Here’s the second Paragons chapter for this week.

Paragons 1.2.6

Book 1  ♣  Episode 2  ♣  Chapter 6

Time is running out for Savannah and Kato to escape Shadow Fall. Chapter 6 of the Paragons Episode The White Knight.

Chapter 6

Four Cursed Ones poured out of the fog. They looked angry and restless. Probably because they’d been trapped in Shadow Fall all this time with no one to attack. And no one to bite.

“If the Cursed Ones are attracted to tears in the veil, why haven’t they found their way out of here yet?” I wondered.

“They’re like birds stuck in a chimney. They can sense the way out, but navigating through a tear requires more finesse than they can muster. They’re just mindless things now.” Kato put on his helmet, and his voice was deeper when he spoke again. “The Curse has stripped their reason and intellect away. Even a fire tiger possesses more intelligence than they do.”

A chorus of rage tore out of the Cursed Ones’ mouths. Maybe they took issue with Kato’s assessment of their intelligence. Or maybe they just really wanted to bite someone.

I was definitely leaning toward the latter.

“Do you think there’s a tear nearby?” I asked Kato.

“I do. In fact, I think there are multiple tears here.” Steel sang as he drew his sword. “The tears’ combined magical energy must be what drew all the Cursed Ones here.”

Their red eyes locked on to us. And then they charged.

With one hand, Kato pulled me behind him. And with the other, he wielded his enormous sword, striking and slashing at the Cursed Ones with effortless ease. I’d never seen anyone fight like that, not even the Knights on television. And he didn’t even have any magic right now.

“We need to figure out how to get them to lead us to the tears in the veil,” Kato said as the Cursed Ones retreated to a safe distance, just beyond his sword’s reach.

They were still too close for comfort. And if the gleam in their eyes were any indication, they weren’t giving up so easily. Their tongues slid across their drool-dripped lips, as though they were imagining what it would feel like to tear us to bits. We might have been immune to the Curse, but that didn’t mean the Cursed Ones couldn’t hurt us. They were bigger, stronger, and tougher than the Knights—and way more vicious too.

Two of the Cursed Ones split off in either direction.

“They’re trying to flank us!” Kato darted toward the ones on the left, slashing out with his sword to drive them back toward the others.

“But battle strategies require intelligence.” I watched him rush toward the Cursed Ones on the right, attempting to corral them too. “I thought they were mindless things incapable of intelligent thought.”

“They are.” Kato sprang into action as the Cursed Ones split up again—except this time, they ran in four different directions. He couldn’t keep up. “I honestly don’t understand how they’re doing this. They shouldn’t be smart enough to think.”

“Actually, I don’t think they’re thinking,” I realized, flicking my hair out of my face. “I think they’re reacting.”

I blinked when one of the Cursed Ones pulsed with an eerie blue light.

I pointed to it. “That one’s glowing.”

Kato turned to look. “I don’t see anything.” When he spoke again, his voice held a note of impatience. “It’s really frustrating not having any magic right now. But you can see the glow?” Surprise echoed in his voice.

“Yes,” I replied. “Why? Shouldn’t I be able to see it?”

He didn’t answer my question. Instead, he asked, “Is the Cursed One glowing blue?”

“Sort of. It’s like a blue-grey.” I blinked. “And now the glow is gone. Weird.”

Another flicker of light drew my attention.

I turned and pointed at the Cursed One on the other side of Kato. “Now that one is glowing.”

He pivoted around. “Also blue-grey?”

“No,” I told him. “This blue is way more blue. It’s like ultramarine blue. Annnd now the glow is gone again.”

Kato nodded like all of this made total sense. “I think what you’re seeing is the Cursed Ones’ halos light up when they get close enough to a tear in the veil. The tears are Dreamweaver magic, and Dreamweaver magic is blue.”

My brain went into overdrive, trying to sort through all of that new information he’d squeezed into just two sentences.

“The blue-grey glow you described, it means that particular tear in the veil has gone bad,” Kato said.

“Bad how?”

“Like I said before, tears in the veil don’t stay open forever. And shortly before one is about to close, it kind of inverts. It reverses direction,” he explained, likely in response to the totally confused expression I knew was etched into my face. “So if we went through that tear, instead of sending us back to our dimension, it would shoot us deeper into the shadows. Where there are more monsters, more fog, and no hope of escape to our dimension.”

“Ok, let’s not do that,” I said.

“Agreed. That’s why we need to go through one of the tears you described as ‘ultramarine blue’,” he told me. “Those tears are still good, still fresh, so they will lead us home.”

“So, it sounds like all I need to do is watch the Cursed Ones until one of them glows bright blue, and then we run through the tear next to it, and we’re home free?”

“Basically, yes,” he replied. “But I’m afraid we don’t have the time to wait for one of the Cursed Ones to drift close enough to a good tear, not if one of the tears has already turned bad. I cast the spells to create the tears all at the same time. Of course spells don’t always decay at exactly the same rate, but it’s usually pretty close. If one tear has already gone bad, we have to assume the other ones will soon follow.”

“So time is of the essence?”

“And remember that the tears don’t stay in one place for more than a few seconds.”

“Right.”

Because otherwise this wouldn’t be complicated enough.

I watched the Cursed Ones lumber about, but none of them had started glowing blue again. “Why aren’t they moving closer to the tears? They’re supposed to be attracted to them.”

“I think your presence might be distracting them,” Kato told me. “They’re clearly afraid of you.”

I tried to steady my rattling nerves with a joke. “Maybe you could snap them out of it by chasing them around with your sword?”

“No, you need to take control of them. You need to move them where you want them to go.”

I clutched my hands together.

“I saw you do it to one of the Cursed Ones in the Garden.”

I swallowed hard.

“It ran away from you, Seven.”

“It was distracted by all the people running around,” I replied.

“I’m not talking about why it ran away. I’m talking about the part where it completely froze in place for a few seconds. It looked terrified.”

“The Cursed Ones can’t feel fear or any other emotion,” I told him. “There are no thoughts in their heads. Their minds are too far gone. All that remains in that empty vacuum is the Curse—and the single-minded instinct the Curse has burned into them: to bite and infect.”

“Yes, I know,” replied Kato. “Which is why that Cursed One’s reaction to you was so peculiar. I’ve never seen a Cursed One act like that. I’ve never seen one freeze up like that. I’ve never even heard of anyone being able to influence one of them like that. You can make the feral, crazed Cursed Ones stop. You make them feel something. That is…astonishing.”

I shook my head. “It was only for a few seconds.”

“In battle, sometimes a moment’s advantage is the difference between victory and defeat, between life and death. Do not underestimate your gift.” Kato set his hand on my shoulder. “Because I am counting on it.”

His hand felt like it weighed a ton. It must have been the weight of his words. The pressure. A Knight was counting on me to get us out of here. He was counting on me to save us.

“I don’t think it’s a very good idea to plan your whole strategy around some weird thing that I can’t control.” My throat was tight and my hands sticky with sweat. I barely choked out my next words. “What if it was a fluke?”

“It was no fluke.” Kato said the words like he didn’t have a single shred of doubt in his mind.

Whereas my mind was swarming with nothing but doubt.

“I have fought a lot of Cursed Ones. I know how they act, and freezing up isn’t it. Not ever. Trust me on that, Seven.”

“Ok…”

I tried to swallow my doubts, like they were pieces of really hard, really yucky food—but a few of them got stuck halfway down my throat. I pushed them down again, this time with more force. And this time it worked. Sort of. I almost forgot that I was totally terrified.

Kato must have seen the terror in my eyes—and realized the reason for it. “I will keep you safe.” He patted his sword. “I will be right beside you the whole time. And I won’t let them hurt you. I promised I would protect you, and I will.”

“I know you will.” My heart was pounding so hard with fear, it was a wonder I was still standing.

“I know I’m asking a lot from you, Seven. And I don’t want to rush you. But we are running out of time. We need to do this now, before all the tears have gone bad.”

“Ok. No problem at all,” I said weakly. “I’m almost ready. Just give me a few seconds to hyperventilate, then I’ll be as right as rain.”

Copyright © Ella Summers

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