Dark Forest: The Revelations of Oriceran, Soul Stone Mage, Book 2
By Sarah Noffke & Martha Carr
The Kingdom of Virgo has lived in peace for thousands of years… until now.
“So you’re telling me your mother gave away her precious soul stone to make the Duke to stay silent?” Ever asked as they strolled through the city. Azure had wanted to run to their destination, but that would have drawn too much attention. They pretended to be model citizens instead, sauntering through the streets.
“Yeah, so now we have to sneak into this monument ceremony and take it from him. I think I can figure out how to do the last part, but getting the Duke alone will be difficult,” Azure said.
“Leave that part to me.” Ever nodded reassuringly. She would have thought his bright blue eyes would have set him apart in Terran, like Monet’s eyes did, but people didn’t seem to notice them. Everyone acted as if they were preoccupied, something she’d noticed yesterday when she’d entered this land. Strange to consider it was only yesterday that she’d stepped into Terran.
A bike cut them off, and Azure held up her fist. “Watch where you’re going, buddy!” she yelled.
Ever shot her a look of disbelief.
“I’m trying to help us blend in. The people of Terran have awful tempers,” she told him.
“Probably because they’re all coming down from sugar highs,” Ever said, observing the shops and restaurants as they passed. The stores all had displays in the windows or posters showing the food they sold.
“Yes, the people here love sugar. They actually manifest all their food from it,” Azure said, fondly remembering the way the donut she’d had at Heidi’s house had melted in her mouth. “I mean, it’s delicious, but it has no nutrition. And the people of Terran don’t eat any vegetables.”
“That explains so much. It appears they’ve misconstrued much of the information from Earth.” Ever smirked at a shop they passed.
“I kind of sensed that, but since I don’t know much about Earth, I couldn’t figure out what-all they’d gotten wrong.”
Ever paused. “Well, for one, you see this store?”
Azure read the sign. “Pot Dispensary.”
“Right. We have these all over Los Angeles, which I’m guessing the people of Terran learned one way or another. However, the ones on Earth sell a drug that is fondly called pot.”
“And they took it literally.” Azure laughed, staring at the large pots lined up in the store’s window.
“Yes, and their Apple store sells artwork of actual apples. And if I’m not mistaken, they’ve named all their banks ‘Starbucks.’” Ever shook his head, his eyes sparkling with laughter. “Wow, these people are thick.”
“Well, if you’ve never been to a foreign planet, and had only received bits and pieces about it through the Dark Market, I guess there could be a lot of confusion,” Azure said.
“Yeah, but why not just be yourself, right? Why imitate another planet?”
“My thoughts exactly, but I’m guessing that’s why everything is out of whack for them. They overuse their magical resources and have bad nutrition because they refuse to be who they are. They’re humans on Oriceran, not Earthlings who live on a foreign planet,” Azure mused, the ideas occurring to her as she said them.
Ever sped up as they approached a large grassy area where people were starting to gather. “Think we’re getting close.” He paused when they came to the artificial grass.
“Yes, this should be the ceremony for the Crushmore monument.” Azure noted a large object covered with a tarp next to a stage. The platform was much like the one she’d seen at the emperor’s press conference, with a podium and a navy-blue curtain at the back.
“Wait, did you say ‘Crushmore?’” Ever asked.
“Yes. Apparently it’s modeled after some monument on Earth. It’s four different famous people’s faces chiseled into stone.”
“Presidents of the United States. Not really famous, as much as leaders,” Ever said, scratching one long black sideburn. “And it’s called Rushmore. Man, how did these humans screw things up so much? They’re ridiculous.”
“That’s what I said when they imprisoned me. I think they’re all partially braindead from sugar overload,” Azure replied.
“Which will hopefully make our job easier.” Ever pointed to a path at the back of the stage.
“I’m sure there will be guards back there, surrounding the Duke,” Azure said.
“Which means we’ll need to draw them away. Any ideas?”
“Yeah, I think so.” Azure remembered the dog that had accompanied the Duke when he captured her. She held the tip of her wand against her finger, hiding it along her arm, and flicked it at the curtain bordering the back of the stage. A feline, small and black, appeared. It was of course an illusion, but it would work for their purposes. The cat looked at Azure before turning its green eyes to the curtain and disappearing behind it.
Azure had only enough time to glance at the crowd gathering several yards away, all of them excited for the unveiling of the monument, before she was distracted by barking coming from the backstage area. A moment later, a black cat sprinted through the curtain with a brown dog on its heels. A flood of guards chased after the dog, all of them running but not able to keep up with the four-legged sprinters.
“Do you think that’s all of them?” Ever asked, watching as the guards passed them.
“Hard to tell,” Azure said, but she was cut off by yelling from behind the curtain.
“Get him!” someone yelled, and another set of guards emerged from behind the curtain.
“Okay, that’s probably all of them.” She had counted five guards edging out from behind the curtain. “Now what?” she asked, turning to Ever.
He pressed his eyes shut and she could feel something warm flowing from him, but only because his Light Elves’ magic was so different from her own.
“Okay, as soon as you enter the backstage area, no one will be able to go back there or leave but you,” Ever said.
“You’ll create an enchantment on the backstage area?” she asked, impressed. That was an incredibly strong and specific spell.
Ever merely nodded his head. “I’ll only be able to hold it for a few minutes, so you need to get in there and retrieve your mother’s soul stone, then get out fast.”
“And then we’ve got to get the fuck out of Terran,” Azure said, unsure how they’d do that. She’d figure it out once she had her mother’s soul stone.
“Go now, while the coast is clear.” Ever urged her forward.
“Okay, I’m going,” she said, casting a glance at Ever. Symbols had started to appear on his arms and neck, a result of the spellwork.
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