War Games, the third episode of Paragons, continues in this second chapter.

Both friends and foes await Savannah when she passes through the gates of the Knights’ Castle. Watch Savannah and her brother Dante bicker, banter, and bond as only siblings can!

Paragons 1.3.2

Book 1  ♣  Episode 3  ♣  Chapter 2

Welcome to the Castle, home to the Knights of Gaia. Chapter 2 of the Paragons Episode War Games.

Chapter 2

The Castle was a magical sanctuary, a place that seemed to exist outside of time and space. As I passed through its gates, I experienced a powerful, thrilling rush of energy. It felt like walking through a waterfall—without the whole getting-wet part. The moment I stepped through the invisible magic barrier, the dust and sweat caking my clothes and hair evaporated into tiny butterflies.

Outside the gate, the world was an inferno. The air sweltered and sweat. The trees were as dry as kindling, and the grass was burnt to a hard yellow crisp.

But beyond the gates lay a paradise beyond anything I had ever imagined. Summer was in full bloom, but it was a kinder, gentler summer. The sun was warm but not scorching. The breeze was cool but not biting. And the grass was so vibrant, so verdant, so velvety. It looked like someone had used magic to paint every single blade to perfection.

I wasn’t alone. The other Apprentices were already here. I scanned the crowd, looking for my brother.

But there was too much going on. The path was narrow, and the crowd was woven as thick as the overgrown forest outside my cottage. And there were so many marvelous sights to drink in that I wasn’t sure what to look at. The butterflies that sparkled like they were made of jewels. The leaping fish in the streams. The trees full of flower blossoms that sang like silver chimes in the wind.

“Savannah!”

I whipped around at the sound of my brother’s voice. He wasn’t on the path after all. He was running across the grass toward me. I hurried to meet him, launching a hug-attack on him as soon as he was within range.

“Ow!” he laughed as I disengaged. “When did you get to be so strong?”

“I’ve always been strong, Dante.” I met his eyes and smirked at him. I had to look up to do it. “Whoa, you’re so tall. Did you grow overnight?”

“Na, you just shrank.” He winked a blue eye at me. The right eye. His left eye was amber-colored, just like my eyes.

“Wow, a joke about my height?” I rolled my eyes at him. “How original.”

He shrugged, grinning even more.

I couldn’t hide my smile. I couldn’t believe we were here. At the Castle. Being here reminded me of how very close we both were to becoming Knights. Everything was just perfect.

So of course it couldn’t last.

“Yo, Winters!”

I turned around, taking up position at my brother’s side. Two boys were moving toward us fast, like a hurricane ripping across the ocean. One of the boys had extremely short and spiky blond hair; the other had extremely short and spiky black hair. Other than their hair color, they might have been twins. Big and bulky, they looked like human tanks. They were certainly buffer than any sixteen-year-olds that I’d ever seen.

“Did you really think you could get away from us?” said the boy with the spiky black hair.

“I did get away from you. You just didn’t take the hint,” Dante countered, pretending to look bored.

But I knew my brother. He wasn’t bored; he was angry. His tension crackled in the air. It was making me nervous too.

The spiky blond kid glanced at me. “Who’s your friend?”

“She’s not my friend,” Dante told him. “She’s my sister.”

The boys took a closer look at me. They had to bend down a little to do it.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that wounded my ego a little. I couldn’t stand it when people looked down on me. No matter how many times I’d experienced it, I just couldn’t get used to it—and I didn’t want to.

“She’s little.”

“And you’re stupid,” Dante told him. “Seriously, dude, don’t mess with my sister.”

“Or what?”

“Trust me. You really don’t want to find out.” Dante’s eyes burned with menace.

The black-haired boy met his gaze for a few seconds, then hastily looked away. “Whatever, man.”

I smiled at Dante. “Brother dear, aren’t you going to introduce me to your new friends?”

He rolled his eyes at the word friends, but obliged anyway. “Savannah, meet Dutch…” Dante indicated the blond boy. “…and Rhett.” He pointed at the black-haired boy. “Or, as I like to think of them, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum.”

“Charmed.” I held out my hand like a princess, just to see what the boys would do.

Dutch stared at my hand, confused. For a moment, I thought he was going to take it and kiss it, just like in the fairytales. Rhett whacked my hand away before his friend got the chance.

“Your sister is trouble,” Rhett told Dante. “Just like you.”

“Is that all?” Dante laughed. “Because we’d really like to get on with our plan of not talking to you.”

“Watch yourself, Winters. No one likes a smart ass,” Dutch said, bumping into Dante as he and Rhett stomped away like a pair of hungry T-rexes.

“Wow, they are something else,” I commented.

“They’re all like that. The Apprentices from Victory,” he explained when I blinked at him. “Victory is this kooky town somewhere in Europe. The mayor of Victory puts most of their food, education, and other resources into a group of teenagers he’s decided has the best chance of being chosen. And they totally ignore all of the other kids in town.”

“So a handful of kids gets all the resources meant for thousands?” I asked. “Yeah, that sounds totally fair.”

“It seems to work,” Dante said. “Almost every one of those ‘special’ kids were chosen this year. And last year.”

“Those who are given more achieve more. What a shocker. And talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.” I tried to shake off my annoyance, but it was pretty hard to be nonchalant about injustice.

Dante nodded. “Well, no one ever promised us that life would be fair, Sav.”

“But being a Knight is supposed to be about chivalry, fairness, and righting all the wrongs in the world,” I grumbled. “How is that even possible when the Government lets so many jerks become Knights?”

“Yeah…so, this is why I didn’t tell you about the Victory kids before.”

I frowned at him. “Wait, just how long have you known about these Victory kids?”

“Like a year or two.”

“A year or two? You really should have told me!”

He shrugged. “I didn’t want to worry you.”

Dante had always looked out for me. He’d always protected me. I loved that about him. But sometimes I also hated that about him. He had to understand that I could take care of myself.

“You should have told me before the Choosing. I needed to know these things, so I could have—”

“Studied even more than you already do?” he said, a twinkle in his eyes.

He had a point. I already studied and trained most of the day.

“It’s still unfair,” I pouted.

“What’s unfair?” asked Bronte, a girl I’d met yesterday in the Garden, as she walked up to us.

I told her all about the Victory kids. She stood there in silence, looking pretty shocked by their cheating. Good. That meant she cared about something more than just winning the Scoreboard competition. Admittedly, when she’d told me about herself yesterday, I’d been a little worried she might be one of those ultra-competitive cutthroats who would do anything to get to the top.

But the more I talked to Bronte, the more I realized there actually was more to her than winning. Though she’d spent her weekends competing in dance contests and performing in elaborate, full-scale theatrical productions, she wasn’t vain. And despite the fact that she had more trophies than I had socks, she didn’t expect everything to be handed to her. She’d had to earn every single victory. She worked harder than anyone I’d ever met. Losing wasn’t in her vocabulary, and that went for dance, school, or anything else our cursed world threw at her.

“It doesn’t matter that those Victory kids got so much help. That is in the past,” Bronte said when I was done telling her about them. “That won’t help them here.”

“Wise words,” Dante said, leaning his arm on my shoulder.

I brushed him off. “Yeah, they are.”

“So, this is your brother?” Bronte asked me.

“Only when he’s nice to me.”

Dante rolled his eyes at me. “Come on. Let’s go.”

The other Apprentices were on the move, making their way toward the Knights’ Castle. There it was—beyond the blossoming forests, past the fields of paradise—a castle that outdid every fairytale castle ever. The Castle was actually six castles, each one distinct in color and shape and style. And yet the unique personalities of all six castles still managed to match together. The castles were linked by halls, passageways…and hedges of high, majestic towers.

“So, how do you know those Victory kids so well anyway?” I asked Dante as Dutch and Rhett watched us, snickering.

We’d just passed under a stone bridge to enter an open, grassy space at the center of the mega Castle. It was large, hexagonal in shape, and looked like the perfect spot for a picnic.

Dante turned away from the two boys. “Unfortunately, I was grouped with them for the Assessment yesterday.”

“What, like both of them?”

“Oh, it’s not just the two of them,” Dante sighed as the Apprentices spread out inside the grassy hexagon. “I was with the whole Victory gang. All four of them.”

“I’m sorry.”

He flashed me a lopsided grin. “Don’t be. It gave me the chance to prove that I’m the far superior Apprentice.” He flexed his bicep, as though that proved his point.

I snorted.

“Savannah.” His face grew more serious. “There are a lot of very fit, very smart, very competitive people here.”

“I’m not sure where you’re going with this…”

He set his hands on my shoulders. “Don’t let any of them tell you that they’re better than you. Because they’re not.”

“Wow, Dante.” My throat tightened up with emotion. “I don’t know what to say.”

“None of them can hold a candle to you, Sav,” he continued. “You’ve already got them beat. You’re special. Just remember what I’ve been telling you our whole lives: no one could ever be as much of a freak as you are.”

The sappy, happy feeling in my chest burst like a balloon. “Gee, thanks, bro.”

He flashed me a bright white grin. “No problem. And there’s much more where that came from…should you ever need another pep talk.”

I gave him a flat look. “I think I’ll pass, thanks.”

He shrugged. “You might change your mind.”

“I wouldn’t hold my breath on that. No, on second thought, do hold your breath. If you pass out on the ground, you won’t be able to annoy me anymore.”

Bronte looked at us like we were exotic zoo exhibits. “You two fight a lot.”

“Siblings do that,” I told her.

“I wouldn’t know,” she said quietly. “I don’t have any brothers or sisters.”

“You’re not missing much.” I stuck my tongue out at Dante.

“He stood up for you when those boys were mean to you,” Bronte pointed out.

“Yeah, that’s because Dante has decided he has exclusive rights on annoying me, and he’ll beat up anyone who challenges those rights.”

“She’s not wrong about that, you know,” Dante said with a shrug and a wink.

Bronte sighed. “I wish I had a brother to annoy me.”

“You can have my brother if you want,” I offered.

Dante pulled me into a strong bear hug. I struggled to get free but couldn’t. In my defense, it was a totally unfair fight. He was way bigger than I was.

“You’re pretty strong,” Bronte told him.

“And mean,” I added as Dante released me. “One time when we were six, he rolled me up tightly in a blanket, like a burrito. I couldn’t get out. I was stuck there for over two hours before our mom finally found us.”

Dante chuckled. “And you should have heard her shouting for help.”

I bristled. “I wasn’t shouting for help. I was shouting at you to let me go.”

“Shouting?” His eyes twinkled. “Or crying?”

“Hey, it was an emergency! I really had to pee!”

“I think you did pee a little when you were stuck in that burrito.”

I blushed. “I was only six!”

Dante laughed so hard, he nearly tripped over Nevada as she joined our little cluster of madness.

“I got him back the next day at school, though,” I told Bronte.

She looked intrigued. “How?”

“She glued his butt to the seat of his desk,” Nevada told her.

I gave my eyelashes a mysterious flutter.

Bronte’s big blue eyes went even bigger. “How?”

Dante’s knuckles cracked. “She coated my chair in superglue.”

Bronte looked at him, spellbound. “How long were you stuck there?”

“Well, he had to sit in at recess.”

I cracked up at my stupid joke. And so did Dante.

He wrapped his arm around me. “I love you, my mini sister.”

“I love you too, my annoying brother,” I shot back.

We hugged each other, laughing so hard that the other kids were staring at us like we’d totally lost our minds.

But Bronte was watching us like this was the most enthralling tale ever. “Do you have any more stories?”

“Of me and my brother driving each other crazy?” I snorted. “Sure. Tons of them. I’ll tell you some of them later.”

Classical music started streaming through speakers tucked inside the trees positioned all around the grassy hexagon. A woman dressed in a smooth, navy-blue pantsuit lifted her hands in the air. Her shoulder-length red hair was streaked with hints of grey.

“Warm greetings to our new Apprentices!” Her smile was serious but friendly. “I am Melanie Meyer, Governor of the Fortress. Welcome to the Castle.”

Copyright © Ella Summers

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