It was still relatively dark as they descended. The little light that entered the room was reflected by the convex mirror in the ceiling, casting an eerie glow upon the table beneath it. Upon closer inspection, Camile likened it to an altar as she slowly rounded it. Each step she took brought her closer to breaching the sealed memory of the evening which had forever changed the course of her life. By the time she came full circle, stopping in front of her parents, she felt the lingering sense of familiarity getting stronger.
Her cheeks tingled with the chill of a sudden breeze that had no identifiable source. The subtle scent of her mother’s sweet perfume was now competing with crisp pine. Camile raised her gaze to behold her parents, but her eyes were suddenly wrapped in a pallid sheet of disorientation. At first she said nothing, figuring the flash would dissolve. Then alarm set in as she realized her vision wasn’t returning. Squeezing her lids shut, she stumbled into her mother’s arms.
Young Camile didn’t care much for being carried, but had little choice in the matter. She was just a six-year-old girl and her legs were too short to endure the lengthy journey ahead. Though she knew she should’ve felt safe in her mother’s arms, she was terrified.
As they bypassed the final checkpoint, at which Kylie gained the mercy of an empathetic guard, Caldaq’s alarms blared into the night. Little Camile’s sobs worsened as she remembered the events that triggered them, events that followed her discovery of what the council had in store for her the next day. It seemed a miracle that they were able to avoid the harsh sweeping lights of the helicopters circling above the field.
Upon reaching the edge of the Forsaken Square— a massive stretch of dense forest nearly a kilometer away—a panting Kylie took cover behind a large tree and set her daughter down. Little Camile caught a tiny splinter in her palm as she peered anxiously around the trunk to regard the mountainous compound. Still, she kept her eyes fixed, knowing that somewhere in the midst of the emergency lights illuminating Caldaq was her father, who insisted that Kylie flee with their daughter and await his arrival at the rendezvous point.
His urgent parting words: “If I’m not there in twenty minutes, leave without me. You know what to do. Follow the direction of the dead log and swim as deep as you can.”
Camile had been keeping a close eye on her mother’s watch and knew their time was almost up. Each agonizing minute she wondered what would happen to him. He was the orchestrator of the grand diversion that unfolded just minutes earlier. When it started to go wrong, he resorted to brawn, punching out at least one guard in the process.
“I don’t want to leave Daddy,” she cried, figuring that he’d be killed for his actions.
“Me either, sweetheart.” Kylie tenderly cupped her cheek. “I hope it won’t come to that.”
Despite the calm words, young Camile could feel her mother’s fear breaking through her poised façade. It accompanied the apparent doubt lurking behind her wide hazel eyes.
“It won’t,” a masculine voice grunted.
Zephyr emerged from the ground before them, yet the grass and soil remained undisturbed. The reunited trio indulged in hugs and kisses before venturing deeper into the Forsaken Square. Kylie held her daughter securely as they traveled in silence. Eventually, little Camile grew tired and drifted off to sleep on her mother’s shoulder to the tune of her parents’ footfalls crunching the fallen autumn leaves.
A sharp gasp interrupted her slumber a short while later. Upon opening her eyes, Camile saw two dozen or so guards closing in on them beneath the forest canopy, through which the helicopters poured their cold bluish lights. The officers closed in like shadows in the misty night. The sound of her mother’s tremulous breathing fed Camile’s terror, which escalated when Sir Drayden emerged from the thick barricade of sentinels.
“I know this isn’t easy for you, Kylie, but you must give her to me.” Sir Drayden outstretched his hands, lowering his voice to a whisper. “Trust me. It’ll be better this way.”
“Mommy, no!” Camile cried, clutching her mother’s arm as tightly as her little fingers would allow.
Following her mother’s gaze, Camile noticed her father’s intense expression. She’d already seen it once that evening, just before he had attacked the guard. Everyone remained as still and quiet as chess pieces, but the silver-haired knight was about to take the pawn.
“Please, at least allow me a moment to say goodbye to my little girl,” Kylie said tremulously, taking a step back.
Camile objected to the surrender, but was hushed by her mother, who slowly searched her pocket. The reason became obvious once Kylie raised her cupped left hand to stroke her daughter’s curls. The child felt a firm round object barely brush her cheek. It was cool to the touch.
“It’ll be fine, baby,” Kylie whispered. “Just close your eyes.”
As soon as the frightened child obliged, there was a loud explosion, punctuated by the officers’ shouts. An intense flash permeated her sealed lids, revealing the fine veins within them. Then came the jolt. Holding on tight, young Camile’s body bobbed around as her mother sprinted into the night. Once the light faded, she cautiously peered over her mother’s shoulder.
Amidst the lingering smoke was her father, fighting several disoriented guards. The knight was nowhere to be seen, but a group of officers fanned out in pursuit of Camile and her mother, now headed toward a ravine. They were almost in the clear since the rift was located in the water, a dead log ironically pointing to their salvation. All that was left to do was clear another few meters and jump in.
Heavy boots beat the earth behind them like a stampede of wild horses. The sound indicated that Kylie’s luxury of a head start was rapidly waning. Camile saw them pouring in from between the dense trees, closing them in from behind, their weapons drawn. Upon feeling her mother halt with a sharp gasp, Camile turned her attention forward and saw Sir Drayden appearing out of thin air, just inches in front of them.
“That was a very foolish move.” He frowned, his facial crevices sharpened by the above lighting.
A panting Kylie shuffled backward as the squad surrounded them. The lead officer commanded his team to lower their arms as he raised a baton-like device. He apologized prior to activating it, directing a vivid pulsating light at Kylie’s face. The descent was quick and hard as the mother, still cradling her child, met the ground.