I was crouched down on top of a hill, staring down at the same house that I’d first seen in the magic mirror. From my current position, I could see the house, the yard, and several guards, which were all on the other side of the stone wall. It was dark out, but fortunately for us, the yard was well illuminated, giving us a great view of them, while we remained hidden by darkness.
With my binoculars, I could make out a lot of details, things that I hadn’t been able to see in the magic mirror or Google Earth. My eyes went to one of the guards, who looked vaguely familiar. It took me a moment to realize that he was one of the attackers that I’d seen back at Cliff’s cabin. If I’d had any doubts about this being the right place, they were gone now.
“About time to get started,” Dave said from a few feet away.
He glanced at his watch, then positioned himself behind a large rock, which would provide cover. My eyes went to the small pile of weapons that were placed within easy reach.
“I might not have been trained as a sniper,” Dave told me with a grin, “but I’ve played a shit ton of first person shooters.” He picked up a rifle and set it in place, adding, “And I also happen to be a damn good shot.”
“Good luck,” I told Dave, as I began to carefully move down the hill, towards the house below.
“You too,” Dave replied, giving me a nod. “You’re gonna need it even more than I will.”
I carefully made my way down the slope and towards the wall near the bottom. There were a few cameras set up to catch anyone trying to climb the thing, so I stopped short and remained where I was, waiting for Jake’s signal.
Then, I suddenly heard the sound of a bell ringing in the air. It was crystal clear, as though the bell was actually being rang right beside me, rather than near the main gate. I listened for several seconds before shaking myself out of it and putting in my earplugs.
The bell was a beautiful and delicate looking thing, that appeared to be made out of silver and crystal. Or perhaps platinum or diamond, though I certainly wasn’t an expert. It also happened to be the same artifact that we’d found at the safe house, though I had yet to even touch the thing. After what had happened with the mirror, Jake had thought it best that he hold onto it, and keep it well away from me.
Jake was the one ringing the bell, and providing cover. The magic of this artifact made the sound of the bell carry a great distance, and kept anyone who heard it, from hearing anything else. In fact, Cliff’s notes on the thing, also suggested that once someone was caught in the magic, they didn’t even think to question where the ringing came from.
“Just the distraction we need,” I mused. Of course, I would have preferred something like that fire staff, but considering the circumstances, the bell was probably more useful.
After taking a deep breath, I ran for the wall, using the slope of the hill to give me just a little extra height, enough so that when I leapt for the wall, I was actually able to grab hold of the top. With a grunt, I pulled myself up, and over, pausing just long enough to flip off one of the cameras that was pointed at me.
While I was doing this, I knew that Jake was doing his part, which consisted of ringing the bell, and probably shooting the guards at the same time. And then, he was going inside, even if it meant using his magic sword to cut through the gate itself.
I looked around the yard, immediately spotting the two roving guards. The guard I recognized from Cliff’s cabin, suddenly fell over dead, having been shot by Dave. Thanks to the magic of the bell, nobody heard the gun shot. A moment later, the other guard went down too.
For a moment, I froze where I was, feeling a little disgust and guilt for my part in killing these people, but I quickly shook it off. These were the people who’d killed Dora, Dad, and Cliff, and they were holding Theressa prisoner. They didn’t deserve a moment of my guilt.
Just seconds later, several armed men came running out of the house, probably responding to the alarms we’d tripped or the video camera footage, because they wouldn’t have been able to hear the gunfire. In fact, they shouldn’t have been able to hear any alarms either. That annoyed me more than a little, since we’d been counting on the bell to keep them in the dark about what we were doing, and from communicating any warnings for a bit longer.
With a grimace of determination, I opened fire, spraying them with bullets. The ear plugs I wore dulled the sound of the bell, and the power it had over me, but couldn’t stop it entirely. Because of that, I didn’t hear a thing from the gun I fired, though I certainly felt the recoil. And, I watched with a heavy weight in my gut as the men fell to the ground.
Then, I looked around and saw Jake, entering the property from the front gate. He was holding out the bell with one hand and ringing it, while his other hand held one of the guns we’d found at the safe house. He opened fire, shooting at the house in full auto, while somehow continuing to ring the bell.
“They attacked us twice,” I said aloud, though I couldn’t hear my own words. “Turnabout is fair play.”
Jake and I both rushed towards the main entrance, shooting as we did so, to keep anyone else from coming out after us. I caught some movement from the corner of my eye and turned, only to see another guard had come out from around the side of the house, but Dave had taken care of him. I flashed Dave a thumbs up.
Suddenly, I froze up, and was unable to move. I couldn’t take a single step, or even lift my foot from the ground. Even my head was frozen, leaving me unable to turn it. From my position, I could still see Jake, and he was frozen the same way. And since he was no longer ringing the bell, normal sound returned. I could hear some muffled sounds through my earplugs.
I immediately realized what was happening, since I’d seen this before. Someone was using that Peacemaker artifact again. Though I couldn’t move much, I could still gulp nervously, and I did. Getting frozen like this in the middle of a gun fight, was a great way of getting killed.
Then, three more figures emerged from the main entrance of the mansion. The first two to step out, were two more armed guards, who obviously, hadn’t been armed when the artifact was activated. After they both came out and glanced around, making sure that things were safe, a third figure emerged. Alexander Kraesse stepped through the doorway, holding the Peacemaker in his hands.
“What do we have here?” Kraesse mused, staring at Jake, who was closest to him. “An artifact…” He carefully took the bell out of Jake’s hand and examined it with a smug expression. “Interesting…” He carefully handed it to one of his guards.
“Bite me,” Jake spat out at Kraesse. “You two bit thug…” I could barely hear him because of my earplugs, though I could still make out what he said.
I held my breath for a moment, wondering what Jake was doing. Was he intentionally trying to piss off the guy who could still move, and who had a gun? Then again, I realized that this might very well be the case. If he could get Kraesse angry enough to punch him, that would break the spell.
Kraesse’s eyes turned to me, and I saw a flash of triumph pass over his face. “And Pandora,” Kraeese said, stepping towards me with a rather intense expression. “This time, you come to me…”
“Bite me,” I responded, repeating Jake’s words because at the moment, I was too scared to think of anything more original.
“I was looking for you, Pandora,” Kraesse stated with a sneer. “And of course, your box…”
“Good thing I left it behind,” I replied. “I’ve hidden it so well, you’ll never find it…”
Kraesse seemed almost amused by that. “Ah, but as I understand it, the box is NEVER very far from you. And even if you did manage to hide it, you’ll end up telling me where it is anyway.”
For several seconds, Kraesse and I stood there, looking into each other’s eyes. I was terrified of the man, after everything he’d done, but I was also furious and determined. No matter what, I wasn’t going to let him get away with this. I wasn’t going to let him hurt Theressa any more than he already had.
Kraesse already had an arrogant sneer, but somehow, it seemed to deepen. Then, he used his free hand, the one not holding the Peacemaker, and drew his gun. He turned to point it at Jake, and at that instant, I knew he was doing this just to hurt me.
The sound of a gunshot filled the air, echoing even through my hearing protection, and Kraesse was thrown back from the impact. The act of violence freed me from Peacemaker’s power, and I grinned at the sight in front of me. Jake and I had talked about the Peacemaker, and the fact that we’d probably run into it again. In fact, that artifact was one of the main reasons that we’d left Dave up on the hill, playing sniper. We figured that the artifact had a limited range, and had hoped that Dave would be far enough away to be out of that range, and ready to help free us if necessary.
When Kraesse was thrown back from the impact of the shot, he dropped both his gun and the Peacemaker artifact to the ground, though he didn’t fall himself. Instead, he glowed for several seconds, then regained his balance and stood up straight again, revealing no sign that he’d been shot. The amulet around his neck still glowed a little, and I silently cursed the fact this artifact had protected him again. That thing was really getting annoying.
Since I was free from the artifact’s powers, I immediately opened fire, spraying Kraesse and one of his guards. Kraesse glowed and staggered back, while his guard went down in a spray of blood. Dave took care of the other guard, and he even took a couple more shots at Kraesse, whose glow was starting to flicker. Without a word, Kraesse turned and ran back into the house, perhaps trying to get to cover since it looked like his amulet had about hit its limit.
“No need for these,” I said, tearing the earplugs out and tossing them aside.
“Theressa,” Jake reminded me, though he didn’t need to.
I merely nodded. “Yeah. Theressa first, and a bullet in Kraesse if we get a chance. But first…”
Then, I went over to where Kraesse had dropped his gun and the Peacemaker, and bent down. I called the box, which immediately appeared beside me, and then I picked up the Peacemaker. I stared at the artifact for several seconds, trying to decide if we could use it to rescue Theressa. It might be useful, but I had absolutely no idea how to use it, nor the time to figure it out. I couldn’t afford for anyone else to use it against us, so I dropped it into the box. After a few more seconds, I closed the box and gave Jake a nod.
While I was taking care of the Peacemaker, Jake continued to doorway and tossed in a grenade. It exploded with a loud boom, making me regret taking my earplugs out when I did. A couple seconds later, the two of us rushed in, ready to open fire, though that didn’t seem to be necessary.
“Dave can’t help us from this point on,” Jake told me. “Not directly.”
Jake and I both knew the general layout of the house, as well as where they’d been keeping Theressa prisoner. Between the magic mirror and Google, we already had a map and knew where to go.
Without having to say a word, we went in the right direction, going down a hallway which led to the stairs. Then, I saw Kraesse again, standing on the stairs with a twisted stick in his hand, that was little more than a foot long. But when it began to glow on the tip, I revised that from stick to magic wand.
“Shit,” I said, having a bad feeling about this.
Kraesse held out the magic want and a glowing red sphere shot out from the tip. I dove to the side, but Jake wasn’t fast enough and it hit him.
“JAKE,” I cried out, watching in horror as Jake was flung back down the hallway.
“Damn,” Jake grunted, getting back to his feet and looking a little wobbly.
Before Jake could fully recover, more armed guards came rushing down the hallway, opening fire as soon as they saw him. Jake dove through an open door and slammed it shut, right before they reached it.
“It’s locked,” one cried out, opening fire on the lock.
However, one of the other guards opened fire on me. I tried diving for cover, but I wasn’t faster than a bullet. I hit the ground and screamed as a burning pain tore through my leg.
In spite of my pain and injury, I scrambled back to my feet, swinging my gun back at Kraesse. Theressa was just up those stairs, and there was no way I was going to fail now that I was this close.
“Drop the weapon, Pandora,” Kraesse commanded. “Surrender now and give me the box, and this will go much better for you.”
“I don’t think so,” I spat out furiously.
At that moment, I suddenly felt like I was in an old Western, and we were two gunfighters about to draw down on each other. Unfortunately, Kraesse got his shot off first, and a glowing red ball shot out and hit me in the chest, sending me flying back into the wall, where I hit with a painful crash, right before everything went dark.
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