Richard had followed Vanessa out of the forest trailing along the mountainside for a while. As he rode Thunder he took in the scenery before him. The midday sun rising to its peak, hitting the river’s blue waters with its golden rays. He watched as the water moved, its surface sparkling. Long strands of grass carpeted the land before him. It looked so peaceful, something he wasn’t used to.
Looking to his right he could see Vanessa smirking at him. “Not bad, huh?” She asked, pulling her mare’s reins to slow her down to a trot.
Richard only nodded in reply. He very rarely ventured far from the village or his mountain home, clearing his face of emotion he asked. “So where’s this hideout of yours?”
Giggling, Vanessa waved her hand at him. “It’s not far now.” Nudging her horse’s side she directed her towards the mountains.
Richard watched her as she made her way towards a cave-like opening, it was barely noticeable under the long vines that grew up the mountainside, their olive-green leaves hiding the rough brown rocks below in a long wavy curtain.
Dismounting her horse, Vanessa pushed the vines aside allowing Richard a clear vision of the gaping cave opening behind. Sliding off Thunder’s back Richard walked up to the opening, his black stallion being led by the rope tied to his muzzle.
“Leave the horses out here, they’ll be fine,” Vanessa instructed as she slipped behind the creepers, her figure disappearing into the darkness.
Walking through the dangling plants, Richard followed Vanessa’s cloaked form as she walked down the dark hall, the only light sores coming from the small gaps between the dangling vegetation behind them, small but bright blades of yellow light slicing through the dusky air.
Small clicking and grinding sounds could be heard up ahead. A slight orange glow appeared burning the torch Vanessa had lit. Waving her hand at him she ran down the narrow hall.
Following after her, Richard took note it wasn’t that much different from his home, the walls lined with torches not yet lit, though from the dim light he could just make out the small shine of damp moss along the walls.
Returning his attention to Vanessa, he made his way over to her as she opened the wooden door she had been standing next to. Golden light poured into the dark hallway as Vanessa walked into the room, Richard was quick to follow after her.
Adjusting to the light Richard took note of everything in the room, it wasn’t like anything he had ever seen before. Weapons he hadn’t even known about lined the walls on well-made shelves, desks were covered in books and paperwork. Looking to the far right of the room he studied the fireplace that would normally be used for weapon making in an armory. Many other tools and stone surfaces were round the fireplace, though Richard didn’t look at them long as his attention was drawn to the young man working.
Quietly standing there Richard watched as the young man took the weapon he was working on out of the blazing fire with long pincer-like tools, dunking it into a large bucket of water close by, hot clouds of steam rising from the water. As far as Richard could see those weapons were nothing he had ever worked with before. It had a very visible place for a handle, but the blades curled inwardly into a nasty blade.
“Mikel!” Vanessa called, waving her hand at the boy, trying to get his attention.
The young man removed the weapons from the water trough then looked up towards the others, once placing them on the table before him, “Oh, hey sis.” Walking over to one of the shelves near his workplace he grabbed black wrappings. “What brings you guys here?”
“We have something we would like you to take a look at.” Vanessa moved her hand towards Richard who handed her the Gem. It had been about a week since he had taken it, and since that time its color had begun to change even more. It wasn’t a clear cold blue anymore, its center was a blood-red with flickering flames of orange swirling within. It had completely changed color over a few days.
As if he was in a trance Mikel walked around his table, removing the Gem from Vanessa’s hand. “This looks just like one of the Magical Gems from the Lost Kingdom.” Moving it around towards the light Mikel watched as its color changed to a darker red. “How did you find this?” He turned back to Richard.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.” Richard explained, “The King had one of his men steal it.”
“How did the King find out about it?” Mikel asked, running his gloved hand through his hair.
Richard shrugged, “There could be many ways, there are books about them and stories about their power starting wars.”
“King Damien must have been looking for this for years.” Vanessa exclaimed, her green eyes full of worry, “This could be the reason behind him wanted to take the throne.”
Richard sighed, trying to put the pieces together, “Maybe, but there’s something else worrying me, over the time I’ve had it it’s been changing in color, it used to be a clear blue, but now, as you can see it looks like the center of a volcano about to erupt.
“Hmm, that is interesting.” Mikel walked around, his eyes never leaving the precious item in his hands.
“Maybe a buildup of power?” Vanessa asked, looking from Richard to Mikel, “Do you know what it’s capable of doing?”
Shaking his head, Mikel handed the Gem back to Richard. “No one can know for sure. I don’t know much about these Jewels, all I know is that you can never get two of the same, each one is different, so if I’m correct each one should activate with a different command.” Looking down at Richard’s hands Mikel scratched his chin. “This one seems to react to flames, maybe try leaving it near a fire for a while.” Continuing to rub his chin he hummed to himself.
Placing the item back in his pouch Richard looked towards Mikel, “Is there anything else you know?” He had hoped he would get more answers, but these Gems truly were a mystery.
Mikel shook his head, “Not much, the only other suspicion I have is that it connects to a bloodline, this isn’t proven or anything. I’m just thinking back on the old legends I’ve heard.”
Richard watched as Vanessa moved to a shelf removing a brown book, its cover worn down and the title could hardly be seen. Offering the book to him Richard moved over to one of the tables flipping through the book's pages until he came across what he was looking for.
Exhaling he began to read.
Legend of the old Kingdom
The old Kingdom use to be split into many, each section having its purpose. They used to be peaceful when one of their rulers became greedy. His name was Haden, he was a powerful king and well respected. Before he became power-hungry he and the other six rulers discovered magical Gems that granted great power. No one knows where they come from and how they came to be, or precisely how many Gems there were.
It was about a year after the seven rulers discovered the Gems when Haden became envious of the others different powers. Demanding to the other rulers he should have the other Gems, Haden was outraged when they refused, and threatened to take he's away.
Refusing to listen to their warning Haden declared war. It lasted for two years, each kingdom losing many and gaining no ground.
The six rulers coming to an agreement, sending their Gems to other kingdoms far away, where no one knew of their power.
What happened to the other rulers after that, and the fate of their kingdom is yet to be discovered.”
Richard finished, closing the book. Turning to the others he shook his head. “This still doesn’t tell us how to control its power, or how to activate it.”
“No, but we now have a rough count of how many Gems there are out there.” Vanessa pointed out, placing a hand on Richard’s shoulder. Smiling at him she took the book back, placing it on the shelf. “This also means it’s not a bloodline thing, maybe.”
“Sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Things like these Gems are meant to be kept a secret.” Mikel laughed, “If everyone knew how they worked, well the six Kingdoms would be at war with one another all the time.”
Richard sighed, “You may be right, but that won’t stop Damien. He is after them and either he knows how they work already or, he will find a way.” Removing the now red Gem from his pouch he held it up. “Figuring out how to use this could be what tips the scale. It’s what will make the difference to taking back the throne or not.”
Removing her gloves Vanessa took a long look in Richard’s direction, “Richard, you can still avenge your family’s death, even without added power.”
Pocketing the Gem Richard nodded to Mikel and Vanessa, “I know,” turning to the door he mumbled. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t loath that man for what he did, I will end him if it’s the last thing I do.”
“Richard, wait!” Was the last thing he heard before walking down the dark hall, he knew if he stayed Vanessa would try to change his mind like every other time he spoke of his plans with her…It wasn’t her fault, but he had to do this, for himself and the sake of their Kingdom. With a rightful heir to the throne found and safe, there wasn’t any reason to put off his plans.