I awoke with a start lying on a couch in the middle of a large library. This one had to be located inside a mansion-type structure. The ceiling went straight upward for at least three stories. A balcony jutted out into the room halfway up the wall on the one side, a vacant area amid bookshelves.
I sat up and surveyed my surroundings. I’d seen this place before, maybe in some vague recollection, but it was definitely familiar.
The sun was high in the sky and glinted off dull brass plaques attached to the fireplace. A section of the plaque was so antique the wording had burned off, except for a few that struck a chord with me:
Chandelor Knight and the Knights Foundation.
I jumped back, my heart racing. I unconsciously glanced around checking the room for hidden cameras. If this was the Knights Foundation, I definitely knew someone was watching me.
The library doors were locked. I figured as much. These people were nothing if not thorough. I wondered where Nick was, but I knew I couldn’t worry about him. All I could do was save myself. I eyed the second story balcony and contemplated the easiest way to scale the wall.
The bookshelves were old and rotting and probably wouldn’t support my weight. After much thought, I decided to tie ripped strips of the strong tapestry curtains together and fashion them onto a three-pronged candlestick which I painstakingly bent into a claw.
I’d used my MacGyver-like thinking to come up with this plan. I thought it was pretty inventive. Before I could even throw my homemade grappling hook someone appeared on the balcony. She was a beautiful black woman with a sour expression painting her face. I could immediately tell she was not someone who smiled a lot. Her eyes were filled with a rage that was currently all centered on me. Apparently, escaping capture was not something they held in high regard.
“I could advise you that your current course of action is incorrect but then again, I do so love watching people suffer.”
My eyes widened at her remark. I could tell she was serious. I didn’t recognize her so I knew she was either wearing a disguise or was an enemy I had yet to meet.
“I do give you points for inventiveness, though.” She stared down at the metal claw I had fashioned. “Yes, very ingenious indeed. It’s no wonder the council wants to recruit you.”
The woman’s cryptic comment had me wondering what the Foundation was up to. I still remained baffled at how they had transported me here in the first place. They weren’t known for their supernatural abilities. I knew that once I discovered their secret, I’d be one step closer to breaking free from their hold.
The woman’s cold eyes were nearly violet and her skin the color of soft mocha. She was a visual combination of fire and ice. Not to mention she was freakishly scary.
It took me a moment to realize she wasn’t standing at the balcony any longer. She had disappeared. This was my chance to escape. I darted to the nearest bookshelf and began checking it for loose connection. I switched to the next one and when my search revealed nothing.
As I made my way around the room, I was getting frustrated. I’d never seen a spooky mansion that didn’t have a secret passageway or two. In the end the only place I hadn’t searched was the fireplace. I sat on the nearest chair and noticed its feet were bolted to the floor. That was very odd. I jumped up and took a second look at the fireplace.
A chain hung on the right side that didn’t seem to be attached to anything inside the fireplace. I pulled on the chain and watched the reaction inside the room. The chair with the bolted legs fell backward through a sort of trapdoor in the floor. It would be an effective way to eliminate someone if their intention was death.
I stared down the hole and saw what looked like water. Could there be an underground cavern beneath the mansion? A noise came from the doorway and the mocha skinned woman peeked inside. Her eyes were dramatically painted with kohl liner and the look reminded me of an Egyptian queen. She probably had a bit of Egyptian in her genes somewhere.
“I see you’ve done a bit of redecorating,” she said.
I looked back into the room and winced. Books were thrown everywhere.
“Am I a prisoner here?” I asked trying to remain positive.
“That depends on your level of participation and cooperation,” she said.
“Participation in what?”
“If you successfully help us locate Angela Hastings and John Holland, we’ll be generous in your sentence.”
“Sentence? That sounds like I’m under arrest.”
“In a manner of speaking, you are. You’re here for your own protection. Nick is beyond saving. The enemy has already captured him.”
I felt like I’d woken up in a novel, one I’d forgotten to read. This woman was unknown to me. She kind of reminded me of Asia Mott, but she was a part of a different series entirely. She shouldn’t be in my Legacy Universe.
I tried not to feel defeated, but Nick was gone and I was sitting inside the library of what looked like the Knights Foundation. My heart was hammering in my chest like a jackhammer. For the first time, I couldn’t anticipate my adversary’s moves, and that knowledge was damn scary.
“What are you planning on doing to me,” I asked.
“You mean besides ring your pretty little neck?” The woman with mocha skin chuckled. “I’m part of a group that is here to protect you. The time for your coming has been predicted. We brought you here, into your own world, as a way to test you. We had no idea you’d literally take control of the simulation.”
“I don’t understand. Why did you bring Nick into my world?”
She looked at me straight in the eye and smiled. “We didn’t… you did. Quite frankly, we didn’t know you possessed such power. It was a nice surprise. It will make our mission quite a bit easier.”
“Mission?” I squeaked. “What mission?”
“You’ve been tested for years. We’ve been preparing you since your birth to help us fight and win the interdimensional war.
I tried not to smile. The woman must be crazy. I must have just jumped into Psycho Land or someone had let the insane people out of the asylum.
“I understand how this sounds,” she said.
“Really? Because from where I’m standing that statement is a bit out there. Interdimensional war? Are we talking between parallel Earths or are you just going through some sort of worm hole?”
I was only joking but the woman took my question quite seriously.
Before she could answer a spasm hit my brain without warning and the pain dropped me to my knees. I screamed. The Egyptian queen looked concerned but I wouldn’t seem to focus on anything. The pain was unbearable.
“What is happening to me?” I asked stumbling to the nearest couch. All I could think of was lying down and having Nick by my side to protect me. Because of the pain I couldn’t over think the situation. And that, in the end, was what saved me.
“Mala, we need to get her out of there now,” said the voice of someone I couldn’t see.
The commotion in the hallway was loud and noisy. The doors to the library burst open and Nick ran to my side. My eyes were watering making it hard to see him.
“If we don’t get her to the infirmary, she’s not going to make it,” Nick said. He seemed in his element bossing the big wigs around.
I could feel them carrying me on a gurney into another room, but I felt strangely detached from my body. The dark mahogany paneling flickered like a misaligned strip of film. The image switched from paneling to stark white walls. The people pushing the gurney morphed too. One moment they were Knights Foundation agents along with Mala and Nick. The next second they were ER doctors and nurses with extremely somber looks on their faces.
“She’s awake,” one nurse beside me said.
The gurney stopped abruptly below a shining white light inside a large room. The doctor’s face was hidden behind a protective mask.
“Does anyone know what’s happened to her?” the doctor asked.
The hallway with the dark paneled walls was gone, replaced by this new environment. I was so confused. I didn’t know what was happening to me.
“Car accident on I-57 near the rest area by mile marker 269,” a nurse said looking at the police report. “EMT brought her in. Get this, she somehow managed to call her brother through a broken cell phone from the mid-nineties that had no service. It was analog. They said even if the phone had worked, she would have never gotten a call through…”
That was the last bit of conversation I remembered before passing out.