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By Author (Danae Conrad):
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"You did let him go, didn't you?"

"I am a man of my word, Adena."

"Yes, of course."

Adena's eyes were downcast. She had thrown her only chance of escape away for Iffley. She didn't regret it for he was her friend; she didn't know if she could tolerate the Maelstrom, though.


She looked up at her captor in impatience. She said nothing to him in reply. "You really should try to like it here." he began to smirk, "After all, you are going to be here for quite a while."

Adena glared at him. "Don't be too sure of that."

"But I will kill my counterpart, if you try to leave."

"I leave when that threat is passed. He will soon go..." she stopped, realizing the error she had made. The words were out though; she couldn't get them back.

"What do you mean--leave, little one?"

"Never mind. Forget I said anything," she said in futility.

"No. I do mind, so tell me. "

Adena loved challenges and now she had a big one on her hands. "No. I won't tell."

"The contract was that you would do anything."

"Have you gotten anything that you wanted? No. I will fight you on every point."

"I am sure you will." With that, he withdrew the Saber from its sheath. Slowly, it altered into a rapier; quickly, Adena tried to run, but she was too late. He shoved her backward into the solid oak bedboard. He didn't put a hand near her, but lay the rapier's sharp point in the hollow of her throat. "Now, little one, tell me everything."

Adena was frightened but thinking rapidly. "There is a portal--in the far country. It is behind Taft's ranch; you can stop it up there." Then she began to cry.

"Very good." He withdrew the rapier and sheathed the Saber. He drew her to him. "Now, what must I do to make you give in on other matters?" He held her resisting arms tightly.

"That is one price that you are too poor to pay. Besides, you better hurry. The portal closes tonight, Iffley would have to leave soon."

"Well, you're better behaved." he kissed her hand. "I think that a reward will be in order." He released her and left the room saying, "Don't wait up. I'll be home late."

Adena heard the door bolt shut. No big deal, she could get out easily, which she did. She felt the guilt of the lie bearing on her. At least she had vindicated her foolish mistake.

From the shadows, a woman clothed in black watched the young captive's escape. She knew the truth and Adena would be punished for certain. Slipping away as silently as death, she went to make her report.

Adena meanwhile was trying desperately to find the front door, or any door out, for that matter. The Maelstrom had set up some sort of screen apparently, but she couldn't fathom how to see through it. She had to get out and quickly for he would soon realize her sham.

The halls seemed more oppresive in the pervasive darkness of the castle. Adena was feeling the first surges of panic. Darn it all, she thought. There has got to be a way out. The halls fed into one another in a seemingly endless circle. She knew the door had been here; the Nightstalker's blood still stained the floor.

Noticing a new set of stairs, she began to climb them. One flight, then two and then a third, they were becoming narrower, until all that was left was a slick sided chute with a skylight at the top.

Adena didn't hesitate, but slipped off her shoes and shove herself up the chute. Her bare feet gripped the slick surface and she inched up towards her goal. She finally reached the window and smacked it wide open with her hand. Fresh air flooded in and the sunlight, beautiful liquid gold poured in to cover her face.

Smiling, he heaved her body out of the channel. She found herself on one of the lower turrets and leapt nimbly to the ground below her. Freedom, never so prized until it has been taken. Taken as it was in two seconds from her thought.

"You shall pay, Adena!"

Adena was still trying to catch her breath from the bolas that had wrapped around her legs and thrown her to the ground. She wished humorously for a stuntman as she heard the gathering wrath of the Maelstrom.

he hoisted her bound body to his shoulder and carried her inside. He slammed her onto the bed and began to rant. Adena, for the most part, seemed extremely bored.

"You should be worrying, my dear. I won't go easy on you." Seeing her nonchalant attitude, he was angered further. "I will find your weaknesses. One by one, I will use them to wear down your confidence. "He began to unlace the leather cords of the bola. "How can you suddenly remain so calm?"

"Why do you think that I was made an Enchantress--a woman of many talents?" She shrugged and smirked; he was on the defensive now. If her brief taste of freedom could only keep her hopes renewed.

He was trying to throw her off her guard; both of them knew that. With Adena on her guard however, he could do nothing, but the second she let it down...

"Maelstrom," a voice said. The woman was back and she held an object in front of her, shrouded in black. "For you." She gave him the object and left.

The Maelstrom smiled softly as he unwrapped the object. Adena, her curiosity peaked, was inching warily towards him to look over his shoulder. The drape fell away and Adena saw...herself!

It was her mirror and their ticket out of Ralle. The Maelstrom saw her shocked reaction and knew that he had the key.

"Your weakness, my beloved." Her Amulet was glowing with several lights as it detected a familiar power. She tried to grab at it, but she only brushed her fingers on it as he pulled it away. The mirror touched by its mistress began to light as well. Adena tried to shield her thoughts as it probed.

"No! NO! Don't..." But it was too late, the picture formed.

"Who?!" The Maelstrom demanded.

"Someone I knew," she said in dispair.

"Not one, but two, I must dispose of to have you."

"He is already dead; he is where I should be."

The Maelstrom knew that he had found her deepest would. He carelessly tossed the mirror to the corner. It shattered with a shriek of glass, mirroring Adena';s screams.

"You promised to free him!"

"To Ralle."

She ran to the mirror, trying in vain to piece it together.

The sharp edges cut her hands, the blood mingled with the twisted metal and shattered reflections. As she vainly attempted the impossible, her mind whirled with thoughts. No one had known that his picture was in the mirror, no one had known that his picture was in the mirror, no one had known except Dion--and she had known that the shattered mirror would seal them in Ralle--forever!!

"Keep trying...it will never work!"

"Dion!" Adena could hardly believe the harshness of the Witch's face. "How could you?! You trapped me--him--in this place!" The anger and confusion was open in Adena's cries. Dion just laughed wickedly and looked at Adena in contempt.

Adena attacked suddenly and with a fury. The Maelstrom's Talisman almost missed the blots of power. Dion scowled and left the room.

"I think I had better take that, Adena. Someone might get hurt."

"Touch my Amulet and you will regret it!!"

He caught her effortlessly around the waist and calmly reached for the Key. Suddenly, he was screaming in pain; she had used the only tool he had left her--teeth.

"You vixen!"

"I've been called worse!"

"I'll call you worse, before I'm through!"

"I take that as a challenge!" She fabricated a rapier for herself to match the one he had produced. As with all her holograms, she gave it power enough to be almost real. She fought well and hard, but her adrenalin couldn't keep her going forever. he parried then thrust; she naturally leapt back--and hit a wall. He touched her weapon and it faded as the Talisman absorbed its power.

The rapier vanished and the Saber returned. The Maelstrom calmly etched a "M" in the stone above her shoulder. "A conquest should be properly marked." With that, Adena collapsed when the Saber's handle cracked on her temple. "Now try and fight me and death."

 © 1985, 

K. Blaire, L. Charles, D. Conrad, Enad the Great, A. Mann, J. Pierce, B. C. Randolf, and T. G. Taft

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