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Until this moment, Rueben hadn't known that fear could cause such excruciating pain.

One might say that it had swept over him like a wave, but it was more than that. More accurately, it felt as if he had been pushed underwater, and was now drowning. 

And he hadn't even made it through the door.

There was something about the planet itself, something strange about its atmosphere. It was something in the air - something so unbelievably strong, so unbelievably powerful that it was suffocating him.

Halfway across the bridge that led to the castle, Rueben stopped. 

Hunching over with a reddening face, he placed his hands on his knees and forced himself to take long, deep breaths. He was overthinking it, he had to be. It wasn't possible that Cruor was that powerful, that his very presence on a planet was enough to weaken Rueben's body. 

There had to be some shred of hope that he would be victorious.

Rueben tried to ignore the nagging feeling in the back of his head, the voice that was telling him to turn around and go back; the voice that was reminding him of all the hundreds of thousands of people that had died by Cruor's hand.

As he straightened his back, Rueben attempted to encourage himself. "You can do this, Rueben," he mumbled. "Your entire life, all those years of training. You've prepared for this." Step after slow step, Rueben managed to push forward.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a shadowed figure. It had happened before, at least a dozen times, and on every occasion, there was no one there when he turned to look. Again, a fear crept over him, flowing through Rueben's veins as if trying to replace his blood.

The closer Rueben got to the jagged peaks of the structure, the more ominous it seemed to become. What little light there was radiated from several specific points - an unnatural looking, probably magical turquoise that made everything else look equally odd in turn. 

When he was a mere foot from the door, surrounded by the glow coming from the open entry, Rueben stopped. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get his feet to move. For a moment, he thought he had once again been paralyzed by fear. 

Then a figure appeared.