Kiara awoke in a wagon, lurching this way and that. She was tied up once again, only tighter.
Why is it I always get in trouble while I'm sleeping or unconscious? she thought miserably. She tried freeing her hands, and failed. These ties were tight.
The wagon stopped. Someone pulled her out, and draped her over his shoulder. As she bobbed along, she carefully opened an eye.
She didn't recognize where they were, but something about the place gave her the creeps.
When they reached the end of the empty hallway, the man opened the door and put her on the cold stone floor. He then shut and locked the door, and walked away.
Kiara sat up and looked around. She was in a jail cell of some kind, with no windows or openings. The only light came from the tiny window on the door. The whole room was big enough for about two other people, but that was it.
She tried freeing herself once again, but only chafed her wrists and made them bleed.
Just as she began on her ankles a face appeared at the window. The door was unlocked, and opened. Someone Kiara didn't recognize stepped into the room and hauled her to her feet. She let him. He seemed harmless enough, and he didn't look like he wanted anything to do with her.
After he cut the bonds on her ankles, keeping a firm grip on her legs, they walked silently down the hallway.
They entered a room where Frederick and several other men sat on chairs around a long table. They looked up when the door opened.
"Ah, right on time," said one of the men. He sat at the head of the table and seemed to be the leader. He also looked familiar to Kiara.
Then it clicked. It hit her so hard she gasped. This was Jasmine's personal spy, Gavin, the man who knew the secrets no one else did. She had only ever seen him from a distance, but she knew of him and his evil actions.
She was pushed further into the room, where everyone could see her.
"Frederick tells me you have quite a spirit, as well as a story," he said. "Let's hear the story."
Kiara didn't reply. There was no way she could escape from here, and they already knew her story. Frederick had probably spilled everything. So she said nothing.
"Very well," he said. "Frederick has already told me everything he knows. I just wanted to hear it from your own lips." He looked straight at her. "I think the queen will be most happy to see you."
Kiara glared at him.
"Take her back," Gavin ordered.
Her prison keeper bowed, and then thrust her to her cell. After he locked her up, he walked away once again.
Kiara just sat there for a long time. She didn't know what to think.
Then the door opened, and a hooded figure slipped in. Kiara leapt up, ready to defend herself. The hood slipped off, to reveal Jaeden.
Kiara's jaw dropped. "Are you crazy? What're you doing here? What happens if they find you here?" she whispered fiercely.
Jaeden grinned. "Worried about my safety? That's sweet." Kiara glared at him.
He strode up to her and held her. "Don't worry, Princess, I've come to rescue you." He kissed her sweetly, and then smiled.
Kiara slapped him lightly on the chest and frowned. "You're cracked."
He laughed. "Come on, I know the way out of here." He pulled his hood up and quietly opened the door, stepping out into the hall. They easily made it out of the house.
"What happened to the guards?" Kiara asked breathlessly. They were standing behind a tiny shop, leaning against the wall and breathing hard.
"On the way in I knocked them out," Jaeden answered. "Anyway, we have to get back to Cameron. There are some things you should know." He grabbed Kiara's hand and pulled her in the direction of General Gabriel's home.
"Kiara! Where have you been? What happened to you? And why is Jaeden here?" Cameron went from being frantic with fear to confused as ever. Kiara laughed at his reaction.
"Calm down, we'll tell you everything. Let's go to the library, though, or someplace private." Gabriel nodded and led them to a tiny room.
After Kiara explained her part in the events, she looked to Jaeden for his explanation.
He began by looking at her. "I didn't have time to tell you this, but I'm somewhat of a spy, too. That's how I know Cameron. Anyway, after you two left, Jasmine, of course, came looking for you. Well, she would go into a private room every night with some of her counselors, and Wizards, and everyone else she brought with her, and I was sent to find out what they were saying. It turns out that years ago she was a lady-in-waiting in the old queen's court, and she was the one that plotted the king and queen's death."
This news brought an expected round of gasps, and Jaeden waited until everyone was quiet before continuing.
"I don't know what she did, exactly; probably slowly poisoned them, or something of that sort, but the king, unfortunately died. The queen managed to escape, and has been in hiding all these years. We don't know where, yet. Neither does Jasmine. Anyway, that's why she treated you so badly, Kiara. She was jealous of your parents' popularity, and wanted to kill you along with them. But fortunately one of her advisors changed her mind about you. The new arrangement was to make you one of the lowliest servants in the castle, so Jasmine could keep her eye on you, but to make your life miserable in the process. She doesn't know about Cameron. But now that you're gone, she wants you back before you find out who you are and expose her. That's what she fears the most. So she's going to do everything in her power to get you back, and if need be, kill you."
Then Kiara got up and left the room, hot tears streaming silently down her cheeks. Cameron moved to follow her, but Jaeden held him back.
"I'll talk to her," he said softly, and strode after her.
Kiara stood in the library with her back against the far wall, crying noiselessly. It simply broke Jaeden's heart to see her so helpless and afraid, and he held her, just like the night when she found out who she was. She was so overwhelmed and intimidated by what lay ahead of her. Nobody deserved to go through the shocks she was going through. Yet here she was, being told she was a long-lost princess with a brother, and a mother that lived. He couldn't even begin to imagine the terror she was feeling at that moment. So he held her, and let her deal with it her own way.
Once again, she cried until she had no more tears. This time, though, she didn't laugh. She still looked troubled.
"Kiara?" Jaeden asked softly.
"I don't know what to do," she replied. "It was one thing to find out I'm the princess, but now Cameron, and my dad, and Jasmine, it – it's too much! I can't take this pressure!" She buried her face in his chest, and shook with hushed sobs.
"We'll help you, you know we will," Jaeden assured her. "You're not in this alone. You never were." He stroked her hair gently.
"I know," Kiara whispered. "I know."
"You okay?" Cameron asked gently when they returned to the room. Kiara had stopped crying, but her eyes were still a bit red and puffy. She nodded.
"Okay, then we have to act now. I think I know exactly what to do.