Jackrabbit

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

Chapter 17 (v.1) - Chapter 17

Submitted: January 22, 2018

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Submitted: January 22, 2018

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I thrashed around, feeling water roaring in my ears. Everywhere I looked, there was just darkness. No air to breathe, no gravity to tether me to the ground. There was only the pitching roar of the water as I struggled to breathe. My chest burned, longing for air. Just as I thought I was about to reach the surface, the current sucked me down, and everything faded to black. No, I can’t die here. Please…! I can’t die here! “I can’t die here!” I screamed, throwing out my hands. They met resistance. I opened my eyes, focusing on the the scene around me. Verna stared back, a dripping washcloth gripped in her hand. “Where am I?”

 

Her black eyes showed nothing but pity as she set the washcloth down. “You’re in your cell. You were sweating and yelling in your sleep, so I decided to cool you down.”

 

The exposed part of my chest was indeed damp. The frilled blouse I had worn to sleep had been spread wide open for the black-haired girl to tend to me. As I turned my gaze to her, taking in her tight skirt and lace boots, the tips of my ears burned as I realized she was leaning right over me rather closely. “Well I’m awake now, so back up,” I mumbled, refusing to meet her gaze.

 

Verna scooted back a few inches, but still remained inside the cell. Her gaze lingered over my face, taking in the dark circles underneath my eyes and my ragged cheekbones. Since Henry’s torture a week ago, I had been unable to sleep without dreaming of drowning. My exhaustion grew daily, but there was nothing that could be done about it.

 

The air between us was silent for a few minutes as we sat there. Eventually, she looked away, black eyes fixated on the wall, as if she could see past it. “You know, I’m rather envious of you.”

 

I didn’t reply, instead raising an eyebrow as I looked at her. Taking it as a sign, she continued. “You get to fight for what you believe in. Meanwhile, I’m just here as a guard.”

 

A low, bitter chuckle escaped me. “You’re really so envious of me? I don’t really believe in anything, yet I’m here all the same.”

 

“If you really didn’t believe anything, then why haven’t you told Henry where the princess went?” Her lips quirked down in an ugly scowl. “You’re a stubborn idiot, who’ll only get yourself killed if you don’t tell Henry what he wants.”

 

“I don’t know where she is!” I protested, beginning to lose my temper. How many times did I have to repeat myself in this damned castle?

 

“You may not know where she is exactly, but I’m sure you have a pretty good idea. You just won’t tell him no matter what. I know…. I know because if I were in your place, I wouldn’t tell him either.” Verna bit her lip, her fingers clenched tightly by her side. Something about her was frustratingly familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

 

“If Henry’s put you up to being my friend, you can go,” I growled. Frankly, I was tired of all the pretense. Just another thing to add to the list of things I missed from Langsport. At least everyone just said what they wanted up front, instead of lying and hiding their true intentions.

 

She shook her head. “No, it’s not that. I heard Elizabeth visited you when you were…being tortured. I’ve wanted to know you better since then, but it’s just been difficult.”

 

“Elizabeth? Why do you refer to my sister in such a familiar way? Does she know you?”

 

Verna shook her head once more. “No, but I’ve heard of her. My brother’s married to her, after all.”

 

So that was it. She was Luther’s…. I jerked my head away, refusing to continue the conversation so casually. “I don’t want anything to do with another of House Sachien.”

 

“Oh, but I’m not of House Sachien. At least, not anymore.”

 

“What? Did you marry yourself off or something?” I had no interest in hearing whatever pathetic excuse she intended on feeding me. I may not be able to sleep soundly anymore, but I wasn’t addlepated. Even all the exhaustion from my lack of sleep didn’t soften my resolve.

 

“No, my brother disowned me from the family after he assumed our father’s position.” A swath of emotions swirled around in the depths of her eyes, most of them indecipherable. Was that anger? Resentment? I couldn’t be sure. All that was visible was a wistful sadness that clouded her gaze and made her seem years older. Perhaps not as aged as her brother, but older nonetheless. “I was the eldest, but Luther was destined to inherit the title of our house. It’s just the way things are; the eldest boy gets the position, while all daughters either marry themselves off or join a convent.” Her fingernails scratched against the rough stone walls, though they were hardly longer than the ends of her fingertips. They were stubby and short from constant chewing.

 

 

“I was Father’s favorite, and I was the only one who could reason with him after our mother died. But…I did nothing to save Luther from Thany.”

 

“Thany?” I scolded myself inwardly, irritated at getting caught up with her pointless story.

 

“Yes, Luther’s previous wife. It was a marriage of convenience, and he held no love for her in his heart. He was only 15 at the time. I could’ve convinced Father to cancel the engagement, but I was too afraid to anger him.” She sighed, her voice weary and ragged. “About a year later, she gave birth to a son. And shortly after that, they both perished, alongside our father, in a devastating disease. My brother assumed his post as Lord of House Sachien. The people loved him, but they didn’t see the bitterness and rage dwelling beneath the surface. The grief at losing his only son, and the sick relief he felt at having Thany gone forever.”

 

“So you know magic too.” Another person who had the gift I didn’t, and so desperately wanted. Another grievance I held towards the world for so unfairly dumping me in with that ungrateful princess and her meathead manservant.

 

“A lot of that resentment was directed towards me for not speaking out against Father. So he banished me, and I wandered the streets alone, unsure of what to do. The king of Lechasis hired me as a guard to watch over his son, Henry.” A small grin played with her lips, before turning to a sad frown. “I watched him grow up. And I also watched him fall into despair. I should’ve done something, but I didn’t. I’m just as powerless as I was all those years ago when Father decreed Luther marry Thany.”

 

Before I could ask what she meant, a wretched scream echoed from down the hallway. The guards quickly mobilized, jogging over to the cell where the noise was coming from. The scream soon died down to a moan as the bars rattled. After a minute or so, the noise eventually left altogether, pitching the floor into an eery silence.

 

“What the hell was that?” I growled, curling into a tighter ball to protect myself instinctually.

 

Verna blinked, her features darkening. “That’s Aiz. She’s having one of her fits again.”

 

“Wait, what? Fits? What’s going on?” I demanded. But it was too late -- she was already standing up.

 

“It’s not my business to say,” she replied curtly. “If you want to know, go ask Henry.”

 

“You know I can’t do that!” The only thing to answer me was the squeak of the bars falling into place. I was alone once more. Biting down a shout of frustration, I fell into a gloomy silence. Minutes ticked by slowly, alongside my growing depression. One day, whether soon or distant, I would be eaten alive by my own mind if I didn’t get anything to do. Perhaps morosely, the concept of death started to sound amusing at that point. All the situations I’d narrowly escaped, yet it ended when I lost my mind by being held in captivity for too long? How pathetic.

 

“You’re right. You should be thinking about your next step, instead of lamenting your situation,” Karen commented.

 

“Go away,” I mumbled. “I don’t wanna talk to you.”

 

She only chuckled, running fingers through her grimy and tangled hair. “Of course you don’t, Leonard. You always avoid conversations when it’s convenient for you.”

 

My nostrils flared. “Can you just shut the hell up for once? This is all your damn fault.”

 

“It’s your fault for being so blind,” Karen spat, getting to her feet. “Everyone knew the truth besides you. Luther, Elizabeth, even Father. The only ones who didn’t know were our younger siblings, and they don’t even really remember me. If you had taken the time to look at it like all of them, you would’ve figured it out too. But no. You were too cowardly to face it, so you just kept running away like always. Always the coward, right, Little Lion?”

 

I got to my feet, rage finally spilling over. I slammed Karen to a wall, ignoring her flinch of pain. It wasn’t like she was real in the first place. She was just an illusion of my imagination in such a non-stimulating environment. “You listen here,” I hissed, letting my tears spill out onto my cheeks. “You didn’t need to lie. I would’ve been fine with you being loved for your gifts, even if I lacked them. But now…now you’ve ruined everything.” My voice cracked at the end, unable to hold up such heavy words.

 

Karen looked back at me, tears also trickling down her cheeks as she smiled. Since when had I gotten taller than her? It was the first time I’d noticed it, but she always appeared to me as she did before she died: a young child. Look at us now, with me finally looking like the older sibling. “Well then, I guess I’m sorry for existing.” And like that, she was gone.

 

I should’ve been angry. Or maybe even relieved. But instead, I held my hands to my face and sobbed. I sobbed for Karen’s lie; I sobbed for Rachel’s plight; I sobbed for Henry’s hidden grief; I sobbed for Verna’s struggle; I sobbed for Elizabeth’s misery; most of all, I sobbed because I was lonely. The hole in my heart was wide open, bleeding all over the place. Looks like I’ve opened it up again. With Rachel absent, it cried out, wanting to be with another once more. The princess may have been annoying, but at least she made me forget about the loneliness at missing my other half. She was the only one who looked at me and didn’t see a waste of space -- someone unable to use magic. I wish…we’d had more time to speak before I came here. There were things I wanted to tell her, though perhaps it was for the best they went unsaid. They were just words that would complicate everything. Besides, words led to actions. If I were to speak my thoughts aloud to her, that might result in me stroking her face, and then inhaling her sweet scent of lavender, and then…I didn’t want to think about that.

 

Slowly, I rested my hands against the bars, willing them to move. As if by some miracle of desperation, I’d suddenly be able to use magic and bend them to my will. Verna had been able to manipulate them effortlessly, and I was sure Luther could do the same. It was nothing more than a magician’s trick, but even that was beyond me.

 

Now that I thought of Luther, my mind drifted away from the bars and towards the mage. Layla had told me that magic-adepts could sense emotions. Whenever he was around Elizabeth and me, could he sense her misery? My hatred? How had it felt, knowing exactly what emotions we harbored towards him? He certainly didn’t have the privilege of ignorance.

 

I shook my head, forcing the thoughts away. There was no point in devoting time wondering about that snake’s point of view. If he had just left Elizabeth alone, then none of this would have ever happened.

 

There you go, Leonard, always turning the other cheek when the truth gets inconvenient for you.

 

I hate you, I thought, wishing desperately that I meant it. Even that much resolve was beyond me. I laid back down on the floor, looking up at the ceiling, wishing I could smell that familiar scent of lavender and buttercup. And somewhere deep inside me, my heart ached, longing for it just as much as my brain did.



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