I : Sacrificial
The cold wind whipped through shaking trees, scattering blood-hued leaves across the land. Against the gray sky, the birds swept past, heading for warmer winter's keep. Whistling coldly, the wind provided a bittersweet tune for the death of the summer, announcing the bland dawn to all.
Silence was broken as feet stirred the blanket of leaves spread wide across the cold ground. Heavy hooves crunched a path through the layer, heavy breathing causing leaves to drift astray. The horse, a black beauty covered in the traditional wear assigned for it's job, had three riders across it's back; two children, wrapped in a thick blanket, sat before a man, tall and silent, with his face hidden. Several more men, ahead, were led by the priest, all with faces concealed.
The kids- one female, one male- were barely awake, the girl's eyes barely able to stay open. It had been a long, cold, and weary night, as the blanket was pierced by the whistling wind. The boy, with his face buried against his sister's soft clothes, could be heard faintly snoring, which brought a faint joy to the girl's mind.
As they continued, Nia kept her eyes on the path, silently staring at the ground below. Before leaving she was instructed to never look up, nor to ask questions or say anything unless addressed, and smartly she kept the advice circulating in her head. Meanwhile she shifted her brother's position slightly, pulling the blanket tighter with bound hands.
"Big Sis..." The voice drifted out like the winds around Ain, the boy having been disturbed in his sleep, "Where are we now?"
Speaking in whisper, she responded, "Reaching the end of the woods, like where our village moves for the fishing season. I think we're going to a beach, Brother."
For a minute the two rode in silence, until the boy voiced a question, ever so quietly: "What color is the sky right now?"
"Seashell gray." The response came with a bit of laugh.
"Be quiet." The rider behind them hissed through his teeth, "Unless you want to loose your tongues."
"Good. Now keep your trap shut until we get there."
Mist had rolled up from the ocean, drowning the party in thick wetness as they came. Seagulls called loudly in time with the waves crashing below, providing a somber melody for the group.
"Oh..." Nia looked up for the first time in her trip, as the whole party came to a halt. "You wish you could see this, little Bro!"
Staring up breathless at the island that rose from the sea, Nia gazed upon the foggy castle. Sand-colored bricks, worn by the sun, stood strongly yet somehow blended with the rampant fog. The structure spanned four islands at best, the sides all being several hundred miles high; every square inch of the island was taken by the building, an impressive sight to be seen.
Though it's gates stood wide open, it occurred to Nia that it wasn't welcoming the group; no bridge led in through the front gates. Staring with her head at a tilt, she snapped to attention when the group began moving.
Reaching the edge of the beach, the men around the children began to move. Quite smartly, they did and said nothing, with Nia staring dully at the wet ground. She did let out a yelp when the blanket was suddenly snatched, but said nothing otherwise.
"Alley-oop!" The horse-rider suddenly pulled Ain from the black beauty, carrying him to a boat. Setting the child within, he walked back to the girl and came to a halt.
Staring at the ground, she saw his feet. Very slowly she raised her gaze to the masked face. "Yes, sir?"
"Get down and walk."
"..." With a faint glare, she began slowly sliding her way off the horse (it was hard to do with her hands all tied up) trying to avoid injury to the animal and herself. Halfway off, she was suddenly shoved off with a strong hand. Hitting the sand, she was greeted with a chorus of laughter.
"Up, girl, up." One of the masked men grabbed the back of her shirt and roughly pulled her upright. Giving her a shove at the boat, the party watched, smirking, as she stumbled headfirst into the boat.
"Be careful, child, you may puncture the boat with your head!"
"Oooh, why those..." Nia silently growled as she squirmed her way upright, sitting behind Ain.
"Big Sis, did you fall?"
"Hey! Shut up!" The men called from the shore, receiving holy blessings from the town Father. After cleared to bring the children to the castle, two of the men climbed into the boat and quickly cast off from shore.
In silence, Nia gazed up at the castle, as they began curving around the island's sides. Though the bricks were worn, everything was in one piece, which confused in her mind as to how old the castle could be. Plus, it seemed to her, that they all needed a backdoor, like some invited guests to a dinner.
"Keep your head down."
Reaching an alcove, they tied up the boat and pulled the children up onto the path. Standing close together, the two children were silent as their two companions relayed some plans.
"Get the sword." The more sinister man hissed at the other, who quickly took off across the wet cave. "Iea, come with me."
"Yes, sir." Two voices rang in unison.
"But Sis, I can't see..."
"Don't worry." She moved her bound hands and pinched free fingers against his sleeve, "Just follow me."
Led through the darkness to a massively tall tower, the kids both waited as the man from before came around with a sword. He had walked up to a row of statues blocking the door- unsheathing the sword, a massive play of lights appeared, and the statues slid to the sides.
"Wow..." The word breathlessly drifted out of Nia's mouth, softly drifting skyward.
"Yes, sir." Again the two voices responded, as the children both walked into the room. They stood in the center of the circular chamber, as the demonic-masked man came in behind them. There were no other doors to be seen, and up above them the stone walls seemed endless.
"Woah!" Both of the kids lurched forwards as the man pulled a switch, the floor beneath them beginning to move. Clinging together as best as they could, the children stood silent, not enjoying the ride.
"S..sis... what's moving?"
"The floor, don't worry, I've got you..." Nia tried to keep the boy still.
Coming to a halt, they were suddenly grabbed by the arms and were dragged out through the door. The room they had entered was impressive- different levels, set in the walls, held strange casket-like things, all made of dark stone and covered in pictographs. Unable to look about, Nia found herself hauled up, over a shoulder, to the top of a ladder. Being dragged once more, she focused on the path ahead.
One casket stood open, with glowing symbols dotting it's surface. Before she knew it, she was shoved in face-first, forcibly having her wrists shoved through a strange wooden block.
"No reason you infidels can't share, now is there?" The man roughly shoved Ain in beside him.
"Be careful with Ain, he can't see!" The girl scolded, looking back with a glare.
"Shut up, girl." The man untied the rope around the shaking boy's wrists, suddenly shoving his hand in the opposite hole of the block. "There we are, like good little siblings."
"Are you leaving us here?"
"It's for the village. Enjoy your sleep." The man suddenly swung the case shut as he turned to leave.
"Eh?" He paused, looking back. The casket looked closed, the symbols still glowing. "Must've been the doors."
He left, down the ladder, and back through the elevator, which left, not to return for another fifty years.
"Sis, where are we?" Ain, panicked, began pulling at his trapped arm feverishly.
"They tried to tomb us alive!" The girl huffed, wriggling her hand skillfully out of the block, "Hold on, let me get you out."
With one hand she unlocked her brother's wrist.
"Tomb us alive?" Ain stood upright, rubbing his sore wrist.
"Yeah, like they think we're dead or something! Hold on, I'm turning around."
Ain ducked, quite smartly, as the girl turned around. He rose back upright after she stopped moving. "What are you doing?"
A frying pan handle stuck out of the crack, not allowing the casket to close fully.
"Getting us out, of course." She turned the handle, causing the stone doors to open slightly. "I'm not about to starve to death, are you?"
"I don't think I'd like that myself..."
Slowly, Nia stuck the left side of her head against the door- the left side was the same side from which a large horn protruded, which Nia had carefully wedged in the crack, opening the door up slightly. Slowly moving so her horn pressed against the two sides, she managed to slide the block doors open enough for someone to pass through.
"I've got to push you out the door, okay?"
With much struggle, the two kids proceeded to squirm around inside, Ain eventually halfway in and halfway out. Pushing the door open as far as she could with her horn, Nia suddenly pushed him out the rest of the way with her foot.
"Ow..." He hit the floor, dust rising.
"Can you crawl a little to the right? I'll say when to stop."
Slowly, he crawled forward, waiting for the signal.
"How are you going to get out?"
"You brought it with?" A faint grin spread across the boy's face as he blindly stared ahead, his eyes concealed by thick cloth.
"Yep." Shoving the pan length-wise in the crack, she slowly removed her horn from it's placement, then sneaked out under the metal object. Grabbing the handle, when out, she gave it a sharp tug as the lid suddenly snapped shut. The glowing symbols faded for a minute, but came back into play after it somehow realized it's prisoners were gone. "I'm out now!"
Helping him to his feet, she glanced around the dark room. "This place looks terrible."
"Should I be glad I can't see?"
"Probably." Walking him to the ladder, she suddenly pulled her brother over a shoulder, "We're jumping, okay?"
She leapt off the edge, landing unsteadily on the floor below- wavering, she suddenly fell on her face, her brother lying across her.
"Sis? Sis? Are you okay?"
"Yeah..." She squeezed out from under him, looking around. "Let's find the door out of here."