The Card Dealer: Part 12

Part 12: The Plan

 

I couldn’t look Master Greaves in the eyes when he came down.  His glare was too piercing.  Too angry.  Clark and Elena were both on the ground.  Lex and Lean stood right behind me.  We were all terrified, but not as much as Adrian was.

He looked as if he was debating whether to run or face Greaves and take whatever was about to be thrown at him.  He must have chosen to face him, because he walked forward.

“M-Master?”  His voice trembled.  Never in all of my life have I ever saw Adrian get scared.  But he most certainly was beyond that now.

Greaves looked at us all before settling his hard scowl on Adrian.

“What have you done?”  He asked in a cool voice, far more frightening than his booming shouts he had been using before.  He stepped forward to tower over Adrian, who swallowed hard.  I could see him sweating from where I stood a few feet behind him.

“I…I didn’t mean to lead them here, master, I swear,” he said, clasping his hands and lowering his head.  “I didn’t mean for them to come at all!”

Greaves didn’t take kindly to his words.

“Them seeing all of this ruins everything, Adrian, I hope you know that,” he said, looking down on him with his arms crossed.  “I trusted you.  I chose you for this because I knew you wouldn’t fail me, but now…”  He looked at Lex, Leon, and me with a burning hatred in his eyes.

“They’ll keep quiet!”  Adrian begged.  “Please, please don’t hurt them.  I’ll take them home and make sure they don’t say a word!”

“Say a word about what?!”  I yelled, which was probably a bad idea.  “I don’t have a clue at what’s going on here!”

“Be silent!”  Greaves demanded.  I clamped my mouth shut as a chill ran up my spine.  Adrian looked back at me and shook his head.  The disappointment in his face was enough to shatter me, but I stood my ground.

“We can’t risk that,” Greaves said.  “They came here, and they aren’t leaving.”

“No, please!”  Adrian pleaded, getting on his knees. “I beg of you, master, spare them!”

Greaves grabbed Adrian by the collar of his shirt and pulled him up.

“There will be none of that, you fool, you brought this upon yourself!  I knew you were being too careless with this secret!”

“What secret?!”  I spoke again.  Adrian looked at me with a firm glare.

“Enough!”  Greaves shouted.  “Adrian, take them to the lower levels and I will be speaking with you afterwards.”  I didn’t like how anything in that command sounded.  Adrian did something that made me gasp.  She shook his head and put a stern look on his face.

“No, this is wrong!”  He shouted.  Gee, I wish he realized that a long time ago.  “It’s wrong and I don’t want any part of it anymore!”

Greaves had been turning to walk away, but he was whirling around to face his former student again now.  Lex whimpered as if she expected Greaves to strike Adrian.  I thought he would for a second.

“You should have thought about that before you agreed to come into this,” he said.  Adrian looked like he was about to self-combust now.

“You never gave me a choice!”  Adrian cried, clenching his fists.  “You threatened their lives!’  With one hand, he pointed back at us.  “What was I supposed to do?  Let you kill them?!  Kill them like you did those poor-”  He was suddenly caught off with a raise of Greaves’ hand.  Adrian’s eyes went wide as he tried to speak, but found that his voice was no longer there.  My eyes widened.  Master Greaves was powerful enough to exact such a difficult spell with the wave of his hand?

“You’ll be punished for this, Adrian Rune,” said Greaves in a cutting tone.

“You did this!”  I found myself shouting before I could stop myself.  I was shaking with rage.  “YOU killed that Nymph, and that Merman!  YOU did all of that!”

“Claudia, don’t,” I heard Lex whisper.  She grabbed my arm to pull me back, but I shook her off.

“You of all people,” I said, taking a risky step forward.  “And you…you used Adrian!”

“Take another step closer girl, and I’ll make sure you never see your master again,” Greaves said.  He looked past me at Clark and Elena.  “You two, get up!”

The two siblings got to their feet quicker than I’d ever seen anyone do so before.  Elena was visibly shaken, and Clark’s face was gray.

“Yes master?”  Clark squeaked out.

“Take these three away while I deal with my former apprentice.”

Clark and Elena both bowed, then came to take us.

“No!”  I screamed as Elena grabbed Lex and me.  Clark was grimacing as Leon tried to wrestle out of his grasp.

“I’d come along quietly if I were you,” Elena whispered in my ear.  I looked back at Adrian, who seemed resigned to whatever punishment he was about to get.  He wouldn’t meet my gaze.  Maybe there was some way I could help him, but not now.  I just had to hope Greaves wouldn’t kill him.  I let Elena pull me away.

It was a long trek back to the outside of the cavern.  None of us said a word, not even Leon.  I knew the fear spell was still strong in the cave, but he never even flinched.

I had to blink a few times before my eyes adjusted to the light when we reached the beach outside.  Still, no one spoke for a few minutes, as if all of us were trying to figure out what had just happened.  I was having trouble trying to connect everything myself.

Adrian is the Card Dealer, and Master Greaves was the one behind it all.  I turned to Clark and Elena.  They had to know most everything about this.

“Tell me everything,” I said, putting a demanding look in my eyes.  “Tell me what’s going on here.”

It was easier to get an answer than I thought it would be.  Clark sat down in the sand next to Elena, hanging his head.

“It wasn’t our ideas to join him…,” he said.

“He swore he’d kill our mother if we didn’t,” Elena added.  “So of course we couldn’t let him do that.”

I sat down cross-legged.  “Why did he want you guys?”

Elena shrugged, exchanging glances with Clark.

“We just…did what he said, I guess.  We don’t have any particular skills, or anything like that.  Anyway, he threatened to kill you guys if Adrian didn’t help him.”

Lex leaned against a tree with a huff.  Leon stood at the mouth of the cave, looking down at the sand.

“Oh…,” I said.  “And what was up with the Card Dealer act?”

“It was a distraction of sorts,” said Clark.  “While people were busy with the Card Dealer, Greaves went to collect Essence, which is-.”

“We know what that is,” Leon snapped.

“Why would he want that?”  Lex asked.  Leon snorted.

“To make himself more powerful, I guess,” he said.  “You can’t use Essence if you don’t know how to, and most people can’t do it even then.”

“But Greaves can,” said Clark, looking shameful.  “That’s…that’s what that was in those bottles…”

My mouth fell open.  “That was Essence?!”

Clark raised his hands in defense.  “It was, but it’s not what you think.  Greaves trained Adrian to extract Essence from plants since he was against extracting it from people.”

“Why didn’t he just bring it to Greaves himself instead of passing it off to you?”  I asked.  Elena shrugged.

“To throw you off,” she said.  “Besides, we were more in charge of collecting it than he was.  He had bigger things to worry about.”

“And those things are…?”  Lex asked as she leaned forward a bit.

“Well, you say how he was always leaving,” said Clark.  “Greaves was training him still, but…I don’t think he knew what for.”

“What?”  I said, tilting my head.

“Yeah,” said Elena.  “Greaves told us only to make sure to keep an eye on Adrian to make sure he didn’t get any ideas or catch wind of what was going on, but…he was getting trained to take in Essence.”

Lex clasped her hands.  “Why…would he need to do that?”

Leon crossed his arms, looking more and more annoyed.

“I know why,” he said, scowling.  “If Greaves and Adrian could take in Essence, instead of using it as a source of energy like I do they’d use it as a source of power.”

“Adrian knows that Greaves is trying to get Essence for that reason,” said Clark.  “He doesn’t know that Greaves is training him to do the same.  Of course, there’s always the chance that He does know and just isn’t saying anything for the sake of you three.”

“Why is Greaves doing this?”  Lex asked.  She sounded close to tears.  I didn’t blame her, I felt like throwing a tantrum myself.

“Isn’t that obvious?”  Clark asked, looking up at her.  “Adrian isn’t the only wizard who’s being trained to take in Essence.  When the time comes, he’s taking them all to attack the Kingdom and overthrow the king.”

To my surprise, no one replied to that.  Even I didn’t look up from the sand.  I hung my head.  All along, this had been happening right under my nose.  If all of us made it out of this alive – including Adrian, there was a lot that I needed to catch up on.  Like how in the world Adrian had gotten involved in this in the first place.  I stood, shaking my head and clenching my fists.

“No,” I said in a firm tone.  “We’re not letting him do that.”

“Why would he even try?”  Asked Leon.  “He graduated to Master Class from there anyway.”

“That’s what he claims, anyway,” said Elena.  “Rumor has it that he never did.  According to Adrian, it seems that he was kicked out of the school, which explains why he’d want to trash the place.”

“Well why he wants to do it doesn’t matter right now,” I said, gazing at each of them.  “We need a plan.”

Clark gave a sarcastic chuckle.  “Yeah, like we can stop Greaves, and Adrian will probably be helping him.”

“We have to try!”  I urged.  “We can’t let him continue to kill all those people and overthrow the king!”

Lex joined me.  “I’m with her.  I won’t let him use Adrian like that.”

“Yeah!”  Said Leon, pumping his fist.  “I’ll fight!”

Clark exchanged a glance with his sister, then stood.

“Well, I guess I can’t leave you kids to go it alone,” he said.  He nodded his chin in Leon’s direction.  “Hey kid, if you can extract Essence, why don’t you just suck the life out of Greaves.”

Leon dropped his arms to his sighed with disgust.

“Yeah, sure, I could do that if you want me to die in the process,” he said.

Clark pursed his lips and seemed to mentally scratch that idea off the list.

“I will fight him with Adrian,” I declared.  All eyes turned to me.

“But what about us?!”  Leon asked, waving his arms around.

“You guys aren’t magic users,” I said, crossing my arms.  “You can’t fight him anyway.”  Sighing, I turned to the cave.  “Is there Essence stored somewhere around here?”

“Yeah,” said Clark.  “He keeps a bunch stored for whenever his students learn to take it in.”

“Destroy it,” I said without hesitation.  “Get rid of it so they can’t use it.  While you guys do that, I’m going to get Adrian to fight with me.”

“He’s too scared Greaves will kill you three if he fights back,” said Elena.

I turned back to them.  “I have to try,” I said, my eyes pleading with all of them to trust me.  After a moment of silence, Clark nodded.

“Alright then, I’ll take the others with me,” he said.  Without even looking at me, he headed into the trees to my right, gesturing at the others to follow him.  Lex and Leon came up to me as Elena left.

“Be careful, Claudia,” Leon said, giving me a tight hug.  “Don’t let him get you!”

I forced a smile on my face.  “I’ll be fine.”  Leon looked up at me a moment longer with an expression I couldn’t read before going after Clark and Elena.  Lex took my hands.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?”  She asked as she bit her lip.  I shrugged.

“It’s probably not, but I can’t sit around and do nothing,” I said.  “I have to help Adrian.  I know he doesn’t want this.”  I gave her hands a squeeze.  “Don’t worry.  I’ll be back, and Adrian will be with me.”

Lex slowly nodded.  “Alright…I trust you…”  She let go of my hands and followed the others, only throwing one glance at me over her shoulder.

When they had gone, I faced the mouth of the cavern.  This was it.  Taking a deep breath, I ventured back inside.

~ ♠ ♣ ♦ ♥ ~

Sorry for how late this is!  I’m getting really close to finishing this up, and I’m happy about that!  I’ve been doing this story for nearly a year and I’m ready to move on to other things.  Speaking of which, there were some technical errors in the creation of the cover art for my new story, so that’s why that hasn’t been released yet.  It should be out soon!  Thank you for keeping up with this story and I hope you enjoy the end!

 

 

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