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Shadow Surge
Author: Jessica Parker

Chapter 1

 

 

Four megalodons circled in the dark blue ocean above Araxie and the rest of her class as they approached the prison. One shark casually circled closer to the white outer walls of the prison, close enough for the crystal lights to cast a green glow across its skin. An eerie gleam reflected in the shark's eye and it started swimming straight towards her class.

“Hold your position,” Proteus ordered them.

Araxie felt a flitter of nerves creep over her scales, but she pushed it down. Its mouth opened, rows of teeth glinting as it came within striking distance of a recruit’s fin.

The megalodon jerked up and swam over the class before moving to circle back towards them. From the new angle Araxie saw a hand covered in the golden armor of a knight gripping the dorsal fin. The hand let go of the large dorsal fin on the shark’s back and the shark swam towards the other megalodons still circling above.

“This whole place gives me the creeps.” Calista flicked her white and red tail towards a row of eels poking out of the wall around the doorway into the prison.

Araxie had to agree with her best friend. She’d been reading and researching the prison for the last week in preparation for this tour, but she knew that she’d only scratched the surface. The megalodons were well trained, but an animal could always do something unexpected.

The knight who had been with the megalodon laughed as she clasped forearms with Proteus. “The look on recruit faces when I do that never gets old.”

Proteus shook his head, but amusement lit his dark eyes. “Leena, I thought you were on a mission?”

Leena grinned. “Dropped off a—”

The crackle of an electric eel snapped behind Araxie and she jolted toward her boyfriend, Jett. Turning just in time to see the black eel swim up the nearest white prison wall before disappearing on the other side.

Jett laughed, “Babe, it’s just a little one.”

Araxie looked away from Jett, and her gaze landed on Proteus.

The Knight Protector gave Araxie a quick glance to assess the threat, and lifted a brow in question. She nodded quickly to confirm she was fine. As the leader of this trip he was responsible for everyone’s safety, but the punishment by the King if he let a Princess of Atlantis be injured on his watch would be brutal.

Their relationship was hard to define sometimes as his brother had married her older sister. Sometimes Araxie almost considered Proteus a brother, but the title of brother never quite fit. Not familial, but something other than friendship on the occasions they’d spent time together. She couldn’t help but admire how he did everything with a fiery passion that matched his ruby red scales.

A hot flush washed over her and she dropped her gaze only to find the black scales on her tail had a hint of red around the edges.

Jett spoke softly into her ear. “I don’t like how he looks at you.”

“He’s just doing his job, Jett.”

Jett tugged on Araxie’s braid. “I love when you put your hair in braids.”

She smiled, happy at the compliment that made spending over an hour every day braiding worth it. Even if she did prefer leaving the black hair free to reach the tip of her tail. Today she’d made several small braids to twine around a thicker braid that reached the small of her back. The effort from start to finish had used three bottles of sea snail gel just to keep the loose hairs from floating away.

Calista linked her arm through Araxie’s. “Be nice Jett. We’re all on edge. The magic in this place is making my skin crawl.”

“It’s supposed to.” Proteus and then turned to address the group at large. “Recruits, meet Knight Protector Leena. She’ll give us a light overview before we go through security.”

Leena shifted and silver scales peeked through the golden armor. Araxie guessed the knight could be twice Araxie’s own twenty-four years. “The wards around the prison are strengthened every generation to hold the most dangerous criminals in the kingdom. Don’t touch anything, not even the walls, unless you are directed to. Magic isn’t the only thing that keeps the criminals in. You already met my shark, Pearl, and some of you noticed the electric eels guarding the doorway. Other creatures are hidden cleverly throughout.”

Proteus thanked her for the warning and she returned to her shark. “Line up recruits and we’ll get you all checked in. I expect everyone to be on their best behavior as some of you could end up working here in as soon as two weeks. After all, graduation is next week.”

Pride swelled in Araxie at the thought of getting her assignment. She wanted to protect the Kingdom like the knights that had protected her all her life. The prison wasn’t what her heart was set on, but it would be better than the academy. Graduates stationed at the academy usually were the lowest scoring and ended up being used as fetchers for the commanders. What she really wanted was to be a Protector Knight. The very elite who could be sent on any number of tasks critical to the survival of the Kingdom. She hoped her father wouldn’t command her to a boring position like the palace. She wanted a chance to see Trite again, and only a position that gave her the opportunity to travel would do that.

Her thoughts continued down that path during the next hour while the ten recruits were processed through security. Araxie didn’t have to go through the same scrutiny due to her royal status that gave her special clearance. Instead she waited next to Proteus who also didn’t have to go through the scrutiny due to his Knight Protector status.

Gratitude for that clearance doubled when she saw Jett go through the magic scanner that she’d avoided. The scanners were a recent creation of Theia’s at Calder’s request. Jett shivered as a wave of orange light passed over him, binding his magic for the next four hours. When Theia had tested it on Araxie, it had started to block the innate magic that gave life to all merkind. Theia had managed to reverse the effects and refined her creation, but Araxie could still remember the feeling of drowning as she tried to breathe. As a result Theia’s creation now limited whoever and whatever went through that light to only their life magic.

“I don’t understand what you see in Jett,” Proteus said softly.

Jett continued through the security process where they searched him for weapons. He had the self-assured smile that made his dimples show. She knew that he didn’t look like the generous sort as many people had told her they thought him arrogant at first. But she’d seen time and again how he’d paid for someone’s ticket or meal to join them in seeing the sights of the city on their days off. Sometimes he’d even paid for their entire class to go on outings.

Araxie sighed, Theia had asked her the same thing the other day. “He’s generous and he makes me happy.”

A wave caught Araxie’s attention. Calista held up fingers, covered in blue ink, and wiggled them at Araxie. The knight next to Calista grabbed her hand and rolled each inked finger across a slate.

The messiness of the process made Araxie want to squirm, but she held still next to Proteus. Instead she tried to observe the room like he did, taking in the polished white walls surrounding them. Holes half the size of her palm haphazardly dotted the room, floor to ceiling. White normally soothed Araxie’s nerves but this white was so bright that it made her feel like an ink stain just by being in the room.

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