[26th of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Inside Thedam Castle Queen’s Office]
Anticipation. All Rain had right now was anticipation for the safe return of Sorin and the others. She had wanted to go with them but could not do so because of her other obligations. Rain was still waiting to hear from Queen Amelia about setting up another meeting, but with each passing minute into the night, Rain had no idea if Amelia or her cabinet would call tonight.
“She would have to call soon, wouldn’t she?” Luna asked. “I don’t see why she would make you a promise and then not fulfill it.”
“I know,” Rain said. “I’m starting to worry about what’s happening with the others in Habicht, though, and if that’s affecting anything here.”
“Speaking of which, Your Majesty, when do you suppose that we will hear back from them?” Gamal asked.
“A good question,” Rain replied. “I can only hope that Sorin and the others were able to see this through safely.”
“I wish we could have went with them,” Mina said. “Just sitting here makes me so anxious because we’re just doing nothing right now!”
Rain gazed outside the window. “As it does for us all,” she said. “It will do us no good to keep worrying, however.”
“You say that, but I feel like you must be the most nervous out of all of us,” Luna said. “Do you feel nervous? I can make some tea if you want me to… Or maybe I can rub your shoulders… Or I can sing a relaxing song!”
“No, but I appreciate the thought,” Rain replied. “I say we shouldn’t keep worrying because it will only lower our morale if we continue to ponder about what has and hasn’t happened yet. Once we get word back from Sorin’s group, we will know where we stand and what actions we will need to take.”
“It’s complicated,” Pekka said. “I’m sure that Foundation is depending on us being in disarray in order for them to succeed. It’s no wonder why they were able to get the results they wanted in Maeitakohn before Johan did his job.”
“And yet again that young man is at work,” Dustin said. “Mr. Kuu isn’t too afraid of getting his hands dirty, but as for his heart, I can say it’s squeaky clean to a point!”
“You say that, but it isn’t like he’s completely pure,” Luna said. “I guess it’s a good thing he’s on our side… Well, for the most part, I guess.”
“He has similar interests as us,” Rain said. “That’s why he is so willing to lend the kingdom his hand, as well as the fact that I wish to see peace throughout the Thekohnian Region also.”
“I wonder what he’ll do when it’s all over,” Dustin said.
“Yeah, I think I’m wondering that as well,” Luna said. “He’s really left all of us in the dark. I thought I knew him, but now I’m not entirely sure what he wants to do after all this.”
“That’s something you can talk to him about,” Rain said.
“Then it’s up to him,” Luna replied.
No one else said a word as the phone soon rang. Rain looked away from the window and to the phone that now had the attention of everyone in the room. It only took two more rings until Rain picked up the receiver. The others in the room gathered around and listened in closely as Rain began to speak.
“Who, may I ask, is calling?” Rain asked.
“I think you know well who this is by now… Your Majesty,” Isaac said. “It looks as if your little plot won’t be able to go through after tonight. How sad for you that despite—or rather, because of your best efforts, you’ll go down in history as the queen that divided the Thekohnian Region!”
“You and Harold Mars are working together,” Rain said. “He told Sorin as much himself. What do you serve to gain from working with such a dangerous and evil man?”
“Harold and I share a similar drive,” Isaac replied. “I am able to help him with what he wants and he is able to help me with what I want.”
“So you say,” Rain said. “So you know what’s happening in Habicht, right down to the very last detail…”
“I know a lot,” Isaac said. “After what Harold did to Kirk, I just had to find out about what he’d do to his son. Of course, I’m still waiting for the results, but I know that Harold doesn’t leave a job unfinished.”
“What did he do to Kirk!?” Mina asked as she took the receiver out of Rain’s hand. “Tell us now or you’re going to regret it!”
“He’ll tell us, don’t worry,” Rain said, taking back the receiver. “After all, he does like to gloat when he thinks he’s won.”
“What a loathsome person,” Pekka said.
“It doesn’t matter what you think of me, Your Majesty,” Isaac replied. “I’ve indeed won already and there’s little for you or anyone else to do about it. The deed is done and Ahnlikohn will burn bright in the moonlight before the turn of the new year!”
“Just what do you have planned?” Rain asked. “Hasn’t Ahnlikohn suffered enough thanks to you?”
“That’s funny, I don’t remember saying I’d be the one to light the match,” Isaac replied. “But I suppose your hatred for me blinds you to the reality of the situation you’ll find yourself in once it’s all over.”
“There’s no way I or the other leaders in the Thekohnian Region will ever let you get away with this,” Rain said. “The crimes that you’ve partaken in with Harold Mars and the Ameci military will not go unaccounted for!”
“How many times will you say such baffling nonsense before you realize what’s done is done?” Isaac asked. “By the way, I would be much more concerned about whether or not your allies make it out of Habicht alive. I would hope that you’d agree with me on that, at least.”
“Your empty threats are just that,” Rain replied. “Unless your intention is to confess to your crimes, never contact this line again!”
She placed the receiver back on the hook and turned away from the phone. It was a night that carried much uncertainty, but Isaac’s remarks raised that level as Rain walked out of the office. The others were quick to follow her as Rain went to the main hall of Thedam Castle and looked around the interior. She had much to prove now that the stakes rose once more and only so little time until the next time. If what Isaac said was true, then Ahnlikohn was at risk for what Foundation had planned and Rain knew that the Ameci military would be the participants in the impending actions that Isaac would orchestrate. However, that did not matter as much as what Sorin, Eva, and everyone else in Habicht were going through, as even though Rain had no way of finding out until later, she knew that there was much to what Isaac said that she could not disregard.
“Sir Dustin, Sir Gamal, I have an important task for you both,” Rain said. “It will take some time, but I am hoping that you two will be able to do this not only for me, but for the Thekohnian Region as well.”
“Of course,” Dustin said.
“Just tell us what it is, Your Majesty, and we will do it,” Gamal said.
“I want you both to do some reaching out towards the other countries in the region,” Rain told them. “With Isaac’s remarks, we have gone past the point of no return when it comes to dealing with Foundation. Now is the time for us to go and organize a strategy in which we deal with them head on.”
“What about Iiayikohn?” Gamal asked. “Are they not a part of this?”
“Unfortunately, that is the case,” Rain answered. “Dezine has aligned with Foundation for the time being and because of that, he is a potential threat to the region. As for Ahnlikohn, the fact that they are once again in the crosshairs of Foundation means that we must do our part to convince Queen Amelia.”
“Hey, I’d be happy to try and convince her people,” Dustin said. “It may take a good while, but I’m sure we can work something out.”
“Just one question, Your Majesty,” Gamal said.
“Go ahead,” Rain said.
“What will you be doing in the meantime?” Gamal asked.
“There is something I must do with regards to our current situation,” Rain replied. “I will meet with Rado, as well as both Ayanna and Roderick, in order to organize a defense against the current Ameci threat.”
“Very well,” Gamal said. “Then Sir Dustin and I will start making some calls as you requested.”
“Thank you,” Rain said. “Mina, Luna, Pekka, we mustn’t waste time. Let’s go and see what’s happening.”
[26th of December, 2740 AD; Lead Campground Park Trail, north of Habicht, Ahnlikohn]
With Harold, Korbin, Bradley, and the rest of the Ameci military chasing after them, Sorin knew that he could not waste any time with the escape. Jelka and Johan led the way as Sorin kept up his pace, though he was slightly exhausted due to the fighting earlier. However, he could not worry about that as the three ended up at a fork in the path: one way went straight ahead while the other path went towards the left. It was a decision that required no hesitation at all as Johan looked to Sorin.
“Let’s keep going,” Johan said. “We’ll be stuck if we take the left path. Let’s just keep going forward, Sorin.”
“Sure,” Sorin replied.
The three continued on the trail while the wind started to pick up. The light breeze rustled the branches of the trees and caused several leaves to fly off while Sorin could only think about where his father was right now. Henry had given him some hope to hold on to, but Sorin knew it was not enough. He needed to know for himself if his father was safe, and only after exiting the campground could he do that.
“Listen, there’s something I have to say to you,” Johan said. “It may be hard to hear, especially now, but Harold Mars isn’t one to pull his punches.”
“I know,” Sorin said.
“That’s why it may be difficult,” Johan said. “This morning, before Jelka and I came to Habicht, we received a call from Rysol.”
“You did?” Sorin asked. “What did he say to you?”
“That’s what I’m getting to, buddy,” Johan replied. “He escaped from Harold but judging from his tone, it seems that Rysol went through hell. Make no mistake about it, Sorin: we cannot overlook Harold Mars.”
“Indeed, he is a great threat to our goal,” Jelka said, “Perhaps even greater than Isaac Kunigunde is. You and Eva are lucky to escape after running into him, given what he has done over the years.”
“That’s why this next part is tough for me,” Johan said. “Sorin… I’m very sorry about what I’m about to say next.”
However, as the three made it up the higher path, they ended up coming across a wooden bridge being held up by rope. Sorin took one look at the bridge and saw the drop below. While not a deep drop like in Bel Forest, it was still a considerable fall into the river below.
“We don’t need to overthink this one,” Jelka said. “Cross the bridge and cut the ropes. We’re almost out of here.”
Sorin nodded and looked to Johan. “Tell me once we cross the bridge,” he said. “Our pursuers are still after us… I don’t even know how the others are, especially Eva.”
“I understand completely,” Johan said.
After they crossed the bridge, Jelka cut the ropes with her sword and let the bridge fall to the other side. With the Ameci military’s pursuit hindered, nothing stood in the way between Sorin and escape.
“We better hope that’s enough to hold them back,” Johan said.
“What was it you were going to say?” Sorin asked.
But Sorin knew that there was little point to asking that question. The only news Johan could have at this point was bad news. News that would confirm the suspicions and fears that Sorin had regarding his father. Despite all his attempts to disbelieve the truth, there was no running away from it once Johan opened his mouth. Nothing held Johan back from speaking as the three continued to walk down the path.
“Rysol did not escape from Harold unscathed,” Johan said. “In addition to his prosthetic arm, he also lost his right arm as well. It’ll be tough for him to fight on considering it was Harold who gifted him that arm. But that isn’t all, is it? I wish Rysol was lying, but I know that there’s no reason why he’d lie to Jelka or I about Kirk Wilk.”
“Johan, please, it’s not necessary,” Sorin replied. “No one knows where he is right now, but that doesn’t mean a thing. Rysol could just be mistaken.”
“There’s a powerful current sitting at the other end of Ahnle Peak,” Jelka said. “If what Rysol said is true, well—”
“No, we don’t know for sure,” Sorin said. “We’ve only got his account, that’s all. That’s all we have so far.”
“Just listen to me,” Jelka said. “What Rysol said lines up with the geography of Ahnle Peak. If one drops into that current, there is little for them to fight back against it… To be blunt, it is impossible for someone to survive.”
“That can’t be it,” Sorin replied. “I can’t believe it.”
“No one person is invulnerable, Sorin,” Jelka said. “Even someone like your father isn’t safe from death.”
“Perhaps it’s best we continue this later,” Johan said. “Looks like we’ve reached the end of the line.”
Johan pointed ahead as Sorin and Jelka looked to what he was pointing at. At the end of the path lay a large, barren tree that was in the way between the exit and Sorin, Johan, and Jelka. The three looked to one another as Sorin knew what they had to do next.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Johan said to Sorin. “What’s the big deal, right? We just climb over this tree and we’d be home free, so to speak. So why are we still waiting, then?”
“You don’t think they’re still after us, do you?” Sorin asked.
“You tell me,” Johan replied.
Jelka looked back. “It seems like the noise has died down,” she said. “If you want my opinion, I believe that the Ameci have already called off their pursuit. It should be safe to keep moving onward.”
“That seems likely and logical,” Johan said. “They’re not going to go for the other group, either. It’s you they’re after, Sorin, so they must have retreated long after we took out that bridge.”
“You’re right,” Sorin said.
“Then let’s not waste any more time here,” Johan said. “We’ve got a group to reunite with, after all. Let’s not keep them waiting any longer.”
Johan hurried and leapt over the fallen tree, with Sorin following after. He watched Jelka go over as well, the three joining up once more as Johan proceeded to go on ahead. Meanwhile, Sorin continued after him, but stopped to see Jelka on one knee clutching her upper leg.
“Jelka, are you okay?” Sorin asked.
Jelka winced as she pulled her coat inward. “It’s nothing,” she said. “Don’t go worrying about me.”
“Really? What happened?”
“I told you it’s nothing,” Jelka replied, standing up. “Just a minor sprain, that’s all you need to know.”
“You two are coming, aren’t you?” Johan asked. “What’s going on?”
“We’ll be right there,” Jelka said. “There’s nothing to worry about. Let’s go and leave already.”
Sorin was not sure what to make of Jelka covering up an apparent injury, but he could not question it. Not at this time. He had to complete his escape and reunite with the others waiting for him outside the campground. Only after that could Sorin figure out what to do next, as well as find out what really happened to his father. However, as Sorin left the forest to find Henry waving to him, one thing has remained true: Foundation was continuing to get tougher as Harold now became yet another threat to the Thekohnian Region.
To be continued…