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“If you do succeed, bring her straight to me,” he continues. “We will see if she really can do all that you’ve promised.”

He then leaves abruptly. The other counselors and their aids follow after him. Cassandra and Astor stick around even though they won’t be joining us on the rescue mission, and I’m glad since I want to be able to say goodbye. Brogan looks at Cassandra and takes a deep breath, sighing in relief.

“That could have been a lot worse.”

“He will come around,” Cassandra reassures him. “He will believe when he meets her.”

This comment saddens me. Helena has never met Lionel because she was taken right when their group arrived on these shores. They made camp in the windmill the first night, and when the Cassandra awoke, Helena was missing.

She wasn’t the only one. Several people they had brought with them from the mountain of Sanctuary were also gone. At first Cassandra thought that they had all been abducted, but then the others returned the very next evening. They acted strange, she said, like their minds were sick. She slept by her blade that night, and good thing since they tried to attack her and other members of the group. Those able to flee escaped with her the next morning. Brogan found Cassandra’s group a few days later and brought them here, where they have dwelt ever since.

Brogan wasn’t able to convince the counselors to let him search for Helena despite Cassandra’s frequent pleadings.

She tried to tell Lionel of our world, of her hopes to save the people there by bringing them here, but neither he nor the other counselors had any interest in risking their own people to save refugees brought from one place of death to another.

Lionel eventually made a concession, one he perhaps thought he would never have to live up to, and it was based on my arrival here. Cassandra said that I would eventually come as part of my father’s plan to unite these two worlds, to use the world stones to create a two-way bridge between them until all who wanted to escape from our world could do so. Lionel promised that he would reconsider his decision if I ever came. Now that I am here, I wonder if he regrets that promise.

“You don’t have to come,” Brogan says to me. “My soldiers are fully capable of getting the job done on their own.”

“What you mean is that you don’t want me to burden them,” I snap back, my internal turmoil briefly surfacing.

I wouldn’t have asked to go had I felt like I’d be a hindrance. I can take care of myself, and I’d like to be of assistance since I’m why this is happening in the first place. But even more, I get a feeling that they are going to need me, like that there will be something to this mission beyond simply rescuing Helena.

“I can handle myself just fine. I’m not quite as soft as my sister.”

Cassandra sticks her

tongue out playfully, and I wink back, though my reaction feels forced and unnatural with everything else running through my head. She then steps forward and, to my surprise, reaches around me to give me a big hug.

“I’m so proud of you,” she says while tearing up.

“Why?” I ask brusquely, trying to resist her tenderness.

“Because you did this all on your own. I could never have gotten this far without help.”

“I got plenty of help,” I dismiss, looking over at Astor.

“I’m sorry that I’ve never been the best at praising you, but you have to know something. When I saw that pillar of light this morning, I had no doubt that you would be on the end of it. And I knew that you were going to save us all. Helena believed in you, too. You’re going to find her.”

These warm words are too much for me to deflect, and I start sobbing. After another embrace, she finally lets me go and turns to Brogan, her more serious demeanor returning.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” she says to him, then exiting the same way the counselors did.

Astor goes with her, shooting me a quick smile before disappearing from view. I’m glad they aren’t coming. It would be just another thing for me to worry about. Teasing aside, I’m sure Cassandra could handle herself fine, and Astor’s cunning would make up for his lack of speed. But with this sick feeling in my gut, I’d rather go in knowing they’ll be safe.

“Here,” Brogan says, handing me a strange helm with a visor.

It is black and held together by straps, ones that hardly seem like they will provide adequate protection. But as I look more closely, I begin to think it’s not for protecting my head at all.

“You probably haven’t seen anything like this before,” Brogan says, pointing at the transparent, glass-like visor. “This will allow you to see things even in the darkness of night. There’s always a little light in the air, even underground, though the naked eye can’t always see it. The lens finds the light so that you can see it. This is how we’ll navigate the tunnels.”

“How does it work?” I ask.

“I don’t think I could explain it to you in a way you’d understand. This world is much more advanced than the one you came from. Or was once. Now let’s give it a try.”

He places the visor on me and gestures to one of his men, who pushes a button on the wall to make the room, which was previously lit by strange metal tubes producing a white light, become completely dark. The instant the light disappears, the visor comes to life. Despite the darkness, I can see everything around me just fine, except that it has all turned green.

I spin around, and the visor’s image moves with me like a new set of eyes. It is so exciting that I can’t help but laugh giddily.

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