Ugh! Sorry again guys, but I've been INSANELY busy, and I'm a little behind at the moment. Also, my Internet and I broke up D: but don't worry; we made up. AND WORST OF ALL, my laptop crashed when I was almost done, so I had to get a new one (laptop) and start over! HOWEVER I am resuming my normal writing schedule of practically all day, so yeah. And this wrote itself, so don't blame me for its...it-ness. Or shortness D:
As Kori walked down the tunnel, she found herself growing ever-worried. With each resonating step she took, she felt a slight tug in her heart, continuously growing stronger. The choking, smothering darkness crowded around her, filling her nose, her mouth, her eyes as she struggled through. Rachel and Gar were just behind her, but this was Kori's struggle. The darkness was only in her heart, she knew. What she didn't know was why, or what it was.
"Hey, are we going the right way?" Gar asked nervously.
"No. Let's turn around and go back," Rachel replied.
"There is a mark on the wall," Kori gently touched it, and could have sworn that she felt it warm. "Let us continue," she kept walking, and Rachel grew more jumpy with every step they took. This is most certainly not like her. I wonder what is—?
"Check it out!" Gar darted ahead and hefted aside a stone door to reveal a huge chamber full of twisted stone gargoyles, a pool of crystal water, an armchair, some falcons, a small table and chair, and a hole in the ceiling. Marks were etched into the walls; strange marks, like another language. Rachel began to mutter under her breath, stepping into the room and turning in slow circles. Kori followed her, as did Gar, but both were interested in different things. Gar rushed straight to the falcons while Kori investigated the pool. Curious, she dipped in a bare foot and was surprised when it did not touch bottom, but icy currents. Shivering, Kori pulled back her dripping leg and observed as Gar talked softly to the birds in their cages.
"What is the purpose of this?" Kori asked curiously. Gar looked at her with sad eyes.
"Whatever it is, these falcons haven't been fed for days. They're starving!" Kori hurried over and gasped. Branded into each bird's stomach was the royal seal; these birds had clearly been stolen from the imperial aviary!
"They were stolen from my family," she growled, clenching her powerful fists and looking at Rachel, who had stopped her turns and was standing completely rigid, her pallid face ashen with fear.
"Rae? What's wrong?" Gar asked. Rachel didn't even reprimand him for the nickname.
"Kori...these marks are in Azarathian. They're not exactly supporting Tamaran, either, or me."
"Then you mean...?"
"Yes. You have a spy in your castle."
Richard scowled, pausing again to listen, but Kori wasn't coming. He could feel a foul blackness slowly creeping into his soul with every move he made down the passage. It swept over him in waves, crashing and receding.
"We should turn around," he said, worried.
"Finally admitting I was right?" Karen asked with a smirk.
"No...worried Kori may have missed the turn," he replied evenly. Kole and Toni exchanged a knowing look. "What?"
"Oh, nothing," Toni said with a smile. Richard raised an eyebrow, and both girls burst into hysterical giggles. With a sigh, Richard resigned himself to simply sliding along the passage to lead the way back.
He would never understand girls.
Kori stared at Rachel in shock.
"I don't know."
"What am I missing here?" Gar asked cluelessly.
"Surely you must have some—!"
"Kori. All I know is that they are aware of my ancestry," Rachel replied. Kori gasped.
"You do not think...?
"It could be."
"I'm so totally lost!" Gar complained. Rachel rolled her eyes.
"It's obviously not him."
"...Should I be offended?"
"Kori!" Richard cried, bursting in.
"Richard! Oh it is terrible! There is a spy who knows of Rachel and—"
"That's it! I gotta know what's going on here!" Gar shouted.
"Sh!" Rachel, Kori, and Richard shushed him.
"No way!" Gar exploded.
"Garfield!" Rachel growled. "You will be quiet!"
"Whatever's goin' on in here, I don't like it," Vic pointed out. "Let's get back to the castle."
Richard shifted uncomfortably in Kori's unusually large room. Everyone was sitting around, waiting for Kori and Rachel to speak. Richard didn't know if this was the best idea, but agreed that these were the most trustworthy people he had met—other than Bruce and Alfred, of course. Kori slowly stood. The teens looked at her. There was no chatter, no whispered conversation, no hurried exchange of glances. All attention was on the princess. She took a deep breath.
"There is a spy inside the castle," she said. Now, everyone began to talk anxiously, turning to one another and voicing there opinions. "Please...if everyone would just...please be silent," Kori's attempts at reattaining peace were useless. Then Rachel stood.
"Quiet!" she shouted. Deafening silence fell over the room. "We know this because Trigon has spies everywhere, and knows that what he wants is here."
"What does he want?" Karen asked.
"His daughter," Rachel replied. Richard saw her shift uncomfortably, the only visible sign of nervousness he had ever seen in the girl. "Me."
"You're a princess?" Gar asked in shock. Rachel nodded, biting her lip. Richard rose and moved to stand by her, resting a hand on the Azarathian's shoulder.
"I hope everyone here understands the courage it took for her to come forward. Our trust is in you to stay silent. Not even Galfore may know," Richard said. Emotion raged in Gar's eyes.
"How come you knew?" he shouted, springing to his feet. He opened his mouth to continue, but Richard cut him off.
"Kori came to me and showed me a book, which is now safe in a secret location."
"You should have told me," Gar scowled, sitting back down and glaring. Richard followed his gaze to where his own hand was still on Rachel's shoulder.
"No we should not have," Kori corrected. "Because we did not have Rachel's consent. She did not even want me to know about her status.
"So how'd you find out?" this was Gar, again.
"Kori found a book," Richard repeated. Had Gar even heard the answer to the last question? Gar kept scowling, and Richard began to grow quite uncomfortable. Eventually, he shifted away from Rachel and towards Kori, almost instinctively seeking comfort from the red-haired beauty. Gar's gaze slackened and Richard absentmindedly wondered if the two events were connected, but chalked it up to coincidence.
"I don't want anyone to treat me differently," Rachel said firmly, ignoring Richard's former plight. "Act like you don't know, in any way you can. If not talking to me is what it takes, avoid me. I don't care, just don't treat me differently."
"No problem!" Gar told her with a grin.
Kori was walking with Rachel and Gar down one of the hallways, naturally between her ever-bickering friends. Currently, they were arguing about whether or not Gar could actually ask a girl to the ball. Also whether or not someone would actually ask Rachel. Kori sighed heavily as the banter continued, just as it had continued for the time it took to walk half of the castle.
"Come on, Rae. Everybody in Capital Castle knows nobody's gonna ask you."
"Don't count on that. And I don't know who you'd ask either; the unlucky girl would have to have no senses whatsoever!"
"I already have someone in mind."
"Who could you possibly ask? Nobody would be dumb enough to go with you!" Rachel jibed. Gar stopped and stepped around Kori, getting face-to-face with Rachel.
"Don't call Tara stupid, or I'll knock you against a wall," he threatened. Rachel blanched.
"Tara?" she whispered. After a moment, redness flowed to her face. "That's who you're asking? Tara? The girl with a knife pointed at me?" she shouted. Kori pulled them apart before Rachel could strangle the boy.
"Please, no more fighting!" she begged.
"Hey guys!" Tara came around the corner and shot Rachel a slight glare. Kori turned up her nose and Rachel's eyes narrowed. Gar, however, smiled and walked up to the girl.
"So...I hear there's a dance coming up."
"I thought you'd never ask!" Tara tackled Gar in a hug. Gar turned and shot a triumphant smile at the girls while they stated in in disbelief, anger, and hurt.
"Come on, Kori," Rachel growled. Kori looked down to see fires raging in her friend's eyes. "We're not wanted here," the two continued their walk down the hall, pausing when they saw Karen and Vic. "What is it with today and asking people to the dance?"
"Come on, Karen!" Vic begged. "I'm on my knees here!"
"No!" she snapped. "If you can come to me and actually ask me, than sure! But I am not anyone's favor!"
The girls kept walking, in time to see Toni slap Isaiah across the face. Hard.
"Wonder what he did," Rachel muttered. Kori stayed silent, unhappy at the discord caused by the ball.
"You selfish pig! I am never going to the ball with you!" Jenny's voice could be heard.
"Oh yes you are!" that was Wally's voice, followed by a yelp.
"Wallace! This isn't funny!" Rachel and Kori paused as Jenny screamed. "I don't care, I'm not going with you!" they darted down the hall, up a staircase, and onto the castle roof to see Wally leaning over the edge. Jenny was hanging in thin air, saved from falling only by Wally's hands around her wrists. Rachel chuckled while Kori darted over and grabbed Jenny, pulling the servant girl onto the roof. Jenny was even paler than normal.
"Jenny, what happened?" Kori asked. Jenny scowled at Wally.
"Sir Wanna-Be over there asked me to the ball. I said no five times before he threw me over the roof and said he'd drop me if I didn't say yes."
"Well I think you two make an adorable couple," Kori said with a knowing smile. Jenny's face was suddenly flooded with color as her eyes narrowed.
"...What?" she asked dangerously.
"You didn't fall. You have to go to the ball with him," Kori explained. Jenny thought for a moment, then screamed.
"I wish you had let me fall!" she growled at Kori before storming off the roof alone. Wally chuckled and chased her.
"Hey come on, Jen, don't be like that!"
"Well. That's one way to convince somebody to go to the ball," Rachel commented. Kori giggled and the two descended the stairs again.
I'm sooooo sorry it was so short, but I didn't think you guys deserved to wait any longer :( I'll update when I can.