Here’s your second peek at The Shadow Prison!
Tolen stood once again in the center of the Eighth arena, his empty stomach turning. He’d skipped dinner last night in the wake of his mounting destiny, and couldn’t bring himself to eat breakfast this morning. Incrah had passed him another piece of sugar tack as he’d led the way back to the arena, but Tolen had only rolled it from hand to hand until finally Incrah had taken it back with a sigh, and a you’re going to be sorry later kind of look. Jonas had been waiting for them at the door and informed him that he would be working with Took’rah, the animal guy, and Kyndras, the water lady this morning. What he hadn’t mentioned was that the door to the arena was going to stay wide open. Apparently, he was going to have an audience.
Since his arrival, at least a dozen people varying in age had walked in and sat along the rim of the eld. All of them kept talking behind their hands and glancing his way. He thought he understood why they were here. Incrah said the Dominants never left the citadel, that Tolen had drawn them here. The Dominants were legendary, so of course the members of this camp would be anxious to watch legends at work. It didn’t stop it from being uncomfortable, especially since he was more likely to make a fool of himself than a good impression.
He scuffed his shoes in the dirt and tried unsuccessfully to pretend he was alone. His stomach growled, cursing him for skipping breakfast. He glanced at his watch. It was just after six, the sun was barely skimming the top of the arena. How long would they keep him waiting? His shard gave an increasingly familiar tug and he glanced toward the door with unease, but he couldn’t see Macy anywhere in the small crowd of people pushing their way through the entrance, or among those already seated. The feeling remained even after Incrah came in, leading the two Dominants and their bodyguards, and closed the heavy door. He rolled his shoulders and hoped she was just somewhere nearby, not actually in the arena. He didn’t need the distraction.
Chills ran down Tolen’s back as he watched Kyndras lift her hands for silence. He felt all eyes turn toward them and stay there.
She stood there aged and stooped, yet filled with power and majesty. Her thick blue and white robes billowed out from her body, uttering in the breeze. Her silver hair hung in a long braid down her back that brushed the ground, her deep brown eyes full of dignity. “We have welcomed you here today to participate in this momentous occasion,” her voice showed her age—thick and scratchy, yet rm and loud. “You are allowed to observe, but you are to remain silent. This is an opportunity for you to learn by watchful care. If you disrupt these proceedings in any way, our Protectors will escort you out.”
The Dominants’ guards, their Protectors, glanced around the group and Tolen could sense the nervousness of the spectators. Tolen remembered Bastian saying Daedal Téloran, his father, had been a Protector of legend. Could any of these men have known him? As he surveyed their confident stance, their overall demeanor of power, he couldn’t help but feel a surge of pride for the man his father must have once been. A tiny flicker of hope filled his heart. Surely if his father had been this powerful once, it would take a lot for the Dark to break him. Then his mind pulled up the image of the broken, dying man on the floor in his nightmares, and completely snuffed the hope.
Kyndras snapped her fingers and Tolen’s attention returned to her. A short middle-aged man with long wispy gray hair rolled a barrel over next to her and stood it up. Tolen could hear sloshing from inside and his suspicions were confirmed when the man pried off the lid to show clear water inside before tapping the lid back on. Kyndras snapped again and another man, this one far younger, with piercing blue eyes and jet-black hair, stalked forward carrying a small wooden cage. Tolen couldn’t see what was inside, but the growling and hissing coming from it didn’t suggest a cuddly creature rested within. His sweating increased and his heart pumped louder.
Just pretend you’re alone… Just pretend… He swallowed back his nervousness and tried to think of this as just another video game with Dane. He would learn the moves and win the game. That’s all it was just a game. The creature hissed again and for a second his charade faltered. He stood on trembling legs and waited for it to begin.