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 Shadow's Lair

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PostSubject: Shadow's Lair   Sun 12 Nov - 14:24

The names are pronounced:

Ultima Valenhart: Uhl-Team-ah Vale-n-heart
Miseye Lyfe: My-sea-ah Life
Naeth Zelus: Nay-th Zell-us
Richard O'Connor: Rich-ARHD Oh-Conn-oar
Matthieu Allard: Maff-you Ahl-ard
Daniel Allard: Dan-yell Ahl-ard
Charlize Allard: Char-leese Ahl-ard

Ultima Valenhart had always been beautiful. Jet black hair falling down to her chin in layers. Skin smooth enough to rival a peach. A height that was not too tall and not too short, usually the same height as your average man. A figure that curved in all the right places. She was sure to draw any man’s attention. Meet any man’s eye with her own startling combination of black iris and red pupil. Perfection? Some men seemed to think so.
Ultima often did not find men attractive creatures she found them more amusing. Often, no matter on how she looked, they were attracted to her money and her power, with reason. Ultima Valenhart is The Ruler of The Underworld and Sorceress of The Damned. The most powerful woman alive. She, along with a man named Naeth Zelus, created The Underworld, a world resting beneath the crust of The Earth. A world many believed to be Hell, while never knowing that it truly existed.
The Underworld is far different from Hell.

Ultima sat, dressed in nothing but what she was born in, in a black room filled with candles, each candle representing the life of someone living in The Underworld, her own floating above her head. Ultima’s candle was different from the majority. Hers was not an orange flame gently burning down a white pillar of wax. Hers was a pillar of midnight blue wax, topped with a green flame, one of the few like it. The candle of an Immortal.
Opposite Ultima sat another woman, another Immortal. This woman had turquoise eyes and pink hair that was cut of jaggedly at the elbow. She did not sit unclothed, as Ultima did; she was dressed solely in live butterflies of a lilac hue. Her name was Miseye Lyfe, a Mystic who was unlucky enough to be plagued by prophetic dreams as a child. Dreams leading onto being able to see the future by closing her eyes while in contact with someone, or something.
“Foresight will be the end of you.” Ultima said, staring at the other woman. “For what have you brought me here? Here of all places.”
“You cannot screen yourself with Immortality forever, Ultima.” Miseye said with a broad smile.
“Do not banter with me, I have not the time. Why am I sat here, surrounded by all these accursed candles?” Ultima pressed sharply.
For an answer, Miseye reached up above her head and took hold of a candle that was larger than the ones surrounding it. Carefully, she brought it down and set it on the floor between Ultima and herself.
“Naeth found this candle here this morning and insisted that you must see it.” Miseye explained.
“Is it a newborn babe? A newborn babe that will become a legendary warrior?” Ultima’s voice was full of scorn. “If so, I do not need to know yet. Honor comes after battle.” Ultima began to rise from her crouch.
“Hold your seat!” Miseye demanded and Ultima hastily sat back down. “Do you truly believe that Naeth would call me to look at the candle of a newborn? Even he could tell this was important. It concerns a boy from The Surface World.”
“The Surface World?” Ultima questioned, receiving a nod. “The life forms up there live in ignorance of us and need something placed in front of them before they see it. Snuff his candle. I care not.”
“You will care, Ultima. Give me your hands.” Miseye reached out to take hold of Ultima’s hands and placed them onto the candle. “You and he are connected. He is in danger. She knows of him. She has seen his future. You must look!”
Ultima stared down at the candle, already feeling the warmth of it creeping up her bare arms. The warmth you would only feel if you were connected to someone else. Slowly she looked up to where Miseye had taken the candle from and saw, in shock, that her own candle was floating in a space neighbouring the space where the unknown boy’s was previously stationed. Slowly she looked back down at the candle under her hands.
“Let me see.” She agreed, and Miseye smiled, the Mystic pressing Ultima’s hands with her own. Slowly, bubbles of light rose from the candle, more and more emerging until they made a sphere of light that hovered in between the two women.
Inside the bubble was a moving image of two boys, one blonde and pretty, the other with dark hair and a face that would be considered ‘ordinary’. Both appeared to be sitting in a large room, filled with other people, writing.
“Is this the present?” Ultima inquired, peering at the two boys.
“It is.” Miseye answered, then pointed at the dark haired boy. “This is he. The pretty one need not concern you, so stop staring at he. Now open your awareness and I will alert your senses to his habitat.”
Ultima slowly closed her eyes and emptied her mind of all though, heightening all of her senses at the same time. I was not staring at he. He is not so pretty that I’d want… A sudden chill entered Ultima’s body, this being the reason for being sat in only her skin. Clothes would block the transmission of thoughts from one being to another. Images flashed through her head. A small town in the English countryside. A hill. A small house where the ground levelled off. Blackness. Her own mind again.
Ultima slowly opened her eyes to look at the sphere again. “How long do I have?” she asked, now feeling a strange kinship with the boy.
“One hour.” Miseye said. “One hour until he should get home, and when he does there will be a surprise waiting for him. Save him Ultima. You cannot know it yet, but The Underworld needs him. You need him.”
“How is he called?” Was Ultima’s final question.
“O’Connor. Richard O’Connor.” Was Miseye’s final answer.

Richard and his closet friend, Matthieu, both attended North Devon College in Barnstaple, where they were studying to gain grades in their A2s. Richard studied Law, English Literature, Psychology and Drama. Matthieu studied Law, English Literature and Language, Business and Economics and History.
Richard and Matthieu had become friends in secondary school, in a small town called Holsworthy, where they passed their GCSEs, Matthieu with more ease than Richard. Lucky git Richard thought everytime his mind reminisced about secondary school.
Matthieu Allard was lucky. Not just with being clever, but with his features as well. He was about five foot ten in height, blonde haired, hazel eyed and had a face that had inherited the description of ‘pretty-boy’. Although, he was not as lucky as his brother. No one was as handsome as Daniel Allard.
Also tall and blonde, but with blue eyes, Daniel had looks worthy of a movie star, and he knew it. Although he wasn’t a womaniser like Matthieu, he’d had the same girlfriend for a year now, while Matthieu had had three. At 20 years of age, Daniel was two years older than Richard and Matthieu.
Richard was almost a complete contrast to the Allard brothers. He was average height with green eyes. His hair was naturally brown, but he died it blue because his mum didn’t want him to. He, also, was not proud, he was considered quite shy anytime that he was not acting in Drama.
Unlike Matthieu, he was an only child and didn’t want any siblings, the age difference would be too large. When he was younger, he desperately wanted a little brother, someone he could bond with, or blame. He definitely didn’t want a sister.
“Don’t push me!” Matthieu suddenly yelled at another student, as they headed towards their bus.
“Calm down, Matt.” Richard grinned as they reached the doors. “The first years don’t deserve such a hard time. At least we get a coach today.”
“First years are a pain. Running around and screaming.” Matthieu replied, showing his bus card to the driver then walking down the coach to find a seat.
“You were one last year.” Richard said, flashing hi card, then taking the seat next to his friend. He would have preferred to have a seat alone, but, in the excitement of a coach arriving, almost all of the seats were taken.
“I wasn’t a hyperactive little twit though.” Matthieu reached into his bag, and emerged with a mars bar.

The journey from Barnstaple to Holsworthy was always long and tiresome, especially in a bus. The never changing scenery didn’t help. Your choices; stare at a hedge or a field outside, a village if you got lucky and looked at the right time, or stare the the seat in front of you. Some people read books on the bus, Richard got motion sickness so he didn’t dare try, and Matthieu occasionally read a magazine when he had no boasting to do. He had some now.
“…and then she gave me her phone number.” Matthieu finished, just as the coach exited Stibb Cross.
“All these years and you still gush the same words. It actually works?” Richard asked somewhat incredulously.
“You’d be surprised.” Matthieu replied simply.
“I’m amazed. Amazed you haven’t been slapped.” Richard said.
“Or jealous.” Matthieu smirked.
A small beeping from Matthieu’s pocket abruptly interrupted their conversation. His mobile phone. Most likely Jasmine texting to find out when their date is. Richard thought, quite nastily.
The look of horror that spread across Matthieu’s face as he read the message told Richard he was wrong. Even Matthieu wouldn’t look that horrified if a girl decided she didn’t like him as much anymore.
“Its…its from Charlize.” He said, finally.
“Your sister?!” Richard inquired. Charlize never contacted Matthieu. As far as twins go, they are not close at all.
Matthieu’s voice held no emotion as he replied. No horror or sadness to match his face. He just sounded confused and shocked.
“Daniel’s dead.”

Candles are souls, flames are life. When a candle burns out someone has died. Just died. Ceased to exist totally. Everyone has a candle, no matter where it is stored. Everyone also has a sand timer practically hovering over his or her head, unseen yet there, counting down the seconds of life left. There is no such thing as the afterlife, unless you are still needed.
Richard was not aware of this as he left the bus at Matthieu’s stop, North Road, instead of journeying onto Holsworthy Church, where he usually departed the bus.
Both boys, blonde and dark, were consumed by silence, as they had been for the remainder of the journey from Stibb Cross to Holsworthy.
“Whoa!” Richard had to grab Matthieu’s arm to stop him from walking out in front of a car. “Careful, Matt.”
“What does it matter?” Matthieu said, eyes downcast, even as they crossed the road. “I’ve lost my brother, Rick, and I know you can’t fathom what it feels like, you have no siblings in danger of death.”
“I matters that you’re still alive, and getting hit by a car wont help. Your parents couldn’t cope with loosing both sons in one day.” Richard replied.
“You’re right…I guess.” Matthieu sighed, “I’ll be more careful, if not for myself, for my family.”
They walked into Pearson Close in silence, and proceeded to number 10 barely breathing. Outside the house were two cars. Francis Allard’s own car that he drove to work, and a Police Car. The absence of Daniel’s own red car stabbed at the boys with an unbearable truth. Daniel was gone and there was nothing anyone could or would do about it.
“It was his pride and joy,” Matthieu voiced what both boys were thinking, staring at the police car, resting in Daniel’s usual parking space, almost wishing for the blue and white to change to red, while a handsome, blonde, boy stepped out of it, grinning and flicking his keys up into the air before catching them again. “He’s…really gone.”
“Come on, Matt.” Richard said, grabbing his arm and escorting him up to the door of number 10. Alone, Matthieu would have just stood there and stared at the police car until it left.
“I can’t do it, Richard.” Matthieu said, his eyes focusing on the floor again, his ears, like Richard’s, picking up on the mumbled voices from inside the house.
“Can’t do what?” Richard asked, releasing his friend’s arm and hoisting his rucksack to a better position on his shoulder.
“I can’t knock this door.” Matthieu had absorbed himself in the paving stones under his feet. “You’ll have to do it for me. Then leave.”
“Leave?” Richard asked, slightly confused.
“Yes, leave. I’ll need to be alone with my family. I’ll phone you to let you know. I probably wont go to college tomorrow. Now, please, knock the door.” Matthieu stepped aside to make room for Richard.
Richard stepped up to the door, spared a look for his blonde friend, a friend who always seemed buoyant, and knocked the door. Three sharp raps of his knuckle against a small pane of glass.
Almost immediately there were footsteps, and a muffled cry of “It must be Matthieu” from inside the house, then the door was flung open by Charlize, Matthieu’s twin sister.
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PostSubject: Re: Shadow's Lair   Sun 12 Nov - 17:34

Of a height with Matthieu, Charlize, “Call me Charlie”, Allard was also blonde, with brown eyes and a pretty face, and an attitude that cried out for attention.
Angelina Allard, their mother, followed Charlize to the door and silently beckoned the boys in with a red hand sore from rubbing red eyes that had been spilling tears for hours on end. Matthieu followed his mother’s gesture, but Richard turned to leave the grieving family alone with the police. Although his mind was also affected by Daniel’s death, there was no need for him to be here, no need to intrude upon family grief that was nothing to do with him. Nothing at all.
“Don’t be silly, Richard.” Angelina said, unexpectedly. “You’ve been like a second brother to Matthieu for six years, and a good friend to Daniel as well. Francis, and myself, would like you to hear this also.”
“No. I should be getting home to my parents.” Richard replied, turning to leave once more.
“Please Richard.” Her voice almost held a hint of a plead. “You’re the only person Matthieu seems to trust. He won’t talk to the rest of us. He bottles everything up and suffers in silence.”
“Alright.” Richard agreed solemnly, stepping through the door and closing it behind himself.
Silenced filled the Allard house. Not the silence of mourners, but the silenced caused by such shock and confusion that all are left speechless. A policeman stood in front of the electric fireplace, while the rest of the blonde haired family were sat in one of the two sofas.
Richard’s entrance was watched by the police officer, but every eye was upon him as he seated himself next to Matthieu.
“This is Richard O’Connor; Matthieu’s friend.” Francis Allard, Matthieu’s father, introduced.
The police officer nodded and offered his hand. “Alan Pimms.” He called himself, not giving any honorary police titles. Richard took his hand and shook it, nodding slowly.
“Would you like a drink, officer?” Angelina offered.
“Again, I turn down your request madam.” Alan Pimms said, bowing his head in her direction. “I have come for one purpose only, and call me Alan.”
“My apologies, Alan,” Matthieu interrupted. “But could you not drag this out, please?”
“Certainly son, certainly.” Pimms said, now dividing his attention to the room at large. “It is in my belief that a parent should never have to bury their child, especially when their child has only just reached adulthood. I was not the first officer on the scene. Well, in all honesty I wasn’t on the scene at all. I am Holsworthy based, and Daniel died in Barnstaple. Another officer passed the order to tell you how he died onto me.”
“For all we know, then, you might be lying to us.” Matthieu interrupted for the second time. “If you weren’t on the scene then even you might not know the truth.”
“Matthieu! Show some respect!” Angelina was scandalised to hear her son talk this way to an officer of the law. “Please continue, Officer.”
“Son, I understand how you feel, but please here me out.” Pimms’ voice lacked expression as he addressed the blonde boy. “From what I was told, your son died in a car crash. Last night, as he drove up Sticklepath hill to meet up with his girlfriend, his car slid on black ice then collided with a white removal van. Both vehicles caught fire and the emergency services couldn’t reach him in time. We wanted to question the girlfriend, but she’d disappeared. Do you have a name and contact number we can use?”
“Dan called her ‘Tal’, but whether that was her full name, we do not know.” Francis spoke up. “He never mentioned her surname and the only number he had for her was on his mobile, which he never left unattended.”
“I met her once!” Charlize suddenly injected. “She’s a short, curvy girl. Reasonably pretty, I guess, but not all that attractive and very quiet. She hardly spoke to me and she seemed uncomfortable wherever she was, as if she doesn’t belong here. I don’t like her; she creeps me out.”
“And she never mentioned where she lives?” Pimms asked.
“Never.” Francis answered.
“Well, thank you for the information you do have, and I am deeply sorry for your loss.” Pimms said, eager to leave.
“You don’t sound it.” Matthieu rudely commented.
“Matthieu…” Francis growled in a low voice.
“Thank you for telling us about Daniel, Officer.” Angelina said. “I do apologise for the behaviour of my son. Are you sure you wouldn’t like a drink?”
“I am positive, madam. I must return to the station now though. I’m afraid I have other work to take care of. Goodbye.” Alan Pimms said, heading towards the door.
Richard silently rose to his feet and followed the officer out of the house, his eyes carrying looks of sympathy for Matthieu and his family. He refused to meet the eyes of the Allard family as he exited the house, he did not want to see the loss they felt, the smaller amount he felt himself was enough for any one person to have to deal with.
Outside, he sighed then breathed in deeply, taking in the smells and sounds of the world that had ceased to exist within Number 10. He knew it was impossible for him to comprehend the sadness Matthieu and his family had to face. He may have lost a friend, but hey had lost a brother and a son. He didn’t expect to see Matthieu on the bus tomorrow. Little did he know that he wouldn’t be on the bus himself.
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PostSubject: Re: Shadow's Lair   Sun 12 Nov - 18:21

As he began to walk across the park near Matthieu’s house, Richard noticed smoke billowing up into the air as if it had just risen from a giant chimney, but was too consumed by his thoughts to care.
The last time he had seen Daniel was the day before, when he had gone around to ask Matthieu to help him rehearse his lines for a Drama production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Daniel had been watching them; occasionally filling in the lines of Stella while Matthieu voiced Blanche and Richard tried to remember the lines for Stanley. Daniel had been full of laughter and energy. Almost as if he knew death would come for him, and he would just smile at it.
Entering the alley that led down into Vineyards, Richard lost sight of the smoke but became aware of a rushing sound and there was a slight flickering in his vision that increased as he exited the alley, crossed the road, and entered the second alley that led down to his house.
As he walked further down, his temperature seemed to increasingly rise and he could smell burning. Orange light danced at the end of the alleyway, yet there were no sirens proclaiming danger. Then his brain started to calculate the distance of the smoke and flames from the gate at the end of the alley.
“No.” he said quietly, freezing in place. “It can’t be. It just can’t!”
Richard yelled and sprang forward into a run, hands fumbling on the latch that secured the waist high gate. He finally got the metal in his grip and threw the gate open, ignoring it after he ran through and onto Trewyn Road, heading for Number 7, the source of the smoke and fire.
As he neared his house, he noticed something else that was even more out of place than his home burning. A woman calmly stood, staring in his direction. She had short black hair that fell to his chin, black eyes and a face that took his breath away. He could only see her face and hands as the rest of her was covered in a long, black cloak. She smiled at his approach and raised one hand in his direction, so that he was looking at her palm.
Before Richard knew anything else his vision darkened and the ground rushed up to meet him.
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PostSubject: Re: Shadow's Lair   Sat 25 Nov - 0:19

Opening his eyes, Richard found himself lying on the floor in a small, dark room that, currently, held no light. The floor below him felt wooden and a lack of impression of looming told him that the ceiling was high above. No sounds of inhalation, shuffling or clothes rustling came out of the darkness; he was alone with only his imagination for company.
Slowly, he stood up and stretched his arms around him to find that nothing was compressing him into a small place. With his arms outstretched in front of him, he walked forwards until he encountered a solid surface. A wooden wall. He felt his hands along the surface and found no break in its continuity. Keeping his hands on the wall, Richard moved to the right and followed the wall all the way around the room, only stopping after he had passed by four corners and believed he had reached where he had started.
He moved away from the wall, back into the darkness and put his hands into his pockets, searching for his mobile phone. He pulled it out of his pocket and pressed a button to light up the screen, he was immediately bathed in a green light. His brain quickly took in the fact that he had no signal, then he raised the phone to shoulder height, turned it so the screen faced away from himself and began to walk around the room again.
As he walked the minimal light from his mobile revealed that the room was almost bare except for a, small, stone obelisk that stood at waist height. He moved closer to it and directed his phone light at its surface. It was covered in strange symbols and words, but near the triangular point at the top there were two engravings, in the shape of human hands. He was just about to place his hands against them when he heard footsteps.
At the sound of the footsteps, Richard launched himself in the direction that they came from, misjudged the distance from the obelisk to the wall, and collided with the hard, wooden surface. Reeling back, he caught himself before he fell over and faced the wall again.
“Hello?” he questioned the footsteps, then louder. “Hello?”
His only answer was the continuous footfalls, moving in his direction. As they reached the wall dividing them from Richard, the footsteps stopped, and a voice mumbled something.
Suddenly, light blazed into the room as the wall slid apart into two halves, almost the same way as an automatic door would, causing Richard to throw his arms up as a shield to his eyes and move backwards, away from the opening.
The woman who entered the room, along with the light, was the same woman who had been standing outside his house earlier. Although there was one difference in her now. She was no longer garbed in her black cloak. Instead, she wore a small black top that was held up by only thin straps that clung to her shoulders, a short black skirt that hung from her hips and journeyed to halfway down her thighs and from her feet to her knees she wore black boots.
“Good morning.” She said calmly, raising her right hand and clicking her fingers, causing both the wall to slide shut again, and the symbols on the obelisk to light up with a pale green light.
“Who are you? Where am I? Why am I here?” Richard rudely questioned, watching her move to stand beside the obelisk.
“My name is Ultima Valenhart and you are Richard O’Connor.” She said, staring at him through the light.
“I know my own name. Now where am I?” Richard demanded, for a second time.
“Come here, boy.” Ultima said. It wasn’t a request.
Richard took as much time as he dared to slowly walk over to stand opposite her, with the obelisk in between them. Staring at her eyes through the green light was like staring at a pair of black crystals, each one sparkled mysteriously, hiding secrets. Richard could tell almost instantly that Ultima Valenhart was not a woman to mess with.
“This is my home…” Ultima began.
“And it is very skilfully decorated.” Richard interrupted.
“Interrupt me boy, and you will find I am not as tolerant as what your parents once were. This is my home, and it is located in The Underworld. As you may have guessed from its name, The Underworld is a world situated underneath the surface of The Earth, which we refer to as The Surface World. All in all, there are three levels to this planet, although your scientists only believe in one. At least religion gets a little closer. Allow me to explain. The section where you stand now is The Underworld, which religion would look upon as ‘Hell’. Here dwell The Immortals who created the world, such as myself, and refugees from the first Apocalypse of The Surface World. Above The Underworld, resting on the planet’s crust is The Surface world, and I trust I do not need to elaborate on who and what dwells there. Finally, above The Surface World there is The Overworld, which religion would look upon as ‘Heaven’, here dwell the Angels who are the guardians of The Surface World and Readers of The Stars.”
“Wonderful. That doesn’t explain why I’m here though.” Richard said.
“You are here because I saved you from being killed.” Ultima responded. “Without me, you would have been burnt to death in the fire that claimed your house and your family.”
“My family are dead?” Richard questioned, in a voice too full of shock to allow sadness.
“That is correct.” Ultima replied. “It was lucky for you that you returned home late, as I arrived too late to stop the culprit who erased your family.”
“Erased? Erased!” Richard exclaimed. “Don’t you mean murdered?”
“I suppose that would also suffice.” Ultima answered, not sounding sorry or sympathetic in the slightest.
“Why were my family killed?” Richard questioned, staring directly at her.
“An unfortunate occurrence.” Ultima replied in a voice of stone.
“More unfair than unfortunate.” Richard muttered. “I already lost a friend today, then I lose my family. Why?”
“You ask questions without realising that the answers you seek may forever change your life for the worse.” Ultima said, placing her hands into the two hand shaped engravings, causing the whole structure to glow with an eerie, green light. “Now, boy, observe.”
The top of the obelisk had opened while she spoke. Out of the opening floated a single grain of sand, which slowly rotated. While it span it enlarged, growing larger and larger until it was the same size as a human head. Staring at the grain, Richard could make out tiny structures covering it, almost as if a microscopic city covered it. He could almost image tiny life forms working and living on this one, small, insignificant grain of sand.
“To be able to understand The Underworld, and the way it works,” Ultima said, indicating the enlarged grain with her hand, “you must first understand that there are worlds within our worlds. A flower may give someone a glimpse of Heaven and paradise, whereas there is another world entirely, inside one grain of sand. If I were to enlarge this grain further, you would see microorganisms moving, working, living and defending.
“There will come a time when you will be trained to fight and defend The Underworld. Everyone from the age of seventeen upwards is able to lift a sword, or perform magic, able to do his or her bit to protect the world, and when they grow to old and weak to protect The Underworld, they are cast out of The Warrior Cities, to live on the plains where they will trouble no one with their oldster problems.”
“I will not.” Richard defiantly stated.
“Of course you will.” Ultima replied. “It is not possible for you to stay here and not defend my world, and sending you back to The Surface World is something I just cannot do.”
“I will not fight for a cause I do not believe in.” Richard said, his eyes still on the sand. “I am not part of this world, I do not know your beliefs or your causes, so why should I fight for a cause that has nothing to do with me?”
“The Immortals defend their creation with all the strength they have from rebels who are a constant threat to the civilisation. The cause of the rebels is to wipe out as many Immortals as possible.” Ultima replied in a voice that masked her opinions.
“But, Immortals can’t be killed.” Richard said, looking back at Ultima.
“I wish that were so.” She replied simply. “That is why people are born to be warriors, no matter what other skills they posses on the side. Fighting is the way of life here.”
“There must be more than that to life!” Richard unexpectedly shouted at her, shocking himself and widening her eyes.
“Why?” Ultima challenged in a voice that was too calm, moving towards the sliding wall.
“People deserve better.” Richard answered simply. “People are not born to fight, especially not to defend beings that would otherwise live forever. People should solve their own problems, instead of expecting everyone else to fight for them. That is just a rude expectation. Everyone has their own causes and beliefs, which they are entitled to, including me. That is why I will not fight to defend a world that I was not born to.”
Ultima swept her right arm to the right, silently commanding the wall to split and open again, letting in light and silhouetting her as she turned her head to be able to meet Richard’s green eyes with her black ones.
“We will see.” She said, and then stalked out of the room, leaving the wall open behind her.
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