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Crest of Thorns

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Chapter 5: Zari

A surge of jealousy overtakes my calm composure, and I find myself staring angrily at my love and the idiot girl. Her hair has silver in it? What is she, a thousand years old?

           Nicholas shuffles his feet, looking embarrassed, and I give him the slightest smile to comfort him. “It’s okay. The Fortress is a maze, like you said. I can guide Saranida now,” I nod to Sara. “You. Follow me.”

           “Wait, Leader Zarridah! What are my orders for the rest of the day?” Nicholas says abruptly, standing straight and solider-like.

           “I would assume you could clean up Sara’s belongings at your home. From now on, she will be staying at one of our Study Chambers,” I instruct, and Nicholas bows.

           “Yes. For Valian!” Nicholas salutes, then runs off through the maze. I roll my eyes.

           “He’s so worried about being traditional,” I drawl. “I like him for it, though.”

           “Z-Z-Zari? Aren’t you…upset with me? Are you going to execute me?”

           A forced laugh escapes my lips. “Dear Sara, why would I execute you?” I’d rather get rid of your friend than a…” I push the words out through gritted teeth. “A beautiful girl like you.”

           Sara creeps forward to my side cautiously. “Are you…and Nicholas…married?” She asks. The question takes me by surprise.

           “Do you see a ring on my finger? Why do you ask?” I start marching off, and Sara hurries to keep up.

           “I don’t know…I was just wondering. You sound as though you like him,” Sara replies nervously, her hands trembling. I smirk.

           “He likes me too. It’s a mutual thing,” I say, throwing my long hair over my shoulder.

           I turn right into another hall. Thank goodness I have a good memory, because our past leader had made this castle a confusing labyrinth. And along with that…it’s great that I can remember Valian routes, because if I didn’t, I’d be useless for the people who will get me out of this woe begotten city.

           “So Sara, I’ve heard that you are fluent with the languages throughout Edinsmore?” I say smoothly. Maybe, once I find out more about her, I can take her flaws and use them.

           “Yes. Is this because you want me to be a translator?” Sara’s words twist together so fast I can barely hear her. She’s anxious, alright. And smart.

           “No. We want you to be a warrior,” I try. Let’s see what she thinks of this.

           Sara’s brow shoots up. “No…no, I can’t,” she stutters, “I-I can’t because I—”

           “Because you’ll what?” I interject, a smile playing on my red lips.

           Sara shakes her head. “Because I will let Valian down. Let everyone down. I don’t know anything about being a warrior.

           “And yet you still carry a bow? And arrows?”

           Sara splays her hands out, at a loss for words.

           I decide to take pity on the young girl. Who knows, maybe she’ll help me with my mission.

           And once my mission is done…

           “This way,” I instruct as the hallways start to become lighter. The light tells me we’re moving to the top of the main stone fort. Torchlight melts into natural light, and soon we’re at the Battle Chamber.

           It brings back memories, walking into this place. Most are bad ones.

           It was hard to become a Valian leader. Rai and Elden hadn’t trusted me because I had moved from an Outer City when I was twelve. My mother had a large debt to pay to the king, and so she fled it like she always had-by running into the Dawnfall Woods and hiding in Valian, the one place the king couldn’t find her. She brought me along, but my little sister?

           Nope. Now, all I care about is making sure my sister stays alive at the city. Even if I’m far away from her, and if lying is the only way to save her, then I will do whatever it takes.

           That’s what my mission is all about.

           “This is where we plan battles,” I explain pompously, distracting myself with touring the Map Chambers. Silver knight armour is put on display on either side of us, and a large table with maps all over is placed in the middle of the room. The difference between the Silver Knight’s armour and our armour is that ours has a different look, like a climbing vine with roses. I catch Sara studying the weapons and armour, and a tiny pinprick of an idea forms in my mind. Her failure will be my back up plan in case my first one doesn’t work. Above us, light filters in from the balcony, revealing my two comrade’s faces.

           “Raihenar. Eldenick. I’ve brought her.” My voice is clear and confident, like it should be. Rai narrows his eyes at Sara, while gray-haired Elden looks on in apprehension.

           “Good, good. Now we can translate the Cardic Scriptures easily.” Elden says, stroking his long beard. He’s the oldest out of Rai and I, and I’m the youngest, at the age of twenty. I steal a glance at Sara, wondering what her reaction will be.

           “One second. I’m not going to work for you if you don’t tell me what’s going on, and what you’ve done with Vicky,” Sara snaps from beside me. I’m taken aback. From what I could make out, Sara was quiet and shy. Nervous but smart. Maybe her nervousness comes out from being around Vicky, since the girl is a Necroca. Although I doubt that’s the reason Sara is so flighty. Perhaps she’s naturally a nervous girl.

           “Sara, we will tell you what you need to know, and then you will help us. If not, we won’t give you Vicky back. If you do, we will give her back to you and try to locate your parents,” Rai says smoothly, leering at Sara,

           “Really? I, mean, you can get my parents back?” Sara’s eyes light up hopefully. Rai nods, a grin on his freckled face.

           “Yes, we will. Now come take a seat,” I motion towards the seat, and Sara sits down eagerly. Elden begins to speak.

           “Now Sara, we have a deal for you. We need a person who is fluent in the language of Necroca. The Cardic Scriptures.” Elden pauses, throwing notes with the odd red stain on the table.

           “We have intercepted these war letters on the table, and all are written with the Cardic Scriptures, which are usually used for spells. But for some reason, they don’t seem like spells. They have a certain pattern to them, and they are all directed to the enemy.” Rai cuts in. “This tells us that Henryle is working with many people, such as the Necroca northerners. We don’t understand why he would work with people he hates, but he is.”

           “We need you to translate these scriptures for us,” I join in, receiving a death glare from Elden. I smirk in return. He furrows his brow and keeps going.

           “If you help us, we will get Vicky for you and try to locate the enslaved villagers. Including your parents,” Elden finishes, his voice low and deep. “We need help from a smart girl like you.”

           Sara stares thoughtfully at the map. We wait for a while, and impatience festers up in me. Before I can blow, Sara speaks.

           “You should try attacking from the eastern side of the city. There are less guards and the sewers are an easy entrance into the city for infiltration.” Sara stops herself and twists out her hands apologetically. “Sorry. I just noticed that you were planning on attacking the city Griff and attacking from the south would lead to more casualties.”

           “Can you just answer our question, know-it-all?” I growl, my fists clenching.

           “I’ve thought your offer through too,” Sara pauses. “Sure, I’ll translate for you. But you can’t go back on your word. Please. I need to know my family is safe. And please, give Vicky another chance.” Sara’s eyes start to water for a split second, then she wipes it away. Elden laughs.

           “Of course Saranida. We would never go back on our word.” Elden glowers at me again before turning to Rai. “Rai will show you to your chambers. Isn’t that right, Rai?” Elden glances severely at Rai, and Rai groans, though there’s a glint of triumph in his eyes.

           “Fine. Follow me,” Rai shows us an exaggerated pout, heading out of the room. Sara follows him hurriedly. The doors slam shut behind them as I lay back in the chair, relieved.

           “Saranida is a smart one. I hope she can join us as leaders here one day,” Elden ruminates, studying the map. My lips curl back in disgust, remembering my deal. My mission.

           “Please,” I wave him off. “She lacks the confidence of a real leader.”

           “Maybe. But I almost wonder if she was meant for the role.”


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