Jackrabbit

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 15 (v.1) - Chapter 15

Submitted: December 18, 2017

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Submitted: December 18, 2017

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The palace was the same as before, but this was a side to it I hadn’t seen. The cool stone of the cell sent goosebumps down my back as I was roughly shoved inside. The guards from before quickly walked away, laughing and chattering about some mundane thing. No doubt throwing some street rat in the cells to die didn’t hang on their consciousness at all.

 

The time passed slowly. Agonizingly, even. There was nothing to occupy me besides my own thoughts. Did Rachel get away? Though that was the most pressing question in my mind, that didn’t stop me from wondering other things. How was my family doing? It had been months since I had been declared a criminal. Had they been punished as well? It seemed unlikely, with Elizabeth married to a trusted court advisor and noble. I even wondered, just a little bit, how that rat Luther was doing. Was he hurting Elizabeth? If he dared lay a hand on her, I’d kill him myself.

 

“Hmph, that’s a lot of bravado you got there. Luther could kill you in the blink of an eye, Leonard.”

 

I looked up across the cell at Karen. She sat against the wall parallel to me, her white dress laying across the dirty stone in languid ripples. Unlike usual, her hair was ratty; clearly, she’d been in the cell for a while. Shackles enclosed her wrists, with red marks peeking out from the sides.

 

“Whatever,” I replied in irritation, rolling my eyes. “You know, you’re the one who’s supposed to be here in my place. You’re the one with magic and all. If you hadn’t died, I wouldn’t be here.” The words had left my mouth before I had realized it. The ugly words that I had struggled not to think about, for they were too bitter to dwell on.

 

Karen merely narrowed her eyes and smiled with her thin lips. Of course she didn’t feel hurt; she reacted the way I wanted. She was just a figment of my imagination, after all.“Things happen, Leonard. What are you going to do now, Little Lion?”

 

I grit my teeth, trying not to focus on the nickname. I couldn’t count how many times she had called me that when we were younger. “Dunno, sis. For now, I’ll just stay here.” My bones ached from the hard floor.

 

Sudden footfalls approached, distracting me. A young woman walked into view, straight chin-length hair framing her face neatly. Despite the rigid appearance, her eyes were kind as she offered me a smile. “Jackrabbit, isn’t it?” Even though she was friendly, I saw the concern in her gaze. She probably heard me and thinks I talk to myself. I mean, that’s what I was doing, wasn’t I?

 

I merely nodded, looking to the side. She leaned forward against the bars. “My name is Verna Stocklend. Just Verna is fine.”

 

“Why’d you come here?” The words were more of an attack than a question. However, Verna didn’t flinch.

 

“Prince Henry put me in charge of you for the time being.” Prince. So he hadn’t killed Rachel’s parents.

 

The black-haired guard threw a pair of clothes for me through the bars. “Here, it’s a new pair, since yours are dirty.”

 

She turned around as I put them on, giving me some sort of dignity. I merely scoffed. She was a kind jailor, but a jailor nonetheless. I was a trapped bird in a cage. One way or another, Henry would get me to sing. Even if he had to kill me for it.

 

Suddenly, I wanted to cry. I desired nothing more than to just let tears run down my face freely while I sobbed. For Karen. For Rachel. For Layla. For everything Henry was going to do to me. I was alone like always, but for some reason, it hurt this time. Since Karen left, I had gotten used to the emptiness that was the other half of my heart. But yet…why did it hurt so much now? The yawning chasm was more noticeable than ever, telling me that something vital was missing. And the worst part was that I didn’t know what it was.

 

As if sensing my tumultuous emotions, Verna turned away. “Well then, I’ll see you another time.” And she was gone, as soon as she appeared. Part of me, the weakest part, wanted to reach my hand out and shout for her to come back. I didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts. Right now, they were scarier than Henry could ever be. But instead, I cursed myself for being a baby. Just suck it up like a man. You were the one who chose this path, so buck up and swallow your pain. Have a little pride, will you? That seemed to work a little bit.

 

But before I could regain control, more footsteps approached. I looked up at Henry, my eyes still shiny with unshed tears. Just great. He leaned against the bars, offering me a smile. “Hello, Leonard.” His tone was that of a caress, but it merely slapped me.

 

I didn’t reply, instead jerking my head away. He wouldn’t be hearing anything from me. Not until he pried it from my cold, dead lips. I was nothing -- a bird in a cage. Completely helpless. But I still had my pride.

 

Instead of getting upset, the prince remained irritably calm. He merely darted his gaze around the cell lazily, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. “Be that way if you want, Leonard. I’ll get the truth from you sooner or later. I just came to tell you that you’ll be having a special visitor later.”

 

A shiver traveled up my spine, but I ignored it. A question burned in my mind, tugging anxiously on my tongue. Finally, I opened my mouth. “Why? Why did you try to kill her?”

 

As if that were the magic phrase, his facade crumbled away. Henry looked almost vulnerable as he backed away a few steps. His face was still unreadable. Guilt? Anger? Pain? However, his guard was still up, and he regained his composure within seconds. “You wouldn’t understand. Sometimes things are the way they are, no matter how you wish they weren’t.” He pulled a pocketwatch out of his lapel and checked it. “I’d best be off. Have fun, Jackrabbit.”

 

The name, empowering as it had been before, felt like a weapon when he used it. The blade of it caressed my cheek with each syllable, almost drawing blood. I felt like I was going to be sick.

 

Somewhere down the hall, the bars of a cell rattled. Several guards jogged over out of view, and the noise quickly stopped. Who else could they have had down here?

 

I wish Karen were here. I wish Elizabeth were here. I even wished Rachel was here, as much as I hated to admit it. For some reason, whenever I thought of her lately, it felt like I was teetering on the edge of a cliff. Some sort of tension seized my heart at the thought of her and refused to let go. Maybe it was for the best that she was gone. If she knew what was good for her, she’d go far, far away where nobody would ever find her. Perhaps it was lonely, but it was for the best. Besides, the less I saw of her, the more lucidity I had. Every time I looked at her, it was difficult to retain my thought process. And in this situation, I needed my head more than ever.

 

“Dwelling on daydreams, are we, Leonard?”

 

I jerked my head up, rage quickly filling my thoughts as I recognized that voice. Through the bars of the cell, Luther stared back at me, long, greasy black locks of hair dripping languidly from his head. He smiled, though the dark circles underneath his eyes didn’t escape me. That same, dorky monocle he always wore sat in front of his right eye.

 

“What do you want?” I growled defensively, narrowing my eyes at him.

 

The man -- my brother-in-law -- merely continued to smile at me. “I’m glad you’re safe. I thought you’d died after the chase on the plains.”

 

“What does it mean to you? I’m just another thorn in Henry’s side, aren’t I? You should be irritated I’m still alive.”

 

Was it just me, or did his smile take on a slightly sad demeanor? Slowly, the summoner rested his hands on the bars. They were thin and pale, blue veins coursing through the white flesh. For a man in his early twenties, Luther seemed aged. Crow’s feet dotted his eyes, making him seem kinder than he actually was. Most people gazing at him wouldn’t realize he was a snake.

 

“Leonard, I want you alive because I want to know the truth,” he sighed. “Elizabeth is devastated after hearing you committed treason. So why? Why did you do it? I know Princess Rachel is a beautiful lady, but did you really love her enough to steal her away from her betrothed?”

 

Betrothed…? A red flush spread through my cheeks. Rachel is betrothed to no one. What…what’s going on? “What the hell are you talking about?!” The words exploded from my mouth louder than intended, amplified by my sense of bewilderment.

 

“You know what I’m talking about.” His tone was chiding, as if I were just some troublesome child.

 

“No, I don’t,” I replied, finally looking him in the eye. “Henry tried to kill Rachel, but I stopped him. I…I can’t explain it to you right now. But I’m telling you that whatever you’re hearing is wrong!” Even as the words left my lips, I knew he wouldn’t listen. Luther was selfish, after all. He would’ve left Elizabeth alone if he wasn’t. The moment the truth became inconvenient for him, he’d just turn away. That was the kind of man he was.

 

He sighed. “You know, Leonard, I really wish you liked me. You and Elizabeth both….”

 

“I never will, because you’re a coward!” I snarled, losing control of my temper. I threw myself at the bars of the cell, gritting my teeth against the pain of the rough metal. On the other side, just out of reach, he stood there, looking at me with pity. “Nobody will ever love you because you’re a selfish man, you bastard!” By then, I was screaming, tears pouring down my face. Maybe it was my frustration at the hopeless situation, or maybe it was the outburst of all my emotions towards the one person I truly hated, but the tears refused to stop as I slumped to the dirty ground, defeated and emotionally spent.

 

Instead of replying, Luther merely fished around in the pocket of his robes before tossing me something small. The object gleamed in the light before hitting the ground with a crack. It was a gold locket with a chain. Wordlessly, he walked away, leaving the locket on the floor of the cell, open for the world to see. For some reason, it felt intimate looking at the broken locket. It was open and willing to show its secrets for the first time, and I was the only one to look upon it.

 

After several minutes of debating, I finally reached a hand over and tenderly scooped it up. Inside the gilded heart, two miniature portraits resided. On the left, a seemingly beautiful woman sat on a sofa. I say seemingly because her face was scratched out violently, as if someone in a fit of rage had tried to erase all memory of her existence and identity. On the right, another portrait showed a baby with brown hair, same as the woman’s. But it was the child’s eyes that made my heart skip a beat.

 

They were an intrinsic green, exactly like Luther’s.

 

The woman in the picture was not Elizabeth. I had never seen her before in my life. In fact, the locket was old. Gold didn’t rust, but it did tarnish over the years. By the look of the dull sheen, it seemed to be several years old at least. I couldn’t be exactly sure though, since I wasn’t a goldsmith.

 

Seizing the bars of the cell once more, I rattled them. “Does Elizabeth know?! Does she know any of this?!” But Luther was already gone. As guards congregated around my cell to shut me up, I quickly fell back to the floor, my mind dwelling on the locket. There was more to Luther than I had thought -- than any of us had thought. Like Rachel, he was a skilled eccedentesiast. My gaze fixed on the empty hallway in the direction he had left. What else had he kept hidden…?

 

 


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