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Crest of Thorns

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Chapter 6: Vicky

“Her words are soft, her love is strong, she is the Rose Maiden,” I sing softly, my voice echoing in the darkness of the prison cell. I observe the two guards standing in front of the fortress cell, and I sniff, bemused. They are rigid and don’t want to hear my song. More or less my singing.

           “The knights give up their silver knives, just to see her smile,” I sing a little higher this time. The guards tense, pulling their cloaks over themselves tightly.

           “But when they find her beautiful face, she sends them off with a single rose,” the song’s rhythm starts to slow. One of the guards glances back at me.

           “She has no need for others, her beauty’s just enough,” the guards are both staring at me, and I resist the urge to spit in their faces.

           “But roses don’t last forever; her beauty wilts in time.” The guards are now mesmerized.

           “For she is the Rose Maiden, for she is the Rose Maiden…” my voice dwindles to a whisper, and when I look up, the guards are back in position. Heads erect, swords at the ready by their sides. I cough harshly.

           Mud is caked in my boots, and the chains that keep me in place are slippery and wet. My hands are tied behind my back, and I need to eat food like a pig.

           “Pleasant,” I mutter sarcastically to myself. I cough again, and like Sara, a bit of blood dribbles out of my mouth. The chance I have worms are very high.

           Again, I wonder what I had done so wrongly to deserve this. Sure, maybe my spell backfired, and I accidentally killed some Valian soldiers, but it was a mistake! How does Zari not understand? Has she ever failed in her life? Oh well.

           And about Sara…how could she just leave me here?

My head hangs limply.

           The justice system in Valian is very bad. I wasn’t even invited to the Hearing!

           My hatred towards Zarridah fuels my anger and power. She was a deceitful idiot from the start, acting as if she would be a good friend to me, and then casting me off to prison. I growl in disgust. Stupid. I am stupid.

           At once I hear a hiss, growl, and purr mixed together. I lift my head painfully and glimpse a fuzzy white snowball of fur.

           “P-P-Pixie?” I splutter.

           Pixie laces through the prison bars as if mocking me. Her yellow eyes shine in amusement. The guards don’t seem to notice the cat.

           “Pixie!” I call excitedly as she pushes her body through the silver bars. She sashays towards me, tail raised in greeting.

           “Mrrow,” Pixie purrs as she crawls into my lap.

           I nuzzle her with my cheek since my hands are still tied. As is my witch’s staff, which sits in chains in front of me. I assume that Zari left it near me as a way to make me feel worse. It hasn’t worked yet, fortunately.

           And of course, Zari would do anything to gain the popular vote. No wonder she threw me in prison. It was a show to make the other Valian citizens happy.

           My thoughts drift to Sara. If Pixie is here, that would mean that Sara would have brought her, wouldn’t it?

           And if Sara hadn’t left already, maybe she would still be able to get me out!

           Vicky, you fool, I scold myself, hope diminishing. From the way I’ve treated her recently, I wouldn’t be surprised if she did nothing for me. But then again, we were closer than friends. We were like sisters. Everything we had went through at our village had strengthened our sister bond, including the loss of our family.

           Of course, Sara’s loss was more harder for her, since mine was more of a too-drunk father. He likes his drinks, my old pop. He had never been that way before, before my own mother was taken away. He had been a soldier from Valian who craved a more simpler life with my mother. He was the one who had taught me the Rose Maiden song, and I thank him for it. I wonder how he’s doing without me…

           I tremble and set my head down on Pixie’s back for comfort. I will myself to think of the good things I have. My cat’s loyalty, hopefully Sara’s too, and my sanity. I close my eyes, breathing heavily. My stomach growls.

           “Get her out. It’s almost the day of the Remembering, and she has an apology to make,” a monotone drawl orders, and I cheekily glower out of my cell.

           “An apology? To whom?” I scoff.

           The silver gate opens to reveal Zarridah’s hideous face. Well, hideous in my opinion.

           “Bring her out,” Zari orders the guards. “If she fights or tries to get her staff, feel free to cut off her head.”

           The guards march inside the cell, tugging the chains and pulling me ahead. I don’t fight or resist. Instead, I smirk up at Zari impudently.

           Zari grins arrogantly too. “Don’t worry. We’ll wipe that smile off your face if you don’t cooperate at tonight’s ceremony.”

           My sneer falls away, replaced by a horrified gape. Pixie’s growls echo in my mind.

           I really didn’t think they would keep me in prison forever, or worse…       

           I never thought that they would kill me.


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