(My numbers are off somewhere on the entries for this story. I haven't figured it out yet, but I hope to soon)
We had stepped out into a sky as black as the darkest night. Worse, really, because there were not even clouds. The guards all created lights, but even those small flares seemed to disappear into the inky black. We instinctively huddled together, all of us moving closer to the Queen. I wasn't sure if we went to her for help or to make sure she remained safe.
"This cannot be good," Sylph said. I could hear a hint of fear in her voice for the first time since we met. "What power could rob us of the sun itself?"
Ah. Sylph was a spirit of the trees, and the loss of the sun would mean the end of her world. The trees could not move to other places like the fae and the rest of our kind could. I began trying to figure out how to transfer a forest, in fact.
Not what I should be considering, but it gave me a moment to think we could deal with this problem, one way or another. When I looked to the Queen, I could see her eyes narrowed in consideration. Distant sounds came from the ground below, but I did not think they were the sounds of battle. That would come soon, though. Something moved in the darkness, the thumping still growing louder.
"What is out there," I asked, just to say something in the silent darkness.
"My guess would be the Gods of the Outer Dark," Lycan answered. He put his hand to his weapon and then pulled the fingers back with a shake of his head.
If he was right, this was not an enemy that you could take on with mere swords and shields. I didn't know what we could use to face it. The beings of the Outer Dark were not like us -- never mind that these might be their gods.
"What did the army face?" I asked with a wave of my arm down toward the ground we could not see.
The Queen nodded to Yating. She had her attention elsewhere. I wondered if she could better feel what was out there than I had managed.
"Mostly trolls and ghouls," he said to me. "Not anything I would have related to this problem."
"And that's the problem overall," Sylph said. "None of this seems related, from missing crowns to whatever we faced in the subway, all the way to this."
Lycan and I both looked at each other. "Chaos," we chorused.
The Queen turned our way with a start -- and then gave a quick nod of agreement. "Yes, something out of Chaos seems a likely answer if we have the pieces explained properly."
"We could be wrong," I was quick to point out.
"Something to pursue," she said. Then gave a slight twitch of her shoulders. "Unless someone comes up with another idea, it seems our best chance to fix something."
"And how do we deal with Chaos?" Captain Yating asked. He looked to me, and I almost protested that I was not even a soldier --
But then I had an idea, odd as it was. I looked at Lady Snow.
She met my stare with a nod, though her eyes looked bleak. "Yes, I am something of Chaos," she said and drew the looks of others. "Weather nature exists because life is not balanced. I believe my companions might be right about the nature of the problem ... and I will think about that problem. There may be others I can call upon. I want my daughter back."
"We'll do all we can to help you," I promised. The wording somewhat included the Queen, but I would leave that up to her if she wanted to help. She didn't nod, but she didn't glare, either.
It fell chill up here in the dark, and I couldn't tell if that came from the outside or if I just felt the fear of what was happening. If I stood with the Queen here, right now, that put me in a place of power that I had never sought to hold. I was the youngest child. By rights and by custom, I should have been the one who was turned free to roam, learn things -- yes, to spy. I liked that position in life. I saw no reason to want to live at court.
Lycan looked my way with another of his frowns. Of course. He'd picked up my worry about the court life, but he couldn't know what had set me off. I gave a little shrug and turned my attention back to the current problem. After all, if this didn't work out, court life would not be a worry for the future. Not for any of us.
The pounding grew louder, but the Queen had spread out the magic that settled the tower to a slight tremble rather than feeling as though we were going to crash. I thought, instead, that something would likely smash us down. I still could not see it, though. The thumping sound had become so pervasive that I couldn't tell what direction it came from, either. Maybe there was no single direction. Perhaps it came from everywhere.
"Is there anything more we can learn from here?" Yating dared to ask. "Is there anything we can do? Because if not, I think we had best get back to the ground, my Queen. The magic you use to keep us safe would be better used elsewhere, don't you think?"
She gave Yating a little glare, glanced around as though she could see beyond our slight flickering of light, and then nodded agreement. Yating didn't even try to hide his look of relief, but then neither did the rest of us. We cleared the tower's upper level faster than we had come up into this dark abyss.
Chaos? That was not an enemy -- it was a way of nature, not something that could be controlled.
Though I began to doubt the truth of that last statement...