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The cold fingers wrapped around her like a snake, and she let out a scream as she was pulled forcefully back, away from the edge of the roof of the palace and towards the man that had disappeared after her birth and suddenly reappeared now that she was sixteen. He was the terror in the night, the whispers in the dark, the nightmares in your head. He was the ruler of the Dark World. And the crown that rested on his head didn’t belong to him.
“What you have avoided you shall become,” he declared as his eyes began to glow an unearthly white and a swirl of dark red magic coiled around his arms and built up in the palms of his powerful hands. She suddenly felt herself growing unbearably warm. Her long hair lifted from her shoulders in a Medusa form and floated in the air. Her knees grew weak, and she began to see red. Desperate, she squeezed her eyes shut and let out a yell as her father gripped her wrists and kept her from falling to the roof.
A cold breeze blew around her. She felt like she was falling, but flying at the same time. Freezing, but burning. It was making her head hurt.
And then suddenly it stopped.
He released her, and she fell. But instead of feeling the rough tiles of the roof, she felt the softness of the ground press against her knees. And she felt something else, too. Covering her whole body. She opened her eyes.
Instead of the comfortable cotton tank-top and jean shorts she had been wearing only minutes before, she found herself dressed in the signature colors of the Dark World – red and black. It was a turtle-neck dress with sleeves that ran to the elbows and a skirt that had slits in the side to expose her calves. On her feet she now wore black leather ankle boots.
“Isn’t it beautiful, Danica?” the Dark King asked her. She looked up and was horrified to see that the sky had turned blood red, and the ground on which she stood was black as night. She shook her head.
“What have you done?” she asked, her voice a near whisper.
“It’s not what I’ve done, Danica, but what you’ve done. What you will do.” The Dark King sounded pleased with himself. “Upon reaching the age of eighteen, you will lead the Light World to its demise, bringing those pestering Guardians to their knees.”
“What?” She whirled around, staring up at him. He smirked down at her.
“You are the portal to the next era, Danica. The Gem. You will bring the downfall of the Light World and its royal family, along with their faithful Guardians.”
“You can’t,” she said defiantly, rising to face him. “They have the King’s Sword. You can’t defeat them as long as they have it.”
“Can’t I?” he gave her a wicked grin and grabbed her shoulder, spinning her around so that she rested against him and faced the dark world of the future. “I have you. You are the Gem. And you’re going to destroy the Light World.”
And then her first vision came. She saw herself within the Light World, gaining the trust of the King and his Guardians. He was handing her the sword. And at the exact moment her fingertips brushed against the hilt, the Dark King was behind her, snatching it from her as red magic burst from her chest and filled the room, forcing the Guardians to surrender to save their King.
“No!” Danica screamed as the dark world was sucked away from her eyes like it was being drawn into a black hole. The sun shone on her once more, and the dark dress she wore dissolved from her like dust blowing in the wind. The Dark King was standing on the edge of the palace roof with his hands wrapped around her shoulders.
“If you want to keep running now, you can,” he said, releasing her and making her lose her balance. She fell back onto the roof as the King began to sink through a portal he had opened.
“You can’t hide from yourself.”