Arc II Chapter 35: Rescue Mission


Shana gawked at the strange and exciting town before her.

Sprawling out across the muted landscape of the Final Frontier, “Tier Town” made up for its low population with sheer square mileage. Houses and buildings were spaced far apart, and many ordinary residents had small farms, growing a variety of crops in this seeming wasteland. Buildings, in many ways, took after the abandoned city they’d seen on the road to the Share House – they came in all shapes and sizes, frequently defying architectural norms, and it was simply wonderful to Shana’s eyes. Spheres and spirals, bowls and rings, there was rarely a dull, ordinary structure in sight. Wide streets connected the many spaced-out homes, shops, and miscellaneous establishments, and flowers here and there gave a small bit of color to the land. The sky above was different from the Westward Plains – it looked cracked, fragmented, almost like what she’d seen a few times at the edge of this vast land, but not as unsettling. There were several large, yellow-white spheres high up in the odd sky, like this place had multiple suns providing it with light and heat.

The people were very kind, and that warmed Shana’s heart. They delighted in Altair, and the sociable little pup got lots of attention and head pats from the friendly folks. Maribelle seemed well-known, with many calling out her name and engaging in brief conversation with her as she passed by, but she never lingered long. Shana knew they had an objective in mind and work to do, but she wondered if Maribelle’s insistence on moving forward might have at least a little bit to do with her long isolation on the Westward Plains.

They passed a bowl-shaped home, where a middle-aged man was planting flowers in his little garden. Here, Maribelle actually initiated conversation, strolling up to the man with a smile on her face.

“Zachariah,” she said, causing the man to turn to look at her. “It’s been a long time. How are you?”

Zachariah smiled and stood, adjusting his wide-brimmed hat. “It certainly has been a long time,” he said, his voice warm and pleasant. “In truth, I thought I might never see you again. After what happened to your family… it’s good to see you.”

Maribelle’s smile didn’t waver. “I found out something wonderful,” she said. “My sisters… they didn’t leave after all. I’m on my way to find them right now.”

Zachariah beamed, but a strange look crossed his eyes. He was happy for Maribelle, but there was a sense of confliction in him. “That’s good to hear,” he said. “I’m delighted for you.”

Maribelle looked around. “Where’s Maria?” she asked. “I thought she was the one with the green thumb.” She laughed, and Zachariah managed a light chuckle, but his face turned downcast.

“Maria… left,” he said, his voice stained with sorrow. “Just two cycles ago. It was… very sudden.”

Maribelle looked distraught, and she lowered her gaze, staring at the street. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I… should have been here. I should never have gone away.”

“Don’t blame yourself,” Zachariah said, managing a smile again. “You had nothing to do with it. And we had a wonderful life together. I will miss her, but… we all leave, in time.”

Shana was puzzled. What was all this talk of leaving? They spoke as if…

Her eyes widened.

If she just replaced “left” and “leave” with “died” and “die,” the conversation suddenly made a lot more sense to her.

Is that how Enchanted spoke of death?

Wait… Maribelle had said that she’d found out that her sisters didn’t leave. And Annabelle’s message to Maribelle… “Tell her I didn’t leave. The Radiant King stole me away.”

Shana’s heart sunk, and she suddenly understood Maribelle’s sorrow and isolation far more than she had before.

She thought her sisters were dead. All this time… Enchanted live incredibly long lives. How many years – decades? Centuries? – has she been mourning her sisters? What was it like when I told her Annabelle was still alive?

Maribelle soon bid Zachariah goodbye. They walked along for quite a ways, before Shana finally had the courage to bring up her theory.

Maribelle nodded. “That’s right,” she said. “We rarely use words like ‘death’ that are so common to humans. And I… I did indeed believe my sisters to be lost to me. But that was all Dullan’s trickery. I’m grateful to you for finding Annabelle and setting me right.”

On they walked through Tier Town, not really stopping anywhere, keeping their pace forward. They’d trained five days at the Share House. They’d spent another week just reaching this town, training every day on the road.

This was their last stop in the Final Frontier, and if they were quick enough, they’d reach the Winding Stair without having to spend the night somewhere else.

Then they’d be on to the Radiant Palace, and their ultimate mission.

Shana felt anxious, excited, and many more emotions all at once. It seemed so very long ago that she had promised Annabelle that she’d rescue her. Even after finding Maribelle, their journey through the Final Frontier had taken a lot more time than she’d hoped or expected.

But it had been a good thing. They’d had time to train, to hone their bodies, to develop their skills.

Aside from Maribelle and Shias, they still weren’t very strong. They still weren’t the “best” team for the job.

But this was Shana’s mission. And she’d done everything she could to prepare for it. She may be frightened, she may uncertain, but she was also ready to succeed.

All of this had started with her insisting that they go free the missing children themselves. Her dreams had led her to the grove in the mountains, and she’d gotten herself and her friends beaten and captured by Neith. Then they’d needed Annabelle to rescue them from the Palace.

It’s time for a win. It’s time for a success. It’s time for this long road to end with victory.

I know freeing Annabelle isn’t the end of the road – we still have to go to the Library of Solitude. We still have to find a way to prevent the Endless Night. And we’ll probably come into more conflict with the King and his followers before all is said and done.

But please, just… let me succeed at this. If I can’t save all those missing children from Grimoire…

At least let me save one little girl.

“There it is,” Maribelle said, pointing along the straight road before them.

Tier Town ended, and further across the plains was a stone archway. Light came from within, warm and golden.

“Finally,” Shana said, smiling. She looked back at her friends – Kathryn, Rae, and Ben – and her brother. An unspoken message passed between them. Kathryn grinned. Ben nodded, tapping out a rhythm on his belt. Rae smiled, clutching her keychain Talisman to her chest.

Shias locked eyes with his sister, and nodded. Shana knew that look in his eyes.

He was ready for anything.

They entered the archway, and were for a moment blinded by golden light. The moment passed, and when Shana turned back to look out at Tier Town one more time…

It was gone.

“What…” she started.

“Once you enter the Winding Stair, you have to exit elsewhere,” Maribelle said. She smiled sympathetically. “I’m sorry. I should have warned you.”

Shana shook her head. “It’s okay,” she said. “We need to move forward.”

Looking out and down the Winding Stair, though, Shana knew she would have been completely lost without Maribelle. For such a small entrance, the Stair was grand, massive, intimidating. They stood at the top of the Stair, and above them was a wood-paneled ceiling flecked with gold. Below them… was the Stair itself.

It was hard to talk about it as a staircase. There was that – a winding staircase spiraling downward around the perimeter of the massive, cylindrical chasm. But there were also many staircases that branched off from that perimeter one. Some led down lower on the perimeter staircase, like a shortcut. Others led out into empty air, stopping at a single door floating in space. Still more were in motion, swinging back and forth on a slow, steady rhythm between different landings that contained more doors.

Leaning out over the railing at the top, Shana peered down the well-lit, wood-and-gold shaft.

She couldn’t see the bottom. It seemed to go on for eternity, miles and miles of stairs leading ever downwards.

“You sure you know how to find your way here?” Ben asked. He had to raise his voice – the staircases that moved had a heavy, wooden sound to them, almost like the swinging pendulum in a grandfather clock, but much louder. There were many of them, all swinging to their own rhythm, and so there were many loud booms sounding again and again.

“I know how to reach the Palace,” Maribelle said. “It was once the Crystal Palace, home of the Crystal Family. The Radiant King was able to remodel it, and make it his own, but he couldn’t move the pathways that lead into and out of it. There are three different doors that lead to the Palace, and I know the one that will get us into the safest, most out-of-the-way place where we’ll have the best chance of avoiding detection.”

Shana nodded. “Lead the way,” she said.

Maribelle started down the stairs, with the Dawn Riders in tow. The perimeter staircase was wide enough for four of them to walk alongside each other, but the group of six spread out so they could descend comfortably – and because none of the five teenagers could stop themselves from gawking at the grand, impossible space around them. It took them several minutes just to wind around to the other side of the cylinder from where they’d started, and they’d only descended about fifty feet.

“Hey, so…” Ben started. “How far to our exit?”

“Do you have to be so impatient?” Kathryn asked. “We’ll get there when we get there.”

“I’m just wondering,” Ben said. “This is a big place. And it doesn’t look like there’s anywhere to get a meal or to take a nap or something like that.”

Maribelle chuckled. “It won’t be that far,” she said. “It’s a bit of a ways, but you hopefully won’t feel the need for a nap or a snack before we get there.”

“That’s so vague,” Ben mumbled.

“T-try and focus on the mission,” Rae said, her voice surprisingly strong, like she was fighting her very hardest to stay focused and positive. Her voice still wavered now and then, and she was easy to frighten, but Shana was so proud of how far her shy, self-conscious friend had come.

“We’re going to be just fine,” Shana said, smiling. Altair hopped up into her arms, and she lifted him high so everyone could see his cheerful blue glow. “Altair knows it, and he’s right about everything!” She hugged him tight.

“Don’t worry about how long it takes,” Shias said. “Spend the time going over our training. We only had so long to practice, so keep visualizing things in your head. Go over our tactical options. Remember the code words we decided on. There are a lot of useful ways to spend a long journey.”

That reminder from Shias got Shana to go quiet. There were a lot of ideas, and they’d practiced several different options in order to account for a number of possibilities. Maribelle was very helpful, informing the team of the traits of all of the King’s Royal Guard. How Maribelle knew so much about them, Shana had no idea, but it was tremendously useful information… even if it was also rather frightening.

There were ten total Royal Guards to the Radiant King. When Shana and the others had been there, they’d only seen six. That wasn’t too surprising – the Palace was a big place, and each Royal Guard had their own individual task besides guarding the King. Many of them performed research on specific subjects, expanding the King’s wealth of knowledge. Some were assigned to guard specific access points to the Palace, serving as a perimeter guard and early warning system. Most times, there were only three Royal Guards posted in the throne room. Many of them, outside of their specific duties, had a rotating patrol throughout the vast halls of the Palace. Seeing six of them all standing at attention like Shana had was a rare thing.

Still, once the fighting starts – which is essentially inevitable – all of the Guards will come running. Speed is our best friend.

Shana wasn’t confident in her speed. Sure, she was fast on the obstacle course, and plenty energetic.

But she wasn’t a quick thinker. She didn’t have “combat instincts” that Caleb and Shias talked about so much. And despite their training, Shana definitely hadn’t been turned into a fighter.

I’m just a girl with a dog. A great dog, but he’s still so small. Our role is support and assistance, so we’re not expected to fight, but… that’s still dangerous. And I have to be aware of so much, and I have to make the right choices at the right times. Shias is a great leader. Maribelle, too. Our practices were so good. But…

I’m still just me. I’m not fast. And I completely freaked out when we fought the spider Summon. I mean, that’s mainly because I’m terrified of spiders, but… what if I freeze up again? What if Neith is there again with her spider? Or what if I just can’t handle it? Annabelle’s counting on me, and I love stories where determination is the greatest weapon someone has, and the persistent good guys always come out victorious in the end.

But this is real life. Am I good enough for the real thing?

“Yo,” Kathryn said, poking Shana in the ribs. Shana yelped, leaping away, clutching her sides protectively. Kathryn grinned. “Cheer up. You’re the smile I count on.”

Shana laughed, shaking her head. “Well thanks. I’ll try harder.”

“What’s up?” Kathryn asked.

“Just pre-battle jitters, I guess,” Shana said. “I know we’ve trained. I know we’re prepared. I know we’re pretty great. But… we’re up against an enemy more powerful than us, no matter how we try to spin it. It’s scary. And… I’m not a fighter.”

“Neither is Ben,” Kathryn said, jabbing a thumb over her shoulder to point at the gangly boy. “And look how well he’s doing. Don’t worry about not being able to fight. When things get rough, it’s my job to protect you. And I won’t let you down.” She leaned in close, whispering. “Plus, I’ve got Shias and Rae and Maribelle helping me protect you. So I like my chances.”

Shana giggled. “You’ve got a point. I’m glad I have all of you watching over me.”

Their descent continued on, with occasional scattered conversations here and there. Shana talked to Kathryn for a bit. Kathryn and Ben annoyed each other for a bit. Shias and Rae had brief, quiet exchanges now and then. Up front, Maribelle frequently laughed at her companions, or interjected briefly into a conversation here or there.

Finally, several hundreds of feet down, Maribelle led them onto a branching staircase. It descended much more steeply than the primary winding perimeter stairs, and there were no railings keeping them from dropping off into the unending abyss below. Carefully they trod, one step at a time, until they arrived at a small wooden landing with a single door.

“This is our entrance,” Maribelle said, gripping the doorknob but not opening the door just yet. “It leads to a storage closet next to the servant’s baths. Since there aren’t any servants in the Palace anymore, it should be completely empty. But tread carefully. Anything could happen, and I haven’t been here or dealt with the Radiance in a very long time.”

“We’re ready,” Shias said. The rest of the group nodded. Shana looked down at Altair, sharing a knowing look with him for comfort and encouragement.

And then they entered the Palace.

“Oh, yeah, they really haven’t been down here in a long time,” Kathryn said, stumbling through the dusty miscellanea of the closet. There didn’t seem to be any lights – so much for the “Radiant” in the Palace’s new name – but that actually gave Shana a better look at what the Palace had once been.

The walls hadn’t been covered over with the golden brightness the Radiant King favored. They were a pale blue crystal, glowing gently with their own faint light.

It was beautiful and calming. Nothing like the exaggerated, fake splendor of the rest of the Palace.

“Before we get to the rest, let me protect your eyes,” Maribelle said. One by one, she passed a glowing hand over each of the teen’s eyes. Shana didn’t notice anything, but she trusted Maribelle.

When she opened the door out into the baths, that’s when Shana realized what Maribelle had done.

This was much better than sunglasses. Standing in the bright, golden room, Shana’s eyes immediately adjusted, filtering out the intense glare and shine, without reducing any of the color quality or limiting her ability to see properly.

The baths were empty, which was a relief for more than one reason. Shana was surprised at the style, as she’d been at the Share House – before then, she’d never seen or entered a public bath before. These baths, despite being for servants, were lavish, far more so than the simple offerings of the Share House. There was tons of space, and shelves on the wall had a variety of soaps and aromatics. Above was a glass sunroof, letting in the obnoxiously nonsensical glare of the outside.

“Looks like we’re clear so far,” Maribelle said.

“Shana, Ben, you know what to do from here,” Shias said.

Shana and Ben both nodded. Ben split off into a second Ben, and that second Ben blinked ahead, down the long hallway leading out of the empty bath.

“Altair, recon,” Shana said, urging her little dog forward. He trotted along after the second Ben, wagging his tail as he went. Both stopped at the end of the hall, looking left and right. Both paths were clear, and the second Ben went right, while Altair went left, and the main group of six began to follow.

“The right’s a dead-end,” Ben said, his doppelganger returning to him and then vanishing.

“Left leads to an open room and a staircase,” Shana said.

“Is there a courtyard?” Maribelle asked. “And an apple tree?”

Shana nodded, seeing through Altair’s eyes while Kathryn led her through the hallway.

“Then that’s where we want to be,” Maribelle said. “We’ll go up, until we reach an enclosed bridge. That’s the path to the main building.”

In the courtyard, Ben split off two doppelgangers who Blinked away, checking out hallways and staircases carefully, the way Maribelle had trained him. It hadn’t been easy for Ben to calm himself down, but he had managed, and the other Bens moved more stealthily than the boy had ever moved in his life.

Up the stairs they went, and things became very familiar to Shana. The open rooms, the wide staircases with gaps between each step that made it impossible to hide, the strange featurelessness of everything – no paintings, no statues, no furniture.

If this is the headquarters of a hero who’s going to save the universe, then I’m a hippopotamus.

They climbed three floors, without a single sighting of anyone other than them. That wasn’t terribly surprising – the King had, as far as Maribelle knew, a total of only forty agents. The Palace was large enough to house tens of thousands, and for parties and festivals often hosted as many as one hundred thousand without ever feeling crowded.

Ever since the King had moved in, things had gotten awfully empty, and awfully lonely.

Seven floors up, they found the enclosed bridge that would take them to the main building of the palace. Again Shana was awed by the brief sights outside. The Palace floated in a gleaming void, and the enormity of it was staggering, even when Shana only saw glimpses of parts of each building.

The enclosed bridge was one of their biggest obstacles. For the entire time crossing it, they’d be completely vulnerable. There was nowhere to hide, and most of the enclosure was glass, meaning people above them could see them if they chanced a look.

Ben blinked a doppelganger ahead, while the rest of them hunkered down near the entrance to the bridge, taking great care to look up, down, and around for even the slightest hint of a watching face.

“It really looks clear,” Ben said.

Maribelle nodded. “Let’s go,” she said. “Don’t run unless we’re spotted. A steady pace is less conspicuous than fast-moving individuals.”

Across the bridge the six went. Ben left a doppelganger behind to keep an eye on their rear, while Altair and another Ben watched the halls ahead of them.

They reached the end of the bridge, and the main building, still undetected.

I know Maribelle said this was very possible, but… I still feel so on edge. Every step we take, every time we turn a corner, I expect someone to be there, to surprise us, to attack us.

Void did that when we first came here. He came out of nowhere. I know we’re more prepared now, but… this is freaking me out.

Even though I don’t want to fight, I’d prefer a fight over this uncertainty. I feel like I’m just waiting to be spotted, and I don’t like it.

They had to wind through several narrower corridors, taking their time to check each corner and alcove carefully. Finally, they reached a new courtyard, and a new set of stairs. Now Shana really did recognize things. An open atrium with twelve halls branching off from it. A white tree with golden apples occupied the center. On both ends of the atrium there were two sets of stairs, one leading up, the other down.

“This is where we were when we were captured,” Shana said in a whisper. Altair trotted up the stairs at the far end of the atrium, carefully looking around and seeing no one.

“We just keep going up,” Maribelle said. With the atrium sufficiently scouted, the group crossed to the far stairs and climbed. “There are stairs outside, but we’ll want to stay away from those. It’ll take longer, but that’s okay.”

Shana was surprised at the difference in this visit to the Palace. The first time, Rae especially had been struggling with all the stairs, but even Shana and Kathryn had gotten winded.

Now, it seemed easy. Shana wasn’t tired or worn out in the slightest, and it gave her a small spark of hope that they had already come so far.

They reached another atrium after quite a few floors, following Maribelle’s lead around a winding hallway and up a new flight of stairs.

“We’re getting close, aren’t we?” Shana asked. She stopped at a window, gazing out at the shimmering void. The main building wasn’t any taller than the others, so judging by what Shana could see, they only had two more floors to the throne room.

“Just one more atrium,” Maribelle said. “Right – ”

“Stop,” Ben said suddenly, his voice a low whisper. His eyes were wide. “I… I spotted one.”

Shana called Altair back to her side, her heart pounding in her chest.

“Just one?” Shias asked.

Ben nodded. “We saw her last time,” he said. “She’s the mean-looking lady with silver hair.”

“Platina,” Maribelle said, her eyes flashing. “She’s one of their most skilled warriors. Where is she? Did she see you?”

Ben shook his head. “I’m watching her, but she’s looking the other way. She’s in the next atrium, right around the corner.”

“Is she moving?” Shias asked.

Ben shook his head. “She was, but… she stopped. She’s just standing in the center of the atrium. She’s… it looks like she’s talking to the tree.”

Shana blinked. “Wait, what?”

“Talking to the tree?” Kathryn asked.

Ben nodded. “I can’t hear her. I could try to get closer, but…”

“Don’t risk it,” Maribelle said. “Just keep watching her. We can take a longer path up. If she’s away from the throne room, that’s a good thing for us.”

“Altair, recon,” Shana said, urging Altair along the hallway that Maribelle indicated. The group crept along after him, avoiding any halls that attached to the atrium where Platina was. Up a side stairway they went, and now they only had one more floor to go. Shana was torn between excitement at reaching their goal, and total, near-crippling, fear. Platina was so close. As soon as fighting started – or if they were spotted by someone else before then – it would take mere seconds for Platina to reach them. They weren’t really avoiding her, just delaying their confrontation with her for a brief time.

And then there was the pit of dread in Shana’s stomach. What if Annabelle wasn’t in the throne room? What if the King kept her in a prison somewhere? Or what if he had her in a grove around Grimoire again?

These would have been good things to think about before coming here, Shana.

“Stop,” Shana suddenly said, her heart catching in her throat. She kept Altair low and very still, watching through his eyes.

“Who is it?” Maribelle asked in a whisper.

“It’s…” Shana started, not believing what she was seeing. “Annabelle.”

“What?” Maribelle asked, her eyes wide.

“She’s sitting on the bottom of the stairs,” Shana said. “She’s just… sitting. There’s no one else with her.” Shana carefully, slowly, cast Altair’s gaze left, then right, then up. She didn’t see anyone else.

But there was Annabelle. Her bare feet kicked back and forth gently to some unheard rhythm. She leaned back on the stairs, tilting her head back to look up at the ceiling, while her long mass of red hair tumbled down behind her.

She’s looking up. Is it a signal? Does she know we’re here? But I don’t see anything above. That’s… the staircase to the throne room, right? But there’s no one watching her. Is this our chance? Or…

“It’s got to be a trap,” Shias asked. “This is too convenient.”

“It’s not too strange,” Maribelle said. Her voice was taut, and clearly she was struggling to contain her emotions.

How long has it been since she saw her sister? How long has she thought Annabelle was dead?

How in the world can she possibly contain herself?

“What do we do?” Ben asked. “I don’t think Platina’s gonna talk to that tree forever.”

“Are you sure there’s no one watching her?” Shias asked Shana.

Shana nodded. “As sure as I can be,” she said. “I can’t see through walls, and I don’t know if any of them can turn invisible, but… I can’t see anyone. And I have a pretty good view of the place.”

“We could just grab her and run, right?” Ben asked. “I can Blink to her and then carry her away.”

“It’s too easy,” Shias said. His pen Talisman was in his hand, and he was gripping it tightly enough that his knuckles turned white. “Let’s watch a little longer.”

Maribelle stared at Shias, a complex sequence of emotions crossing her face. “I…” she started.

Shana nodded. “You should go,” she said.

Shias stared at his sister, eyes wide in shock. “Are you serious?” he asked.

Shana nodded. “You’re her sister,” she said to Maribelle. “We trained for this, right? Let’s run to her, take her, and get out of here. You know the way.”

“I…” Maribelle started again, staring at her hands. They were shaking. “After all this time… she’s really…” She looked at Shana, desperation clear in her gaze. “What’s she doing?”

“She’s just sitting,” Shana said. “Her feet are kicking back and forth, and she’s got her head back, staring at the ceiling.”

“The longer we sit here, the more likely it is someone shows up,” Kathryn said. “I think we should just go for it.”

“Kicking her feet…” Maribelle said softly, closing her eyes. “Looking at the ceiling…” She opened her eyes, pain clear in her expression. “It’s a trap.”

“How do you know?” Shana asked.

“It’s a signal,” Maribelle said. “She’s letting us know, as carefully as she can, that someone’s watching her. Shana, what’s the pattern of her leg kicking?”

Shana watched through Altair for several long moments. “She kicks left twice, right once, left once, right twice, and then back to the start.”

Maribelle nodded. Her breathing had gotten faster, and she looked so terribly conflicted that Shana’s heart ached. “It’s a signal our mother taught us,” Maribelle said. “When we can’t talk, it’s how we let others know to…” her voice caught for a moment, “to stay away.”

“We can’t do that!” Kathryn insisted.

“We trained for this,” Shana said. “We prepared for this. We know what we’re up against. We can’t just run away now.”

“R-right,” Rae said, nodding several times.

“Platina’s still talking to the tree,” Ben said. “So if we’re fast, there’s still a chance we can avoid dealing with her.”

Maribelle looked towards the hallway that led to Annabelle, and then looked back, her eyes resting on Shias.

Shias held her gaze for a long time, then sighed. “We knew we’d walk into a fight,” he said. “Our plans are focused on fighting for an escape. We can still do that. I don’t…” he shook his head, “I don’t see how this changes our plan. Trap or no trap, I think we’re prepared for this.” He looked at Ben. “Get ready to make as many other yous as possible, and spread them all over the place.” To Kathryn and Rae: “Get ready to fight. Brutus is our best bet to hold the stairs. Kathryn, keep any enemies off-balance.” To Shana and Maribelle: “You get Annabelle. Protect her, guide her, see if she can warp us out of here.” Shias nodded. “When you’re ready.”

Ben nodded, a smirk on his face. “I’ve been looking forward to being in a million places at once.”

Kathryn nodded. “Let’s save this girl.”

Rae nodded, holding up her Talisman. “W-we’re ready to g-go.”

Shana nodded. “We won’t let her down.”

Maribelle nodded. “I’m ready.”

Shias pointed to the hallway. “Let’s go. Be fast, be smart, and don’t get hurt.”

Maribelle was almost frantic in racing out towards the stairs, all the tension and emotion she’d been containing bursting out of her. Shana raced after her, with her brother and friends close around her.

This was it. Trap or no trap, they were going to save Annabelle.

It was time for Shana to fulfill her promise.


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