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“Grace?” LaCroiux’s voice echoed in my head. It drifted from ear to ear as though it passed through me.

It was pitch black, not a glimmer of light nor hope. I was Sorcerer LaCroiux’s prisoner. I felt a tingling in my body and numbness as my legs were trapped up underneath me. My arms were bound tightly behind my back. My eyes were open, but useless in this prison. I was blind. Fear began to creep its way into my heart.

Where was Mecca? What had happened to my friend? I tried to call to him, but something blocked the sound. It was as though a cloth covered my mouth. There was nothing at all, like something was absorbing it. With my hands bound, I wasn’t able to feel what covered my mouth. My lips felt like they were sewn together.

Mecca! I screamed using telepathy. No reply.

Delza! I waited impatiently for any sign from them, but no one answered.

I was all alone. LaCroiux had made sure of that. His torture for me would be solitude. No one would find me here. No Elves would venture into the Deadly Spray Forest…if that’s where I was now. LaCroiux could have taken me anywhere.

My mind was overrun with questions.

 Where am I?

Why had LaCroiux returned?

Why did he keep me prisoner?

Where was he now?

My heart was pounding like a large drum, echoing off the walls and back to me. The walls must be closing in. They will crush me. Suddenly, a force hit my chest like a Troll’s punch slamming me against the wall. A cackling rose above the thundering of my heart.

I attempted to scream, “LaCroiux!” Nothing came out.

The thunder dulled, but was replaced with cold and stars. My stomach flipped as I rose from the ground and floated through the nighttime sky. Horror overtook me. I was weightless, tumbling uncontrollably through nowhere.

The laughter returned. A single dot of light grew before me, the light of a star exploding in space from a million miles away. It began to intensify and with it the sorcerer’s laughter grew stronger and louder…the sound of victory. A brilliant flash burned my eyes, which were wide open. I was unable to close them, fixated upon the intense flame.

I screamed in pain as a wave of heat surged across my body. It felt as though my skin was burning away.

Then darkness returned.

I had never left LaCroiux’s prison. He was torturing me, turning my own mind and senses against me. No stars, no lights, just darkness and pain. My eyes still stung, legs numbed from the weight of my body pressing down upon them, wrists ached from the binds that tied them together.

I had but one last question. Why did I still live?

“That, my dear, is the question.” LaCroiux’s face emerged in the darkness, shadowed and frightening. His eyes were blazing like the sun.

The sorcerer waved his hand across my face. I was able to open my mouth again. He had removed the spell that had made me unable to speak.

“Set me free, LaCroiux!” I immediately demanded.

LaCroiux laughed. “I don’t think so, Commander Tallon. You see, you’re a key piece to my game.”

“What game?”

“I am playing a political game. You see, I am not completely happy with our current monarch,” LaCroiux said.

“Queen Merran? You think that you can replace her on the throne?”

“No, no, no. I am not the ruling type. I prefer to hide in the shadows, place someone else in charge and manipulate them to do my biding.” The sorcerer’s entire body transformed from the darkness as the nighttime sky returned. He walked before me like a constellation…a God.

“Cragon?” I whispered.

A smile beamed across his face. “Since the former king’s untimely departure from the throne, I have grown in my powers. I have used that time to enhance them, and perfect them. Now, I am far more powerful than Cragon Cadieux…this time I will rule through him.”

“But the people of Mistasia have their queen!” I shouted in disgust.

“Ah, ah, ah. It would be unwise to speak that way to your new king.” LaCroiux slowly waved his fingers in front of my face. I felt my lips tighten and close. He had recast the spell to quiet me. “Grace, the people of Mistasia have no right to decide who is to be their ruler. It is to be decided by whoever is strong enough to claim the throne.”

I struggled to free myself, when he pushed me against the wall.

“You were a key acquisition in this plan. Now that I have you, it is time to proceed with the last phase. You will love this part too because it involves someone you hold very dear.”

Three figures began to form in the darkness beyond LaCroiux. Fear struck me when I recognized their faces.

“Yes, Phillip Harper and the Whizzenmog twins. I intend to bring them back to Mistasia…using you as bait and then trap them here with you…forever.”

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