of footsteps. Veradis crouches, her growl echoing through the cave.
I suddenly hear the pleads of children, people no older than my brother. I hear something that sounds like a gunshot, and then screams.
"What happened here?" I whisper, walking deeper into the cavern. Veradis follows, her tail swishing back and forth.
"Consider that a warning." A voice hissed, the outline of a tall figure materializing then vanishing next to me. Whatever it is, I need to see it. I can't explain the feeling, but this place wants me to see.
I close my eyes as if it was an instinct, then open them again. People fill the cave as white sweeps through. The fallen columns around the border appear standing. And people appear one by one, washed through like ghosts.
There are white-coats, a few who look like nobles, and children. The youngest looks around six, while the oldest appears to be eighteen. I jump as a figure walks straight through me, their misty body passing straight through.
"Again." the person orders, appearance becoming more detailed as they spoke. It was a middle-aged woman, with graying black hair and cold eyes. She glared as the teen in the center did nothing. "Again." she repeated, walking towards them. The teen didn't move. The woman sighed, clicking a button on the device she held.
High pitched screams echoed through the cavern, eventually ceasing.
I walked forward, somehow unable to look away. It was horrifying and made me feel sick. But I needed to watch.
The girl looked up at her through tear-filled eyes, looking away as she raised her hand, pale skin shifting to a claw.
Scales crawl up her arm, and she screamed again as her body changed. It morphed into a creature with a striking resemblance to the one next to me.
I pressed myself against Veradis as she let out a small whimper. "It's not real." I whispered, unsure if it was to soothe her or myself.
One moment passed. Then two. Three.
The dragon then crumbled to the ground, shifting back into the form of a trembling, blonde-haired girl.
The woman stared at her device, examining the holographic screen for a moment before looking back at the girl. "I expected more from you." she said with a shake of her head, snapping the device shut as the screen vanished.
The girl glared, teeth clenched as she prepared to lunge. Another person held her back, struggling against her as the girl clawed at their arms. She stilled, falling limp. The woman narrowed her eyes, walking over to the girl. The other person moved back as she knelt.
She lifted the blonde girl's chin and smiled as a tear traveled the length of her face. "Remember, Althea. You're supposed to be dead."