Jackrabbit

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

Chapter 16 (v.1) - Chapter 16

Submitted: January 02, 2018

Reads: 107

Comments: 1

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Submitted: January 02, 2018

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A scream erupted in my mind as I thrashed desperately, though it dared not escape my lips. In the back of my mind, a numbing blackness hummed quietly, threatening to swallow me up. There was no thought process. No actual words. Just mindless panic and fear. My chest ached, feeling tight enough to burst. Another few seconds and I’d open my mouth for air, whether I wanted to or not.

 

At the last second, the rough hands holding me down suddenly yanked upwards, dragging me out of the water. My throat convulsed as I retched, water pouring out onto the floor, mixed with the last bit of whatever had been in my stomach previously. As the seconds passed, my thoughts gradually returned to me in bits and pieces.

 

The smooth click of Henry’s leather shoes on the floor made me feel almost as sick as the retching. “So, are you willing to tell us where Rachel is hiding out, or will I have to dunk you again?”

 

“No,” I gasped, the words escaping my mouth in a weak hiss of air. The air which my lungs craved and so desperately needed. “Please don’t….” In the corner of my eye, the prince smiled. It had only taken four tries. Four near-drownings and I had broken like a dead stick. Even so, Rachel’s whereabouts still stubbornly refused to leave my lips. To speak such a thing would make everything be in vain. My choices, my suffering, Rachel’s suffering, her tears, meeting Layla, all of it.

 

Slowly, the polished toes of his boots came closer, until they were mere inches from my face. His fingers grasped my hair and yanked, bringing my head up from the floor. I stared into eyes so beautifully blue, they were like the azure sky before a storm broke. Vaguely, I wondered what he thought when he looked into my plain, muddy-brown pupils. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t exist. In an ideal world, princesses marry princes, and everyone’s happy. The pretty boy with the strikingly blue eyes gets the girl, and the plain, brown-haired merchant boy grows up as a nobody.

 

But this is not that world, and the kindly prince in front of me is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

 

“Tell me,” he mused, running a finger across my jaw. “Why must you be so stubborn? Why are you even here in the first place, Jackrabbit? You and Rachel didn’t seem to harbor any special feelings. So why go through any of this?”

 

“Why the hell would she harbor any special feelings for me?” I snapped in return, feeling bile rise in the back of my throat. “You’re the one she loved, isn’t that right? She even said it when you had the blade pressed against her throat.”

 

For a moment, the prince turned away, his face unreadable. Then he looked back, his eyes chilling. “Dunk him.”

 

Panic seized me as the two burly men from before grabbed my shoulders, but all I could do was thrash and plead as they forced my head down back under the water. In a moment of desperation, my mouth opened, only to be met with gushing, warm liquid. No words. No thoughts. Just sheer terror as I tried to take in air, but couldn’t. The darkness in the back of my head rushed up to meet me, pushing everything, even the panic, away.

 

“Great, now you’ve gone and killed him. How are we supposed to find out where Rachel is now?”

 

My eyes opened a crack. From my view, it seemed like I was on the floor. A faint buzzing filled my ears, refusing to leave. Several feet away, Henry stood, tapping his foot impatiently as he scolded the burly men who had held me down. This is your chance. Run. But I couldn’t. My muscles refused to move. Everything felt heavy, as if gravity had increased tenfold. My body felt pinned to the floor, like someone had laid a heavy blanket over me.

 

“The boy is alive, Henry. In fact, he’s awake and watching you at this very moment.”

 

The voice was feminine and velvety, yet something about it sent a chill down my spine. Each click of her heels across the stone floor slowly got louder, until the girl was in front of me. The right side of her wavy hair was pitch black, while split exactly in the middle, the other half was a milky white. With a soft smile crossing her lips, she knelt down and looked into my eyes. Her gaze was mismatched, like Erinys’. One eye was a soft dark grey, and the other was a milky white. Can she see out of that eye?

 

The prince straightened up, looking at the newcomer. “Aiz. What are you doing here?” Even Henry seemed uncomfortable. He fidgeted, his gaze darting across the room, never focusing on one place. Even he understood that something about her was wrong. Wrongness perpetuated every aspect of her being, from the soft caress of her fingers against my skin, to the gentle melody of her voice. Something about Aiz was just perverse.

 

She straightened up, looking back towards the brown-haired prince. “What? I was just trying to help. You’re so cruel.”

 

“How did you get out of your cell?”

 

Aiz rolled her eyes, as if the question had been the dumbest thing she’d ever heard. “I was bored, and figured I’d go visit my brother. Don’t you want to see me?” she crooned.

 

Henry didn’t reply, instead opting to look at the floor ashamedly.

 

Bro…ther…? For a split second, his gaze met mine, before he jerked his head away. Giggling to herself, Aiz twirled towards me and caressed my chin once more. The moment her skin made contact with mine, I flinched, causing her to giggle again. “He’s kinda fun, Henry. Can I have him for myself?”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he replied, letting out a snort. “We need him to tell us where Rachel is.”

 

“Aww, you’re no fun!” She pouted, standing up tall and turning away from me. “All you ever do is look for that blondie. I know you have pictures of her in your --”

 

Enough!” he snapped, silencing Aiz with an intense ferocity. It was the first time I had seen the prince with his mask off, and his fury revealed in all its icy glory. Most people described anger as fire. But not all anger was the same. Rachel’s anger was like a light that glared in your face, as if screaming at the world for being made too bright. Renault’s was a slow-burning bonfire that consumed everything in due time. But Henry’s rage was the biting chill of the frozen mountains far to the north, where hardly anything could survive. A cold anger that consumed everything in a prickling sense of agony.

 

The divaricated girl turned away, put out by her older brother’s abrupt anger. “Hmph. Well I’ll just go then, if you want me to leave so badly.”

 

Henry remained silent, something akin to pain in his gaze as he watched Aiz leave. There was a story there, but I was still missing critical pieces of the puzzle. The prince caught my gaze, however, and narrowed his eyes in an angry glare. “Take him back under,” he ordered.

 

Even as I protested, the burly men grasped my shoulders before slamming me down into the bucket. Finally unable to hold back the panic, a scream burst from my lungs, sending bubbles up to the surface, before water poured down my throat. Please, I’m going to die! Please…. I was unable to finish that thought as my mind faded to black.

 

The next thing I knew, cold hands were pressing against my side. “Leonard!”

 

I…I’d heard that voice before. I knew it like the back of my hand. Even so, I pushed it away, focusing on the ringing in my ears. I was just imagining it. Most likely, I was dying.

 

The hands pushed against me fiercer, the skin cold and clammy against my wet flesh. “Leonard!”

 

“Don’t touch me!” I shrieked, making a blind swat at the hand. It didn’t matter who it was -- I just needed to be alone. My heart refused to stop pounding, like it would just run right out of my chest. I’m going to have a heart attack and die. Right then, right there, I would simply cease to be.

 

“What have you done to him?!”

 

“Aren’t you Luther’s wife? What are you doing here?”

 

“Forget that -- just tell me what you did to my brother. I didn’t think the crown prince of Lechasis was capable of such cruel torture. Does your father know about this?”

 

My heart was finally starting to slow down. Opening my eyes a crack, I looked upon the silken brown tresses of Elizabeth as she stared down Prince Henry. She wasn’t a formidable woman, yet Henry still looked unnerved. She’s…standing up to him for me. Even though she’s completely powerless to stop him. A polarizing ache in my chest robbed the breath from my lungs. My fingers twitched weakly, reaching out in vain towards the only person who had ever given me the time of day. I wish I was a better brother, Elizabeth…. The moment Karen died, I was nothing. Trash. Nobody looked at me besides Elizabeth. Even then, she still hummed lullabies while watching over me. She was the only one who continued to care.

 

Henry looked past her, meeting my gaze from where he was standing. Elizabeth followed, letting out a gasp as she realized I was lucid. “Leonard!” She dropped to her knees beside me, grasping my hand in hers. Her eyes drifted downwards, looking at what I imagined was the stains of thrown-up water on my chest. “What have they done to you…?” Tears leaked from her eyelids, slowly falling down her cheeks in a bizarre race of sorts. Another thing I was too dense to figure out.

 

“What are you talking about? I’m fine….” Even though I tried to keep my tone at ease, it soured at the end and cracked. Were my cheeks wet from the water or something else?

 

Instead of replying, she merely rested her head against my chest, taking no notice of how it was getting her hair wet. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. My thoughts slowed to a stop as the click of Henry’s boots against the floor grew louder. The prince looked down at both of us, his face completely unreadable. “Luther will be wondering where you are.”

 

She glared back at him, her hair spilling out in those languid curls she had received from our mother. “I don’t care. I refuse to let my brother be treated like this! It’s…it’s my own fault that he’s in this mess in the first place.” Something lingered in her eyes, deeper than I dared go. Some hidden truth dwelled there that I didn’t want to know. And so, I turned my head away, unwilling to look at Elizabeth’s secretive gaze.

 

Aiz, silent from earlier, suddenly shot across the room and brought a knife to Elizabeth’s throat. “Brother, I’ll be happy to kill her for you. Just say the word.”

 

The room fell silent as the air charged with tension. Even Henry looked angry. Why would he be upset that his sister was so devoted to him? There was so much pain there, so much guilt and grief, that I couldn’t bring myself to meet his gaze any longer. A puzzle hung in the air, but I was missing too many pieces to solve it.

 

“Aiz, leave now,” Henry commanded, refusing to look at her. “There’s no need. As long as Mrs. Collins is willing to go back to her loving husband, we have no need for any of that.”

 

As long as. It was clear nobody failed to hear the veiled threat behind his words. After several seconds, Aiz stepped away, huffing in irritation. And, after another moment, Elizabeth stood as well. Collecting her skirts, she glared at the prince. “This isn’t the last you’ll see of me. So long as I still draw breath, I will fight for Leonard’s safety.”

 

“Sis….” She couldn’t hear me though, as she walked away. What unnerved me most, however, was looking at Aiz. Her gaze was hungry as she watched Elizabeth retreat, like a predator mere inches away from snapping her chain and attacking anyway. Henry was also looking at her with something akin to fear. We both looked at each other, silently getting our words across. Both of us were afraid of Aiz, because certainly her chain would snap eventually. Whether it was today, tomorrow, or ten years from now, it would eventually shatter, and the whole world would have to suffer her wrath. For the first time in months, I was afraid of someone else more than the crown prince of Lechasis. 


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