This is the first of two Paragons chapters I’m posting this week.

Paragons 1.2.7

Book 1  ♣  Episode 2  ♣  Chapter 7

Savannah and Kato must work hand-in-hand to escape Shadow Fall. Chapter 7 of the Paragons Episode The White Knight.

Chapter 7

I gripped the engraved metal orb in my hand. It was one of Kato’s artifacts—or at least it had been. With its magic gone, it was nothing more than a pretty piece of metal.

I wound up my arm and aimed it at one of the Cursed Ones…and hit it smack dab in the center of its forehead. The Cursed One threw back its head and let out an enraged shriek. The others joined in.

Then all four of them charged at me.

I held my ground, trying to steady my wobbly knees. The Cursed Ones came at me, mindless, enraged, driven by a dark, primal instinct more powerful than life or death. I choked down a cowardly whimper.

They were coming for me.

Thinking back, I’m not sure what happened next.

All I remember was my pounding heart.

My trembling hands.

Something that sounded like voices in my head.

And then the four Cursed Ones just stopped, almost like they were frozen in time, still and unblinking, like statues.

“Good job,” Kato said. He was standing right beside me, just like he’d promised. “Now, have them spread out in a search pattern to look for tears in the veil.”

I concentrated on doing what he’d asked—and was really surprised when it actually worked. The Cursed Ones fanned out to start their search, looking totally unlike the feral, bloodthirsty beings that they usually were. Right now, they almost looked human, even with their deathly-pale skin and horribly matted hair.

I was controlling the Cursed Ones with fear. That was so wild.

I watched them closely. I held tightly to Kato’s hand, ready to run as soon as I saw that distinct ultramarine-blue halo on any of them. If we were fast enough, we might even make it before the tear jumped again to another spot.

“Kato? Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Right, so I’ve always wondered what it’s like in Paradise,” I said, still tracking the Cursed Ones with my gaze. “The Government named their district Paradise, but is it truly a paradise?”

“Paradise is…opulent. The Government wanted the best view, so they built their district on the waterfront. The Cursed Ones can’t swim, you know.”

I nodded, remembering what the invisible stranger had told me yesterday.

Kato continued, “Some people call Paradise the Golden City for its towering, twinkling skyscrapers and bright lights. At night, you can see the glow for kilometers in every direction, even as far away as the Castle.”

“Where the Knights live.”

“Right,” he said. “The Castle is not as extravagant as Paradise, but it is far more beautiful,” he said. “The people of Paradise—the Government officials—live a life of luxury, freedom, and safety. Just as most people everywhere else on Gaia live a life of poverty, oppression, and peril.”

“You don’t approve,” I guessed.

“No,” he replied. “I do not.”

That’s all he said on the matter.

“Thank you for telling me about Paradise,” I said.

“I’ve told you very little.”

“You’ve told me enough. Those few words tell me that although the Government controls who even gets a chance to become a Knight, the Knights follow their own moral code. Or at least one Knight does.”

“The other Knights follow that code as well.”

“Oh, yes, the famous Code of Conduct I’ve heard absolutely nothing about.” I smirked at him.

“As I said, it’s classified.”

“I love classified secrets.”

His chuckles rumbled inside his helmet. “So do I.”

“So you’ll tell me about the Code?”

“Of course. Once you’re a Knight.”

“I’m not that patien—come on, we have to move!”

I gave Kato’s hand a tug, and we started running toward one of the Cursed Ones. It was glowing as bright and blue as a lapis lazuli stone. The glow was so strong, the Cursed One must have been standing right next to the tear.

I hurried toward it, pushing my legs as fast as they could go—then I screeched to a sudden halt.

“What is it?” Kato asked as I backed away from the Cursed One. “Did the halo change color?”

“Yes.” My hope faded away as I watched the ultramarine blue glow finish melting to a dull, lifeless blue-grey. “We were too slow.”

“Hey.” He squeezed my hand. “It’s ok. There are still two more tears.”

I fought off the wave of despair threatening to drown me. Or maybe that was nausea. “Right. There are still two more.” I winced when an ultramarine-blue halo lit up another Cursed One—then immediately turned blue-grey. “One more.”

Kato didn’t say anything. What was there to say? We had only one tear left, one chance left to get back to our dimension before we were stuck here forever.

There was another flash of ultramarine-blue light, and this time I didn’t stop to think. I just ran, pulling Kato along with me. We were almost to the Cursed One when its halo started to flicker, like it was about to change color.

Oh no you don’t!

I poured all the energy I had left into my legs, sprinted past the Cursed One, and slipped into the tear in the veil.

I knew it the moment we were in. Everything went silent and numb all at once.

And then it felt like someone had wrapped a warm blanket around my body and was lifting me up, up, up out of Shadow Fall.

I blinked, and Kato and I were in the Garden again. I stumbled, suddenly overcome with dizziness, but Kato caught my arm before I fell.

The silence shattered. The Garden exploded with applause. Everyone was standing exactly where they’d been before we’d gone to Shadow Fall. Wow, time really did progress differently there.

The other Apprentices rushed forward. Everyone wanted to shake the hand of the Knight who’d saved them from the Cursed Ones.

Kato ignored them all.

Seven? Are you all right?

I almost jumped when I heard his voice in my head.

I guess this means your magic’s returned, I thought back, hoping he could hear me.

It has.

I’m glad.

His chuckles sounded even more delightful in my mind, as sweet as a purring cat. So am I.

“Enough!”

It took me a moment to realize he’d spoken that last word out loud. And that he’d directed it to the encroaching crowd, not to me. Everyone fell silent and backed up.

“You all have a lot to learn before you become Knights.” Disapproval dripped from Kato’s words, thick and heavy. “A Knight does not flee from danger like a scared little dormouse. A Knight protects the weak and vulnerable. Something you all failed to do when the Cursed Ones attacked these humans.”

“So this was a test?” one of the Apprentices muttered.

“No, this is the life of a Knight,” Kato told him, then he turned to the Apprentices’ family members. “Line up single-file in front of the gate. The soldiers will examine each of you on your way out, to make sure you haven’t been Cursed.”

Slowly, the humans headed toward the trio of Watchers in black, who stood on the other side of the closed gate.

“Apprentices, assist the soldiers,” Kato said.

I moved to follow the other Apprentices toward the gate.

“No, not you,” Kato told me sharply, in a tone so unlike the kind one he’d used in my mind just seconds ago. “You will come with me.”

Somewhere in the crowd of Apprentices gathered at the gate, someone laughed. It was a girl with sleek black hair and bright green eyes. She might have been pretty—if not for her cruel smile and permanently upturned nose. I knew her type. She was the sort of person who thought she was better than everyone and took pleasure in the suffering of others. Why would the Government pick someone like that to be a Knight? Knights were supposed to be chivalrous and kind.

When Kato moved toward her, the crowd parted to make way. “Apprentice, what is your name?”

The smile died on her lips. “Zoe,” she choked out.

“And why did you laugh just now, Zoe?”

“I…”

“Was there something particularly funny about four Cursed Ones attacking all these people?”

Zoe’s face turned a very lovely shade of green.

“Your screaming and panicking enraged the Cursed Ones and made my job harder. And instead of protecting people, you tried to save yourself by shoving them at the Cursed Ones,” Kato told her and gave his armored hand a dismissive flick. “Now get to work assisting the soldiers.”

Zoe quietly folded herself into the crowd of Apprentices.

“And pray that your selfishness didn’t cost anyone their life,” Kato added.

My heart pinched. I hoped Mom was ok. I mean, I was pretty sure she was. Mom knew better than to panic when the Cursed Ones attacked.

“Let’s go,” Kato told me.

He led me right past the crowd at the gate. Some of the Apprentices we passed looked at me with pity, others with envy. I got the feeling that at least half of them thought I was in even bigger trouble than Zoe, that Kato was hauling me away in order to punish me.

Copyright © Ella Summers

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