Here’s the second chapter of Paragons chapter for this week.

Paragons 1.2.4

Book 1  ♣  Episode 2  ♣  Chapter 4

Savannah falls into shadow. Chapter 4 of the Paragons Episode The White Knight.

Chapter 4

Apparently, my ability to repel the Cursed Ones wasn’t foolproof. Maybe that was because I had no idea how it worked—and no clue how to control it.

And now I was stuck here in this…actually, I had no idea what this place was.

All I knew was it was foggy. Really, really foggy. The white fog floated and billowed in a slow, graceful, dreamlike rhythm. I couldn’t see anything beyond that dreamy fog.

Maybe there wasn’t anything beyond the fog.

Maybe I was dead.

I nearly choked on the thought.

“You’re not dead, Savannah,” I told myself.

I pressed my right hand against my sore ribcage. That’s where the Cursed One had slammed into me. It felt like I’d slammed into a wall. Dead people didn’t feel pain, right?

I wasn’t dead. I was just lost. Magic had brought me here—wherever here was. So magic must be the key to getting me out.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know any teleportation spells.

Fortunately, though, I didn’t see any Cursed Ones, not even the one who’d dragged me into the magic light.

I was alone.

The fog rumbled with a deep, beastly roar, as though to prove me wrong. But that noise hadn’t come from the Cursed Ones. They shrieked; they didn’t roar. This was something else entirely.

Like someone skipping a stone on a lake’s surface, the fog in front of me started to swirl, kicking a bit of chaos into the quiet. And then something emerged from the milky-white mist.

It looked like a tiger—if tigers had large, bird-like wings and flames on the tips of their tails. Those same flames crested the beast’s spine like a fiery mohawk. Even the unicorn-like horn on its head was on fire.

The tiger sauntered forward with slinky grace, its gold eyes locked on to me. Then its mouth parted, and it flashed me a fierce smile. Its teeth were as sharp as daggers—and they were, quite literally, on fire.

I backed up a step. “Good kitty,” I said, in what I hoped was a soothing voice.

The tiger lifted a paw as large as my head and swiped it at my face.

I stumbled away from it. “Bad kitty!” I slid my backpack off my shoulders and swung it at the beast.

It evaded nimbly, then stalked toward me, mirroring my every move. Its fiery tail swiped back and forth with agitated energy. Tension was building up throughout its muscular body. It was preparing to pounce. I’d encountered enough cats to know that.

But this wasn’t some benign house cat. It was the most terrifying tiger I’d ever seen. And when it pounced at me, the whole world shrank to the gigantic, flaming predator that fully intended to kill me.

Something big and white swept in front of me. There was a screech of claws scraping against metal, and then an angry roar.

I took a step back from the white wall—and realized it was the same Knight from the Garden. I recognized the many distinct medals on his chest armor.

The Knight faced the beast again, his hands gripping a very large sword. He lunged forward with his weapon, forcing the tiger back one step at a time—until finally the beast turned and disappeared back through the curtain of fog.

The Knight turned to face me. “You are not a warrior.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of his statement, so I just said, “Definitely not.”

“Then why did you try to fight the fire tiger?”

“It’s called a fire tiger?” I choked out.

He ignored my question. “And back in the Garden, you ran toward the Cursed Ones, like you wanted to fight them.” His voice was so deep and echoey beneath his helmet.

I wasn’t sure what to say. My mind was too busy looping the fact that the Cursed Ones had invaded Bayshore yesterday and the Fortress today. Cursed One incursions into civilization were very uncommon nowadays, almost unheard of. And now there had been two in two days. No, many more, according to the invisible stranger. All of these incidents had to be connected. But how?

“Well?” the Knight said with obvious impatience. “Why did you try to attack the Cursed Ones?”

I shrugged, hoping I looked calmer than I felt. “Isn’t that kind of my job now? Protecting humanity, fighting the Curse, and all that jazz?”

“You are not a Knight yet. You are just an Apprentice.” The Knight was so still, I wondered if he was even breathing under all that armor. “You know nothing about fighting the Cursed Ones.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say nothing,” I replied. “I’ve read tons of books about them.”

“Books?”

The word was sharper than a question; it sounded more like an accusation.

“Yes, books.” I set my hands on my hips. “Such as the Handbook.”

“The Handbook explains to humans how to get away from the Cursed Ones, not how to fight them. Only Knights should fight the Cursed Ones.”

“Unfortunately, you weren’t there when the Cursed Ones first barged into the Garden in search of victims,” I said. “Someone had to deal with them before they started biting people.”

“And you decided that someone should be you.” Again, an accusation, not a question.

I grinned at him. “Yep.”

He made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a sigh—not that I could really tell through that echoey helmet.

“What made you think you could stop four Cursed Ones?” he asked me.

“It was the right thing to do,” I told him.

“It was the brave thing to do. It was even the noble thing to do. But it was also the completely stupid thing to do. So I certainly wouldn’t call it ‘right’.”

Somehow, he’d managed to both praise me and insult me at the same time.

“And just what would you call the right thing to do?” I folded my arms across my chest. “Sitting there quietly while I wait to be rescued?”

The Knight stared at me. At least I thought he was staring at me under that helmet. I couldn’t see his face, and it was really unsettling.

“You kept a cool, level head during the attack,” he finally said. “It’s a shame you can’t do the same when talking to a Knight.”

I shot him an annoyed glare. “Wow, that’s a really arrogant thing to say.”

He shrugged. “I’m a Knight.”

“And I’m a nobody?” I said defensively.

“No.” He reached out and tapped my forehead with his finger. His touch was surprisingly gentle for someone who wore hard battle armor that covered his body from head to toe. “You are definitely somebody. I’m just trying to figure out who that is.”

“I’m just an Apprentice.”

“Actually, on second thought, I think I was wrong about that. You’re not just an Apprentice. You’re something…more,” he decided. “The Cursed Ones ran away from you. They’re afraid of you. I wonder why.” He moved in closer, like he was studying my face.

He had me at a disadvantage. I couldn’t even see his face.

“What is it about you that instills fear in their hearts?” he asked me.

“I don’t know. I wish I did,” I said honestly.

For a few moments, I lost myself in the hypnotic swirls of the milky mist that surrounded us. It was like the fog was trying to tell me something. I could almost hear it mumbling to me.

I dragged my gaze away from the fog and looked at the Knight instead. “Do you think anyone was infected when the Cursed Ones attacked the Garden?”

“That is always a possibility when the Cursed Ones attack,” he replied. “The Curse is highly contagious.”

That was an understatement. The Curse infected everyone it touched. There was no defense, no cure, and no hope once you’d been bitten. The only people immune to it were the few lucky teens that the spirits had blessed with magic. The magic-blessed teens who became Knights, the champions of humanity and our only hope of ending the Curse.

“There was a lot of commotion in the Garden,” said the Knight. “Humans need a few thorough lessons on the importance of following the Handbook.”

I noticed he said ‘humans’ like he wasn’t one of them. Well, I guess he wasn’t anymore. Nor were any of the other Knights. And I…I wasn’t sure I’d ever been human to begin with.

Nope, didn’t want to think about that.

“Of course people were frightened. You have to admit the Cursed Ones are pretty scary,” I said.

“I must admit no such thing.”

I chuckled. “Yeah, I guess a Knight would never admit to being scared.”

“A good Knight is brave.”

“A good Knight is also chivalrous,” I pointed out. “And compassionate. So even though you weren’t scared, I’m sure you can understand how everyone else was. It’s only human to be afraid of monsters.”

“Are you lecturing me?”

I smiled at him. “Of course not.”

“For as long as I’ve been a Knight, no Apprentice girl has ever lectured me.”

“How about an Apprentice boy?”

“No.” The word dropped like a heavy stone into a lake.

“Wow. It must be really boring to be you.”

“Not really.” He took another step toward me, and when he spoke again, his voice was gentler. “Are you all right?”

His sudden shift in tone confused me. “Why do you ask?”

“Because you were attacked by a fire tiger. I need to make sure you’re all right.”

Ok, so at least he was chivalrous.

“I’m fine,” I said, but my shaky voice gave me away.

That thing had been pretty scary.

“A fire tiger,” I said. “I didn’t know such a thing existed on Gaia.”

“They don’t.” The Knight sheathed his sword. “But we’re not on Gaia anymore.”

My heart hiccuped. And my voice sounded very small when I asked, “Then where are we?”

He turned to face me. “Shadow Fall. A place that exists in the shadows between the light.”

“What does that mean?”

“We’re in another dimension, a place between realms.”

“Wow.” I blinked. “That’s really weird.”

“It’s just magic.”

Magic. If only I understood it better. If only I understood myself better.

“So, back in the Garden, when you cast that bright light on the Cursed Ones, you were sending them here? Into the shadows?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied, turning to look around. “And you got pulled in when one of them grabbed you.”

I rubbed my sore ribs. “Oh…” I offered the Knight a smile. “Well, thanks for coming in after me.”

“Don’t thank me yet. We still have to find our way out of Shadow Fall.”

“Can’t you just cast another spell to get us out?”

“No. My magic is…unavailable at the moment.”

“Why?”

“Something went wrong when I tried to pull you back before you were dragged into Shadow Fall. The spells crossed paths and collided. The resulting explosion blew out my magic.”

“Wow, that sounds awful. Did it hurt? Are you all right?”

“I am fine.”

He didn’t sound fine. He sounded vulnerable. No amount of armor could hide that.

“But now we have a problem. Minus my magic, the only weapon I have at my disposal is my sword.” He indicated the sword on his back.

“I’m guessing a sword won’t be much help in getting us out of here?”

“No. But it will help me fight off the monsters who dwell here.”

I swallowed hard. Great. More monsters.

“It is also likely we will encounter the Cursed Ones. In fact, they can’t be too far away. They were sucked into Shadow Fall shortly before you were.”

I cleared my throat. “I guess I’m lucky they weren’t waiting for me when I got here.”

“Luck had nothing to do with it. Time works differently in Shadow Fall,” he told me. “For every second that passes in our dimension, many minutes pass here. The Cursed Ones have already wandered off in search of their next prey.”

Somehow, the thought of the Cursed Ones hunting prey wasn’t all that comforting. Especially since we might be that prey.

“Ok.” I started pacing. “So we just have to survive long enough for your magic to regenerate?”

The Knight shook his head. “Magic doesn’t regenerate in Shadow Fall.”

“Wait, so then how are we going to get home?”

“I do not know,” he admitted. “Without my magic to guide us, I’m afraid I have no idea if we’ll ever make it out of here.”

Copyright © Ella Summers

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