Home > A Sanctuary of Foes

A Sanctuary of Foes
Author: Bella Forrest

Thayen


We’d made it to the other side of the universe. Or so it felt.

Our Shade, but not our Shade. A different Shade. This version was dark and drab, almost colorless, but the design was identical to the place we called home. It was filled with clones of us—most of us, anyway. Some of these copies of us were disturbingly accurate, some were convincing but slightly flawed, and others were even partially improved. They all looked like us, and they could easily pass as one of us.

The clones had taken something of ours. We didn’t know what, but it was precious enough to warrant the two-month presence of Isabelle’s clone among us for the sole purpose of stealing it. They had invaded our Shade. Attacked our loved ones. They had tried to kill Astra more than once. Her mother was missing, and it only made sense to blame the clones for that, too.

After days of struggling to untangle the many unknowns that had been dropped at our feet, Astra, Jericho, Dafne, Soph, and I had managed to get to the source of the problem by following a clone through one of the shimmering portals. But there were things in this fake Shade that were scarier than the clones. Creatures made of darkness and shadows that could have torn us apart, had it not been for Astra.

“If this is the same as our island, we won’t have daylight to help us,” Jericho said from the cave room’s narrow entrance. A corridor linked it to the outside, but none of us had dared to go through it again—we’d barely escaped with our lives. Claudia’s clone had brought the stolen object here after she’d killed Isabelle’s double. I doubted we’d find her soon, since we were stuck trying to figure a way to relative safety. This cave wasn’t going to hide us for long.

“Those things, those shadows, they didn’t like your light,” Dafne said to Astra.

Astra let out a heavy sigh. She’d barely said anything for the past five hours since we’d hidden in this cave. We would start losing track of time if we stayed here. We needed a plan. “Yeah,” Astra said. “But there’s only so much light I can create before I’m spent. The light I create as a Daughter requires more energy than I could syphon as a half-sentry on the run. We do have dragon fire,” she added, looking at Jericho. “Fae fire, too. But we’ll have to use our resources carefully if we’re planning to go outside again.”

“It’s not like we have a better choice,” Soph said, getting up. She dusted herself off, wrinkling her nose at the sight of scratches and cuts marring her uniform. “But where do we go from here?”

“I think the first thing we need to do is establish what this place is,” I replied, leaning against the uneven, jagged cave wall. The stone felt cold against my back, seeping through the fabric of my GASP attire. “It’s a copy of The Shade, which makes sense, if you think about it—copies of us coming from a copy of our world.”

“Makes you wonder if there’s more beyond this alt-Shade,” Soph said. “Like a copied Earth or a copied Supernatural Dimension with a cloned Neraka in it. That kind of stuff.”

“I wouldn’t put anything past whoever or whatever made this place,” Astra replied. “But there’s one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty—this cave doesn’t exist in our Shade. There’s nothing like this in the redwood forest. Not on this side of the island, at least. Which begs the question, what else might be different about the alt-Shade, as Soph calls it?”

Jericho scoffed, adjusting his half-burnt robe, clearly uncomfortable with having so little to wear. “We’re not going to find out by staying here, that’s for sure.”

“We have to go out again,” I said. “That’s obvious.”

“But where do we go?” Astra asked. “What exactly do we do? How do we investigate without getting torn to shreds by those shadow people or whatever the hell they were? I’ve got most of my energy back, but I will need more with every burst of light I let out. I can’t syphon off you without leaving you vulnerable, either, and as I pointed out before, the light required to keep the shadow monsters at bay needs more energy than I could gather from any of you. This is the one thing I’ve never had to deal with back home… I’d just syphon off Mom if I needed it, but I rarely did.”

“Your two halves are in conflict,” I concluded. “The Daughter and the sentry. The former is strong and usually feeds the other, but now it consumes more energy than the latter is able to procure. Which leaves you with limited resources all the time.”

“Yes. The shimmering portal gave me an excellent boost, though I doubt we’ll come across others for me to feed on now that Claudia’s clone got what they came for.”

Soph frowned. “We need to find out what they took. We can’t reach out to our people— there’s no Telluris or functional comms here. No way back unless there’s a portal, but like you said, what are the odds of that happening now? We can’t leave until we get to the truth. We need to know why this is happening so we can protect our people going forward.”

I started pacing the chamber, my gaze wandering across the walls. There was a faint glimmer here and there—mineral deposits of some kind. I ran my hand over the rugged surface, feeling the abrasive particles scratching at my fingertips. “We can track Claudia’s clone,” I said. “Soph and I caught her scent when we got here. We can go back to the Port and pick up the trace from there. But that’s just one of our priorities. Isabelle and Viola are still missing. It’s very likely they were brought here, since there was no sign of them in The Shade.”

“Speaking of,” Soph replied. “We know they weren’t taken for their DNA material. Whoever made the clones infiltrated The Shade and lifted samples off nearly everyone. We didn’t see a copy of Astra or Viola. Maybe they can’t clone Daughters?”

Astra gave a small nod. “It’s a possibility. It certainly explains why they were so eager to kill me. But if I’m a threat as a Daughter, why would they take Mom? Why not just kill her? I think we’re still missing key pieces of information here.”

“You bet your pink hair we’re missing information,” Dafne muttered. “Okay, so number one on our to-do list is to find out what Claudia’s clone took from Isabelle’s clone. Number two, find the missing people. Number three, find out who the hell made these freakazoids in the first place, right?”

“Right,” I said.

“We need resources for that. Invisibility magic. More weapons, ideally pulverizers. Those will get the job done fast. Healing potions,” Dafne continued, standing up. “In other words, we’ve got to find a place to stock up.”

“Well, assuming the layout of this alt-Shade is mostly the same as the original, and that its contents are more or less identical, we might find some useful stuff in the armory back behind the training halls,” Soph suggested.

This suggestion gave me a sense of direction. “You know, you might be onto something. If we’re going to stand a chance against the clones and whatever those shadow creatures are, the armory is our best shot…if it exists.”

From here, we had a relatively simple journey. All we had to do was stick to the redwoods and head northwest past the Great Dome. There were a few trails we could take that would help us avoid the more populated areas of the alt-Shade—assuming, of course, that this place was an accurate copy of our island, aside from the occasional extra cave. Once we got the supplies we needed, we could navigate the alt-Shade with greater ease. The clones had red lenses, so even if we had invisibility we’d be at risk—but it would be infinitely better than our current situation.

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