The Beginning of the End
I smiled to myself as I offered Connor the glass of water, timidly. "Here, you look like you could use some water." Connor stared at me like I was crazy. Truthfully, I didn't offer this as a peace offering. Just a few moments ago, I had laced the water with sleeping pills that I slipped from the kitchen when Rene wasn't looking. Why they have sleeping pills inside the kitchen, I did not know, but it sure came in handy.
"I could've poured my own glass," Connor stated, but took the glass from me anyways. I tried to resist the guilt that shot through me as I realized he trusted me. I watched intently as he drank the water while eyeing me carefully. "I'm going to bed."
"Alright," I nodded like the good little girl I was supposed to be. Tonight, I had to maintain independence and I couldn't let these things about Connor bother me. We locked gazes as he stood in the middle of the room holding the now empty glass. I stared at him awkwardly, unsure about what was going to happen next. "Uh--" I began, sheepishly.
Suddenly, his eyes rolled into his head and he collapsed onto the ground with the loudest thud. Oh, crap! I must've put in too much. I quickly ran to his unconscious body and pulled my face near his. The small movement of him breathing tickled my cheeks; confirming that he was still somewhat alive. I dragged him over the carpet and pushed him onto the bed with a grunt. This felt like a reverse rape situation. I imagined myself twirling my mustache and cackling evilly over the body of this handsome man.
After quickly fastening on a cloak and tugging on a pair of warm, heavy boots, I slipped out of the bedroom door. The hallways were the familiar dim and lonely looking things that I have seen so many times already. I crept down it silently towards the kitchen's back doors. As soon as I opened the heavy doors, I was greeted with the crisp, night air. I wondered if Roserly was colder than this. The night was cloudy and gloomy looking. It seemed to be matching the mission I was undergoing. Tugging my cloak a bit closer to my body, I ran towards the stables near the back where the horses were. It smelled like musty crap inside the dark wooden structure. Here and there were a few soft neighs of the sleeping horses. I pushed the large door wider and it cast a dim shadow across the stables.
"Hello?" I murmured, unnecessarily. Of course there was no response, except for the grunts and clip clops of the horse. I walked over to the one nearest to the door. The great horse had a black glossy body and a wild, raven mane that fell in wisps around it's narrow face. This was the best option for sneaking into the night. I shifted my black cloak to hide my flowing dark, blue dress underneath. I yanked at the tethers it had and pulled it out into the dim moonlight. The horse let out a low snort of protest, as if telling me that this wasn't such a great idea. I stared at it solemnly and then pulled out a carrot I had snuck of the kitchen while I was snatching the sleeping pills. "Be a good horse and there will be more of that," I coaxed, quietly and pulled myself onto the warm creature. It neighed a bit at the sudden weight and then shifted it's weight.
I flicked the ropes that wrapped around his head and he moved forward without much hesitance. I listened to the rhythmatic clopping of the horse's hooves as we ventured down the road. Aside from the dim, silvery beams of moonlight, it would be pitch darkness. What was I going to do once I get there?
Hope. That was the most instinctive answer for me. I could do nothing but hope. Suddenly, my hands became very clammy as I rubbed them against my dress that seemed like a huge inconvenience to be in. How long would the ride be? I peered from beneath my cloak to gaze at the endless sky. They were dead. I shuddered at the cool breeze that brushed against me.
The moon was now hidden showing me that I've already been riding for a long time now. I yawned, stretching my rigid fingers. I wonder if he noticed I was gone yet?
I wonder if he cared.
I shook my head rapidly; no distracting thoughts! I concentrated on the road in front of me which seemed darker now. The horse trotted along, not noticing anything. In the far, far distance, I saw the tips of the Roserly palace. It was drawing near. I licked my wind-chapped lips as I squinted at it, a swirl of dread and impending doom quickly filling my gut and stomach.
"Breathe, Ella," I reprimanded myself as I clenched my eyes shut and opened them again. This was no time to get so nervous. Soon enough, I had made it around to the palace back wall. I hopped off of the horse and landed into the soft, icy earth. I tied the horse to the thin tree trunk and dropped the rest of the carrots I had swiped.
"Be good," I said, quietly and patted it's head. I then craned my head to eye the wall. Straining my ears, I listened for the guards that should be out right about now, but if I was correct, then I could guess that they were most likely downstairs in a warm basement drinking ale and playing poker.
Let's hope that.
I jogged over to a nearby tree that locked climbable. I gripped my hands in the crevice of the frosted tree trunk and hoisted myself up onto the next branch. I was used to doing this without such a large and heavy dress, but without this, I'd freeze. My nose felt numb as I rubbed it with my ungloved hands. I returned it to grip the slippery tree. I lifted myself onto the next branch, fumbling with my feet to get a proper holding.
A snort came out in white vapors as I chuckled at myself. "I'm getting rusty." My eyes watered against the cold and I was breathing hard now. I lugged myself onto the wall and allowed myself to flip over and fall into the snow bank below. I shuddered as the ice that soaked into my clothes touched my skin. Stumbling onto my feet, I ran into the refuge of the dark shadows and crept along what looked like the Rose Garden. Suddenly, I remembered the old woman who had warned me and Mr. Gregory. It'd be so nice if I remembered all of them. My heart pounded uncomfortably in my chest. It wasn't because of the sudden physical activity, but it was because of something else. My head was now pounding as the blood rushed to my head. Something about this Rose Garden.
"Royal blood has been spilled." I recalled the woman's foreshadowing. In the near distance stood huge, doors. This garden wasn't small to begin with, but the leaves had grown over the giant wooden doors. It felt like some grand opening. If the roses weren't here, then this whole garden would be nothing but a large open area. Taking small, quick breaths, I ran over to the door and grabbed the cold door handle. Suddenly, I felt so hollow, so miniscule and tiny. It felt as though the wind blew right through me, carelessly knocking whatever existence I had away.
I heard phantom cheering in the distance and all I could do was swallow the bile that began to rise uncomfortably in my throat. I yanked the door open and it creaked open painfully. The rusted hinges protested against the vines and leaves that coated the rotting wood. I stood there and stared at the expansive courtyard in front of me. The cheering was in my ears again, along with the icy wind that swirled bits of snow around. My boots crunched loudly against the frosty ground as I took a step into the yard. It was vast, like a stadium. It looked like a hidden city. Directly across the yard from the large doors was a wooden platform that rose above the courtyard itself. Stone seats were built like opera boxes to the left and right of it.
I squinted against the darkness as everything around me began to sway.
"Ella! Ella, don't run!! Come back!" A voice faint, but so clear sent shudders down my spine as I stared at the wooden platform. Foreboding rippled through me as I took a step towards it. Streams of warm blood touched my lips and the metallic taste erupted in my mouth. I swallowed, painstakingly as I took another step. Pain rippled through my head as my hands clenched into fists at my side.
That's when I tripped on my own feet and blacked out before I even hit the ground.
I blinked from my stroller at the heavily bearded man. He wore a large sash that went over his gigantic belly. A smile twirled onto his kind lips.
"Hello, there!" He bellowed, gleefully.
"Grandpa!" The word rolled off my tongue. It was so familiar. The hearty man belted out a loud laugh that shook the room. Everybody else laughed along with him. He was the center of attention, the feel of love and affection floated around the large, ballroom.
"She's beautiful, son! Beautiful!" My father appeared alongside him to peer adoringly at me.
"I know," he smiled, proudly and gently pinched my cheeks. I squirmed in my seat and reached out for him.
"Hungry!" I pouted and grabbed at the air again. My grandpa leaned over and picked me up. I laughed and hugged him.
"What do you want to eat, darling? Candy?" He produced a wrapped piece of candy that revealed swirls and colors.
I nodded eagerly and grabbed it from his offering fingertips. I popped it in my mouth and savored the delicious candy. It tasted so good. My mom appeared from the crowd and her fingers entwined my dad's.
"Elizabeth!" My grandpa chirped, gleefully, his dark blue eyes flickering happily. "I was wondering where the mother was!" He faced me and nuzzled his nose against mines. "Getting bigger and bigger every day!"
In the corner of my eye, I saw a flicker of steely blue. I shuddered against my Grandpa's warmth and searched the crowds curiously, wondering where this strange emotion was coming from.
"It's cold," I blubbered instinctively, rubbing my arm and trying to go deeper into my grandpa's big, warm arms.
"Let me hold her, father," my dad offered and opened his arms for me. My grandpa shifted me into his and patted me on the head.
"Did you see where Lilith went?" The bearded man glanced around, searching.
My dad stiffened as he gazed worriedly at his father. "I don't know. She said she had a meeting with the Minister of Praisa."
"Praisa?" Grandpa's eyebrows furrowed over his blue ones. There was a brief, but tense silence before he shrugged slowly. "I will talk to her after the party."
"Father, you should…" he hesitated on the word. "be careful. Praisa isn't someone we can consider our ally at the moment. Lilith…you should be careful as well."
"Of your sister? Why should I?" He laughed, heartily again, his eyes crinkling at the corner. "She's my daughter, I love her and she loves me. Nothing can ever break bonds of a family. It's unconditional."
"King Peter," someone called from behind my father and I kept my gaze transfixed on grandpa who now stared in the distant, his blue eyes distancing himself from reality. He looked troubled…and worried.
"It's unconditional." The words repeated in my head.
It was hot, so hot. I clenched my hands into tighter fists as blood spewed from my nose like a faucet. Why was this so painful? It felt like my nose and head was on fire. I groaned as I tried to wrench myself up and off the ground, but gravity was so heavy.
It was a humid night. All I could remember. It was so warm that night. My grandpa had gone to bed early that night. I laid curled in a tight ball under my covers, waiting patiently for sleep to find me. My parents had retired to bed as well and I could hear Nina's soft breathing in the crib near the window. I gazed at the little candle that sat high on the table, safe from curious children's reach, but enough to illuminate the room with a nice, fuzzy glow that banished the shadows from reaching my bed.
Creak. Creak. Creak.
The noise made my hair prickle at the back of my neck as I pushed myself off of the bed. What was that? I listened, holding my breath. It continued until it reached the end of the hallway. Wasn't that where grandpa was staying? I slipped out of the bed and crept towards the large door. I pressed my ear against the heavy door, listening intently. Gently, I opened the door and peered through the tiniest crack.
A burly man, big, but quiet glanced up and down the hallway. He didn't notice that my door was slightly ajar. His eyes were slits against his bulbous cheeks.
Creak. Creak. Creaaaak. Boom. The sound of a door opening and closing. I continued to listen, but heard nothing. I began to doze off with my head resting against the splintering door.
"Your highness!!" A voice rang shrilly through my hazy sleep. I fell forward and shook awake. My eyes went to the candle that had now burned all the way. How long had passed? The moon was gone. The lights in the hallways were being turned on as shadows moved and flickered from under the doorway.
A louder scream came now and there were loud footsteps running up and down the hall outside my door.
"Father!" My dad's voice was breaking. It sent goosebumps raising all over my arm as I hugged my knee. "No! No, please. Father!" His voice grew fainter as he went into the room. I pulled the door slightly opened and peered into the hallway. Standing beneath the doorframe was my mother, her hands clutching the wall for support as she paled immensely. The dim, hallways lights casted large shadows that engulfed everything. The maids and guards rushing by caused everything to sway and flicker. Nobody noticed me standing there and staring.
My grandfather was dead.
Tears dribbled down my cheeks, mixing with the blood into pink droplets of salty liquid that hit and melted the ice. I hobbled onto my knees and attempted to make my way towards the platform again, but only succeeded in falling flatly onto the ground again, slipping into another heavy, dark blanket of unconsciousness.
Nina gurgled happily as I dangled a berry above her. She swiped happily at it and I laughed along to her pleasure.
"Don't feed it to her, yet, Ella!" My mom called from the kitchen. The slight smell of stew filled the air. I turned and grinned at my mom.
"I know!" Nina didn't have teeth yet, so she couldn't eat things like a whole berry, but we always mash it up for her. I popped the berry into my mouth, chewed once and spat it back out. "Here, Nina!" She ate it happily, drooling all over my hand in the process. I giggled and gently touched the fine hairs on her soft, baby head. Her blue eyes glinted with glee as she clapped her hands for more. I glanced around me looking for more loose berries. A light knocking distracted me from Nina and my mom jerked her head up, alert. The knocking continued, in a rhythm that seemed funny. After ten seconds of the knocking, my mom let out a low sigh of relief and dried her hands on her apron.
"Ella, bring Nina into your bedroom and play," she ordered and then walked towards the front door. She pulled the door open and I caught a glimpse of a beautiful, blond woman who was shielded by a dark, crimson velvety cloak.
"Elizabeth." The woman's voice was smooth and shaking with emotion. I picked up the fidgeting Nina and walked towards my bedroom, my eyes not leaving the woman. My mom guided her into the living room and our eyes met. She tilted her head downward and smiled, pleasantly at me, her full, pink lips curving upward in a kindred smile. It looked like something similar to my mother's. I lowered my head I instinctively and disappeared into my bedroom, but left a crack open. I propped Nina on my bed and sat by the doorway, listening intently.
"Larine, thank you so much for all of this," my mom said in a hushed voice. There was a light sigh.
"I'm just so glad you got here safely," Larine murmured back. I imagined the tall, elegant woman again. "I was so worried. It's terrible at Roserly right now. That is why it took me so long to visit you guys. Its been what, months?"
"Yes, I know," my mom whispered like she was in pain. I though back to the snowy country and began to wonder again why we had to leave and come to this dry place. "I'm sorry. I d-don't know how this could have happened."
"We are trying to negotiate with Lilith right now, but her husband is very stern about your …betrayal."
"Betrayal?" My mom gasped, outraged. "We would never--"
"I know, Beth, I know," Larine interrupted her. She bit her lip tentatively. "We are still a small country, Enagonia. My husband and I are going to do everything in our power to prove your innocence. We promise. We won't let them charge you with treason." Beth reached into her shirt color and undid her necklace that flickered in the light.
"Take this as a token of our gratitude," my mom proffered her, her voice wispy. Larine stood up and her long fingers enclosed around the ring.
My mom stood up and walked towards the kitchen. Her face was wiped clean of emotions. "This is horrible," she said, loud enough for Larine to hear. A hoarse laugh escaped her lips. "This was all planned by Lilith wasn't this? She set up that whole scene. We didn't kill Father. We didn't." Her voice faltered. "We all loved him so much."
Larine's eyes flickered with sorrow as she gently caressed her friend's ring. Everybody looked so much older, so tired. I turned away from the talking adults and hugged Nina tightly, burying my face into her head, inhaling her clean, baby smell.
Everything melted away, but I could no longer differentiate reality from mental images. All I smelled was coldness. I saw Larine again. The scene where she had to come over and persuade us to leave Enagonia.
My mom supported herself by leaning against the wooden chair that stood by her. My father stood there, his chest heaving with anger.
"Lilith, that witch."
My mom had her hand to her mouth as tears dribbled down her cheeks. "They're going to kill us," she realized. "We're going to die because of treason."
Larine interrupted sharply, "Not if I can help it."
There was silence. Silence was heavy in my ears. My cheeks were numb, but I couldn't tell if I was really cold.
Where was I? I blinked and I saw white. I closed my eyes and saw black.
Suddenly everything was filled with that phantom cheering. That infamous, notorious, gut wrenching cheering. Where was I now? I blinked and sorrow rippled through my chest. Standing hidden in the crowd, next to me was Queen Larine. She had a cloak wrapped around her tall, eloquent figure. Her smooth hand clenched tightly to my own tiny ones and I couldn't see over the taller, rowdier people. She had offered to hold Nina, but I refused.
"Kill them! Kill them!" Cheers erupted everywhere and dust flew everywhere, making my eyes water. Where were my parents? Who were they going to kill? Mingled with the choruses of anger, where sad, sobbing people. Weaving around the rowdy people, they had their heads bent and their voices shrill.
"Save them! Save them!"
A thundering boom filled the air and everybody quieted down, awaiting the verdict of some sort. I peeked through shoulders and made out the figure of Aunt Lilith, her black hair reaching her hair, a cruel smile on her taut lips.
"Citizens of Roserly!" Her voice boomed through the courtyard. It was a familiar courtyard, I realized. She flourished out her hands as she continued nobly. "My beloved father was murdered in the palace years ago!" Heavy silence, the silence to mourn the great king. "And the criminals ran free for years!" Muttering of fury and wrath fluttered through the crowd. "But not for long! We have brought them here today, charged with treason!!! We have brought them to justice!"
Larine bent her head down and I saw a tear drop fall onto the ground. Who were the ones that killed my grandpa? I was angry as well, feeling carried away by the fury that swept through the crowds.
"They dared to run away from the kingdom. They dared to abandon Roserly in our most vulnerable time. By fleeing the kingdom, they have only established their own guilt. They confirmed it!"
People were roaring now, with crude delight. I stood on my tiptoes, anticipating the faces of such vile people. Sitting in the opera-like boxes that were located next to platform was another grimfaced king. He wore the robes of Enagonia, sitting beside him was a bright-green eyed little boy who watched the whole scene sternly. He seemed to be used to such events, such judgments. My eyes flickered curiously over his young face and them back to the Queen's slightly hidden face. They looked alike. Except their eyes; his eyes were empty. I pulled Nina closer to me as a loud drum began to pound again. Nina was fast asleep in my own tiny arms. Even though she was now about my size, she was still light and tiny. She was born early.
I resisted the temptation to cover my ears against the thundering drums. Booing filled the air as I saw figures staggering up onto the platform. A blonde woman came up first, I didn't know her, but she had a sturdy build. Her brown eyes gazed stoically over the large mob of people. Things were being thrown onto the platform, causing loud clattering noises. I watched intently, trying to determine whether this woman was capable of killing my grandpa or not. Something in my heart said she couldn't, that something was wrong. The next few people came, but they were no one I recognized. It seemed wrong, like these people weren't supposed to be there. Then came the last two. The woman and man who staggered onto the stage, their faces tired and emotionless.
"Mom," I whispered. "Dad?" They stood there, stern, still redeeming some of their royal air that had always existed around them. Everybody was quiet. The throwing had ceased and the only noise were soft sobbing of the protestors.
"These criminals, under the skies, watched by God will receive retribution for slaughtering the former King in cold blood." Queen Lilith continued, her voice grim. How could she sentence her own brother to death. My dad gazed at her, his eyes unwavering, solid, focused. She didn't falter, she didn't even look back to meet his blue eyes.
"No!" I called, my voice being swept away by the vastness of the courtyard. "No!!"
He was challenging her. His eyes, his presence, everything was challenging her. I stared at her, too. Hoping my own defiance would somehow reach her. My hope and defiance. Something was very wrong. I glanced at the King of Enagonia who stood even stiffer now, his eyes focused on the whole ordeal. Shouldn't he know the truth? I stared at Queen Larine, why wasn't she stopping this!? Why?! Why?! There were five executioners. Each standing next to a block where the heads were placed. This can't happen. My arms wrapped itself tighter around Nina. They were arranged at the blocks, my parents in the center, their piercing blue eyes left transfixed to the crowd, penetrating their souls.
They were innocent. Why didn't they say anything? I saw a crystal tear drip down my mother's cheek. It dribbled to her chin and clung there, her eyes searching desperately through the crowd. She was looking for me.
That was when I yanked my hand out of the Queen's grasp. She whirled around in surprise, a sharp gasp exiting her lips.
I darted into the crowd, my hand wrapped tightly around Nina who had begun to wake at the sudden movements. I dodged large people who stood watching the execution. My mom was looking for me. Tears were in my eyes, blinding me as I made my way across the uneven cobblestone.
"Mom." I chanted as I neared the looming platform. Both my parents leaned over and placed their chins gently on the pedestal. The executioners rolled their shoulders, ready to do their job. My dad's eyes were crinkled in pain. Not physical pain, but mental pain, that such a cruel, unjust thing was happening. His faith, his own citizens were condemning him. The axe gleamed viciously in the sunlight, glinting off of it's cold, sharp steel.
They raised it high above their heads, all doing it simultaneously--robotically. They began to bring it down. I rammed through the last of the crowd, panting, tears flowing freely from my eyes as I opened my mouth to scream for them to stop.
My mom's eyes made contact with me. She focused on me and all the sorrow drained from those crystal eyes. It was replaced with relief and a brief second of happiness as her lips formed into three words.
"I love you." Her eyes shifted to glance adoringly at her husband who also had a small smile tainting his worried lips. Everything around me began to shake, or maybe that was just me shaking, but a scream erupted my lips as the axe finally swished down.
I was trembling. I was crying. Tears wouldn't stop coming from my eyes as I sobbed so hard, so much.
No, no. no. No. There was so much blood. The metallic taste, the smell, the sight made my stomach churn and I felt the bile travel up my throat. I wanted to get away. I wanted to go somewhere far away.
I let my crying lull me back into the comfortable darkness. Instead of evading it this time, I embraced it.
A/n: Okay, that was kind of bad. I will edit this later, so tell me what you think for now. I am pretty sure I will add some other explanations later in this story. So I have a bout five more chapters to go for this baby!! Thanks for supporting and reading! You guys are forever awesome. School has begun, high school sophomore, baby! I hate algebra….and exercising.
I freaking love food.
Again, thanks so much for reading! I apologize for confusion and excessively late updates.
Slight or major grammatical error for I did not reread or edit.