Rhea woke to find Berret still in her room. She had woken up earlier and Berret had told her about how her magic had been taken for being an onoraii. Rhea had stared at the ceiling in anger for hours.
It had now been two days since the Darkness had been removed from the school and Rhea and her friends had lost something. Alexia and Myst had come to visit the day before. They had been happy to see Rhea back again and Rhea hadn’t had the heart to tell them her magic was gone. What would they had said? How could she be considered a Shadow without magic?
“How you feeling, sweetie?” Berret asked, walking over with a kind smile.
“Weird,” Rhea replied. She sat up in the bed and looked at her adoptive mother. “It feels weird, not having the pull of magic in my heart anymore. It just feels…empty.”
Berret nodded. “I’m sorry, dearest.”
Rhea shook her head. “Don’t be.”
Just then, a young elf-boy ran into the room, eyes wide. “Principal, the Darkness is back!”
Berret’s eyes widened and she left Rhea’s side. She turned back. “Stay in here, Rhea.” She ran out after the elf. As Rhea watched through the open doorway, Berret called Baramore,Griffin, and Drey out of the other rooms and together they rushed down the hallway.
A few minutes passed and Neytiri wheeled out of her room. She locked looks with Rhea. “What are you waiting for?” she asked as she rolled to Zendaya’s door and knocked. She turned and knocked on Jay’s door and waited. The two came out and Neytiri looked at them. “Ready to go?” Rhea got out of bed and joined them in the hallway.
Together the four of them headed down the stairs, Zendaya’s hands glowing as she kept Neytiri’s wheelchair aloft over the steps.
At the bottom of the staircase, there was a large group of Hunters and students blocking the way, but Rhea and her friends made a path and got to the front to see Berret and the others in combat with the Darkness.
Only thing was the Darkness was now a man with dark brown hair and glowing red eyes. And fighting alongside him were Nevara and Ciel.
Rhea got ready to shoot forward to help Berret but remembered she no longer had her magic. What could she do? Stand there helplessly? What use was the power being an onoraii gave if she couldn’t use it?
Neytiri was the first to make a move. She got out of her wheelchair and rushed forward, arrow nocked. She shot at Ciel and he snarled in reponse. He left Baramore and charged toward Neytiri. Neytiri suddenly grasped her waist and fell to her knees in pain. Jay shot forward to help her, but before he could disecern which way to run to reach her, twin cheetahs shot out from the direction of the large purple door and stood in front of Neytiri. Sarabi and Sarafina snarled and leapt at Ciel just as Jay reached Neytiri. He helped her to her feet and moved her back to her wheelchair.
Zendaya flew into the air and shot magic at Nevara. Nevara flew up as well, tiny orange wings fluttering. They exchanged fierce blows and Rhea turned her gaze back to Berret, who was fighting the Darkness alongsideGriffin.
“Let it go, Braze!”Griffingrowled. “This pent up anger is not worth it!”
“What do you know fo my anger,Griffin? You weren’t the one shunned by the onoraii!”
“You were chosen as one of the Three! You should have been content!” Berret said.
“Content? Content while the two of you got to go on to be onoraii? To have double the power?” The Darkness unsheathed a sword and swung it atGriffin.Griffinswung her own curved blade and her snow white wolf fought alongside her.
Rhea glanced around the room frantically. “Guys, we need to do something to help them. They weon’t be able to defeat him alone!”
Neytiri nodded grimly. “But the lockets can’t destroy him. What else can we do?”
“We need Zendaya. As an onoraii she can empower the lockets beyond their normal function the way she did before,” Jay said.
Rhea looked up. Zendaya and Nevara were flying around in circles, shooting blasts of magic at each other.
“How does it feel to know you can never rival me?” Nevara asked mockingly.
Zendaya glared at her angrily
“Even Bellonella rejected you!”
“Zen!” Rhea called.
Zendaya looked down and just then Nevara blasted her. She fell to the ground and groaned as she looked at Rhea.
“Sorry,” Rhea muttered as she got to her feet and rubbed her head.
She shook her head to say it was fine as she got ready to fly up to Nevara again.
“Forget her!” Neytiri called. Zendaya stopped and looked at him. “We need you to empower us to defeat the Darkness!”
Zendaya nodded. Rhea, Jay, and Neytiri held their lockets together. The three golden crests began to glow. As Rhea watched, the words in the ancient language that were used to describe them glowed brighter than anything else. Zendaya placed her hand over the lockets and the light grew ever more brilliant.
“Berret!” Rhea called, understanding what needed to be done to destroy the menace. Berret stopped fighting and looked over. She nodded and turned toGriffinand the others. They all ropped their fights and ran over to Rhea and the others. They placed their hands over Zendaya’s and the locket’s light flared up even brighter.
“What are you doing?” the Darkness demanded.
Just then, a beam of light shot out form the lockets and hit the Darkness straight in the chest. Another beam shot at Nevara and a third hit Ciel. The beams of light were like anchors that force the three together in the center of the entranceway. Nevara and Ciel fell to the ground and appeared unconscious while the Darkness resisted the light for as long as he could.
“You won’t defeat me this easily!” he cried.
As Rhea watched, cracks began appearing on hhis face. The cracks extended down his neck and appeared on his hands. Light glowed from within and in moments he burst apart.
He exploded into tiny shards of glass.
“Are we done?” Jay asked and everyone removed their hands from the lockets.
“Well done!” Berret said, embracing Rhea. Baramore hugged Zendaya tight whileGriffinembraced Jay and Neytiri. Drey hugged a young girl their age with long wavy brown hair. She possessed a striking resemblance to him and Rhea assumed it was his daughter or niece.
Griffinlet go of Neytiri and Jay and looked down at the ash on the ground that was all the remained of the Darkness. As they all watched, the ash began to swirl with a stiny tornado and blew out through the open doorway.
“Do you think he’s still out there?” Berret askedGriffinquietly.Griffinturned with a solemn expression. “He has the curse on him. We won’t be rid of him that easily.” She dropped her solemnity and smiled. “But I’m pretty sure he’s gone for a good while.” She then turned to where Nevara and Ciel were cowering together. Berret looked in the same direction and pointed a figure at them. Ropes appeared and tied the two up. Then a hole appeared in the ground and the two traitors were sent straight down to the dungeons.
As Rhea watched she noticed thatGriffin’s hair was streaked with gray. If she wasn’t mistaken, it had been pitch black like Neytiri’s when she had first come to the school.
“Students and Hunters, please had back to your dorms. The fight is over for now and I want you all to rest for a bit before the grand feast we will have tonight!” Berret’s voice boomed through the entranceway. Only Rhea, Neytiri, Jay, Zendaya, and the girl with Drey remained where they were.
“You four have done a great thing today,” Baramore told them, hugging Zendaya.
“You’ve dispelled a great menace to us all,” Drey said. The girl at his side smiled.
“For this the four of you will be greatly rewarded and praised,” Berret said.
“And needed for a long time yet,”Griffinadded. Berret, Drey, and Baramore nodded. Rhea looked at Baramore, Drey, and Berret closely. Gray streaked all of their hair and creases had appeared on their brows. They all looked years older than they had at the beginning of the week.
“Mother, what does this mean…for you guys?” Neytiri asked.
“What do you mean, Daughter?”Griffinasked in confusion. “It means we raised you guys correctly.” She smiled.
“What I mean is, since the four of you were the onoraii before us, you were given immortality, correct?” Rhea whipped her head around to look at Neytiri with wide eyes. Immortality? Berret and the others were immortal?
Griffinwas looking at Neytiri with calm calculating eyes. “Yes, we were. How you figured that out…”
“I talked with Zendaya yesterday.” At the confused glances Neytiri smiled. “She mouthed everything and wrote stuff out. Took longer, but I was able to decipher what she was saying.” She looked to Zendaya and smiled. “She was able to tell me of what Bellonella told her while she was intruding in her body. Bellonella told her what onoraii were and how they lived.”
Jay nodded, taking up the speech. “Onoraii are given the task of protecting the peace between the races. Humans, Shadows, and Hunters.” Rhea felt rather put out that Neytiri hadn’t bothered to share what she had learned with her.
“So, my question is, when the new onoraii come in, what happens to the old ones?” Neytiri’s voice was thick with emotion, as though she didn’t want to hear the answer to her question but at the same time couldn’t live without knowing.
Griffinsmiled. “You pieced all of that together? I’m proud of you, Daughter.” She hugged Neytiri then stepped back. “It is true, the four of us have been around for quite a while.”
“Three hundred years, to be exact,” Drey put in.
Griffinsmiled. “Yes, three hundred marvelous years in which we defeated Braze the first time around and nearly brought peace to Shadows and Hunters.”
Berret nodded. “This coming together of the Hunters and Shadows was as much to bring our races back to peace as it was to defeat Braze.”
“Wait, who’s Braze?” Rhea asked.
“The Darkness,” Baramore replied. “Before it was that.”
Griffinnodded. “Braze was a boy who grew up with Berret and me. He was the son of a Huntress and a Shade, making him one of the few half-bloods out there. He, Berret, and I were the Three before you guys. But he turned on us before we could complete our mission.”
“He is the reason the Hunters and Shadows have lived in constant warfare these past hundred years despiteGriffin, Baramore, Drey, and my efforts.” The steel in Berret’s voice surprised Rhea.
“So, back to my question,” Neytiri put in. “What is going to happen to you guys?” Rhea could now understand her worry. If the four of them were no longer immortal, would they die in the passing on of immortality?
“Do not worry, Daughter. We will live out the rest of our years and age normally. The sacrifices you four gave means the immortality has already been passed on. You four will remain this age until the next four onoraii come along.”Griffinsmiled sadly. Though it was an honor, it was also a burden.
“And as the Three,” Berret said to Jay, Rhea, and Neytiri, “you will be charged with keeping the peace between the races as we were.”
Baramore nodded. “It is not an easy task we put before you, but one I am sure you can manage.”
“And since all this fun is over, Demi and I will be taking our leave.” Drey turned with a hand on the girl’s shoulder and headed for the purple door.
After he was gone, Rhea turned to Berret. “Why is it that he didn’t train one of us?”
Grififn snorted in laughter. “Because none of us would let him!”
Jay looked at her in wonder. It was him who would have been trained by Drey if the others hadn’t interfered.
“He was irresponsible an untrustworthy. A poor excuse for an onoraii,” Berret said.
“He has bettered himself since then, though I still wouldn’t have entrusted Jay to him,” Baramore added. “Besides,Griffindid a much better job.”
“And Drey had his own daughter to deal with,” Berret said.
“Which brings us to another of my questions,” Neytiri said with a mischievious grin. “Is he my father?”
Griffinnodded. “I probably should have told you before you encountered him. But yes, he is your father.”
“So, how was I born? If your insides were taken, like mine, then how did you have me?” Rhea found herself listening as intently as Neytiri.
“You were born the day before we all gave up parts of us to become onoraii,”Griffinreplied calmly.
“But, like you said, that would have been three hundred years ago,” Neytiri pointed out.
Griffinnodded. “That’s because you were born and your birth was a direct contradiction of my sacrifice. I didn’t only give up my insides, but my future children. And you were one of those children. Not until Braze returned and it was evident that you would make a fine new onoraii were you given back to me as a one day old child. You looked the same as you had when you were taken.” There were tears inGriffin’s eyes as she looked at Neytiri with a tender, loving expression.
Neytiri nodded. “Thank you,” she muttered.
“Which just leaves one unanswered question,” Jay said. “Who are these people that deem it okay to take things from the onoraii?”
Berret, Baramore, andGriffinexchanged looks, grinned and shrugged.
“Who knows?” Baramore asked. “We just do what we’ve been told to do. Don’t question it.” He winked and turned toward his room. “I’m going to head in. I don’t have the same energy I used to, and that fight took a lot out of me.”
“I’ll send Kaki to you,” Berret said as he turned and walked away.
“So you guys seriously don’t know who or what took away your sacrifices?” Neytiri asked skeptically.
Griffinshook her head. “Higher orders. Gods. Maybe just a fourth race of superior creatures. Either way, it doesn’t matter. They take something from us, but they also give us the power to protect those who can’t protect themselves.”
Berret nodded. “Well, I think I’m going to head in as well. See you all in the morning. There’ll be a feast in your honor.” She winked at Rhea and the others and walked away toward her own room.
Griffinwatched after her for a while, then sighed. She turned to face the four of them ad smiled. “I’ll see you all in the morning. Good night.” She left for the purple door and Rhea, Neytiri, Jay, and Zendaya stood staring at each other in awkward silence for a few moments.
“What did Drey give up?” Rhe asked to break the silence. She knew Berret was blind,Griffinhad no insides, and Baramore was deaf, according to Zendaya.
“All four of his limbs,” Jay said quietly. Rhea remembered that in the two days they ahd spent recovering, Drey had stayed with Jay. “His arms and legs are all mechanical.”
“And Baramore?” Neytiri asked, looking at Zendaya.
Zendaya pointed at her ear.
“Deaf?” Jay asked. “No way! That guy could hear anything from a mile away!”
Zendays shook her head and pointed at her eyes.
“He sees everything?” Neytiri asked, nodding in understanding. “That’s how he knows what everyone is saying, right? He lipreads.”
Zendaya nodded with a smile.
Rhea remembered times when she had said something to Baramore’s back and he hadn’t responded until he had turned around and she had repeated herself.
“Well, I’m going to head off to bed now,” Neytiri said. “I’ll see you guys in the morning, you know, at the feat in our honor.” She smiled and winked. She linked arms with Jay and they left for the large purple door. Rhea turned to Zendaya.
“Want to head off as well?” Zendaya nodded and together they walked up to the girl’s dormitory.