6 - Ritual

There was nothing I could do. Panicking and flailing on the door would likely end in a negative outcome, as would climbing out the window (and likely falling to my death...)

Pacing fell in as a nice and happy medium, between those two.

I didn't sleep well.

Rereading that note, identifying it: trying to see if I could get a piece of information I'd missed. In the end, that's all it was. A note someone has written in blood, and hidden. Likely, long before I'd arrived. Assuming anything more, was guesswork.

Just because I found an old note, didn't mean it necessarily had anything to do with me. The person who wrote it, could have been a criminal- or a thief, or...

Memory of the King's voice settled back into my thoughts, giving me yet another chill.

This was all too strange. Finding the note, was akin to the expression of "icing on the cake." and imagining what it truly meant didn't endear me to the "escorts" that arrived in the morning, to lead us away.

Though we were instructed to bring our gear, we weren't brought to the training fields. Instead, we were marched to a different section of the palace grounds. Along winding halls of ornate gold and silver, eventually we were made to descend down several sets of marble stairs, before reaching a large stone platform.

On the floor, I saw hundreds of intricate letters and shapes, carved into the stonework.

[Identify]

Runic Slab

Stone used in Magic Rituals.

If there hadn't already been an uncomfortable feeling in my belly, there was now. Thoughts of trying to run were bubbling up to the front of my mind, but one look at the Knights, and I knew it was a pointless endeavor. They were so strong, and right now... no.

There was no way I'd make it.

"You will stand here, and you will not move." One of our escorts announced, suddenly, as they stepped off of the platform. On their retreat, several individuals wearing dark robes, moved forward.

Six people... I wasn't sure if they were male or female, but with staffs in hand, they moved closer: hoods shrouded. I felt my anxiety creep up another notch. Apparently, I wasn't alone in this.

"What's going on?" A woman asked, loudly stepping forward. "Enough is enough."

"Do not move." The Knight repeated, pushing her back to the platform. Several of the hooded figures glanced in their direction. One shook their head.

"Listen, I don't know who you guys think you are, but I've had just about enough of this. Tell us what you're doing." Paul crossed his arms, joining the woman. "We're not asking for much."

"They must step back. The next batch will arrive soon in the throne room." One of the shrouded figures spoke, whisper of a voice disturbingly loud. "We must cast now, or the spells might be in conflict"

"Transfer? What transfer?" Paul asked.

"Step back." The Knight commanded, louder this time. An armored hand settled on the grip of his sword.

"Not until you tell me what you're doing." Beside Paul, the woman spoke back up. "Honestly, I'm sick and tired of this. Every time we ask you people anything, you just give us the run around." She complained. "We're tired of this shit. Some of us would like to go home."

"We can wait no longer." The hooded man whispered. "They delay the ritual. It must be cast."

"A waste." Another muttered.

"An acceptable loss. They were docile, compared to those who came before." The first replied. "Only two, the King will not mind."

"Step back!" The Knight shouted, drawing his sword. Though it sounded as a threat, I could almost detect a tone of desperation. Not for himself, but for us. "Step back- Now!"

They didn't, though.

"Not until-" Paul's voice cut off, replaced by... Something else. Not a word, but a sound. A horrible, gut-wrenching, sound. I can tell you what I saw when it happened, but I won't.

Just know, of all there was to know or see in that instant: it was red.

Then, we were somewhere else. No longer twenty in number, but eighteen.