Amethyst paced back and forth within the confines of a dark cell beneath one of the ornate towers that dominated the kingdom of Sardonyx. She shook her head in frustration as she considered her plight. I’m a prisoner again, she realized. Since I arrived in Gemworld this time, I’ve been attacked, knocked out, drugged, and locked up. A girl could get a real complex, as Mom would say.
Carnelian slouched against one stone wall and said, “My word, I do believe the pretty princess is going to pout. I think I detect a trembling lower lip.”
Amethyst whirled to confront him, placing both hands on her hips. “You aren’t helping!” she said. “Getting drunk and falling over a chair didn’t exactly impress them. I can’t get us out since that yucky stuff Fawna smeared all over me while I was out cold has blocked my magic.”
Carnelian smiled broadly. He actually seemed to be enjoying himself. “You feel helpless because your precious gemstone has been deadened by anti-magic toxins,” he said smugly. “You can’t work magic and you crumble. How typical of your kind. Luckily for you, Sardonyx is as dependent upon magic as any of the other royals. None of you understand what it means to have to survive with only your cunning to rely upon. I have lived my whole life with only my keen wit to protect me. I can get us out of here without any magic.”
Amethyst bit her lip, calming down long enough to say, “You have a point there. Did you notice how Sardonyx didn’t use his gem on us? He had ordinary thugs drag us down here. Do you think he’s having trouble with his own magic? I mean, he had to break his main gemstone once, even if he was wearing a new one upstairs.”
Carnelian nodded slowly. “You’re smarter than you look. I think you may be on to something. Perhaps those creatures broke something fundamental to Gemworld’s magic when they arrived.” He shrugged, raising one arm into the faint light that trickled into the dungeon. The light gleamed off the metallic claw that took the place of his hand. “My technology can do what your ailing magics cannot. I can break the locks with my cybernetic hand.”
Calmly gripping the heavily bolted door, Carnelian snapped the metallic locks with ease. “Old lizard lips didn’t even think I was worth his notice, but that kind of arrogance only makes me more effective,” he said as he opened the door and led the Princess of Gemworld to freedom. “I want to pay him back for the way he treated me when he served my father. As long as he underestimates me, I will achieve that long-desired goal.”
Amethyst smiled as she followed him down the darkened passageways. No guards, she thought. Sardonyx really thought a locked door and no magic would make us completely helpless.
Carnelian frowned as he stared into the gloom in front of them. “I was a bit distracted when they brought us here,” he said sheepishly. “Do you happen to know which way will lead us out?”
Amethyst smiled, stepping in front of him and leading him down several passages until they emerged into a large chamber. “You mean you were too drunk to remember the way,” she said.
Carnelian cursed, suddenly jerking backward as he pushed Amethyst to one side.
“Watch your grubby hands!” sputtered Amethyst before she saw what had made the Crimson Rogue stop so suddenly. Uniformed soldiers lined the sides of the otherwise-empty chamber.
“Guardsmen!” whispered Carnelian. “Apparently Sardonyx wasn’t entirely oblivious to my potential.”
Amethyst closed her eyes and concentrated. She could feel the magic within her begin to surge through her. “I almost have it,” she whispered. “I guess I’ve burned off some of the toxin, and I may be able to use my magic. I also still have my sword.”
“We cannot defeat two dozen trained soldiers,” said Carnelian. “We have to go back.”
“Guards, take them!” cried a female voice from above. “The prisoners have escaped!”
Amethyst glanced upward at the landing of a flight of stairs, only to see Fawna. Of course it had to be her, she thought. As if I needed one more reason to dislike that skunk.
As the guards drew their scimitars and charged at the startled pair, Amethyst drew her own sword and met their charge. She had been well trained by Lord Garnet, and no one could match that highly skilled warrior. He had taught her late father before he had married into the House of Amethyst, and he was said to have been the best swordsman in Gemworld as a youth.
“I’m tired of running away,” she said as she deftly disarmed one soldier and then struck him with the flat of her own blade. “And I’m tired of being pushed around.”
She danced nimbly aside and then jumped to avoid two other slicing scimitars. A lightning-quick attack on her part drove both men back, even though they were larger. I can keep them in each other’s way if I handle this just right, she mused.
A gunshot echoed through the chamber as Carnelian fired his pistol, catching a soldier in the face. He was carrying the gun he normally used and had become an expert in its use over the years.
Thank goodness no one else in Gemworld carries a gun, thought Amethyst. I’d hate to see this magical kingdom become a place where Earth-style violence is common. Not that magic and swords aren’t dangerous enough.
Carnelian fired again and again, but the two were outnumbered, and they both felt their luck changing as Lord Sardonyx himself appeared with the massive Starry Skies creature, Count Leonine.
“I am honored by your gracious help,” said Sardonyx as he drew closer. “My men would have taken them in time, but they will surely fall when the two of us combine our lethal powers.” His gemstone blazed with color, and then a jagged bolt of power shot through the room at Amethyst.
She blocked it with her own hastily created shield, which was frail, but it held. He’s weak, too, she realized. On home ground, he should have been able to burn right through a shield like that. I don’t think we were wrong about something being wrong with all magic here.
Aiming her own bolt at the oily nobleman, Amethyst smiled with joy as the bolt shot past his head and connected with the heavy tapestry behind him. It snapped free from the wall and knocked him flat, and Sardonyx disappeared beneath its folds while even Carnelian broke into laughter.
“Where is your power now?” taunted Carnelian. “This is no way to impress your bestial friend!”
Fawna shrieked as one of Carnelian’s daggers struck her in the side. She staggered away as other maids rushed to aid her.
“I never did like that girl,” he said with a wink as he aimed his gun once more.
Amethyst kicked a guard aside, using her magic to drive the entire squadron backward temporarily, but the effort drained her, and she felt exhausted. “I may be able to fly us away,” she said, reaching out to Carnelian. He took her hand, and they began to float upward toward one of the windows.
The gleaming lion-man called Count Leonine watched silently and then leaped at them. He struck them a glancing blow, but it was strong enough to drive both of them back to the ground.
“I cushioned our landing, but I sure can’t stop that monster while my powers are on the blink,” said Amethyst.
Carnelian nodded as he raised his gun at the powerful being. “I rather doubt bullets will harm it, either,” he said as panic rose in his tone.
Leonine snarled, revealing rows of razor-sharp teeth. He moved closer to them, and Amethyst stood her ground. She was a true princess of Gemworld, and nothing would make her cower in fear.
For my parents and Citrina and Granch, I won’t show any fear, she vowed to herself.