Jackrabbit

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

Chapter 19 (v.1) - Chapter 19

Submitted: January 30, 2018

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Comments: 1

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Submitted: January 30, 2018

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Aiz came closer, her shoes clicking against the floor. She couldn’t have been more than 14, but even so, my whole body was quivering in terror. Leaning down, she ran a finger down my throat, her skin icy-cold. “What should I do first?” she whispered, her lips curling up in a savage manner. “Should I cut off your head? Maybe cut off your hands first, let you savor the pain.” Picking the fallen sword up off the floor, she approached once more. The girl giggled looking down at me, her eyes alight with mirth. “Are you really just going to lay on your back like a baby? I don’t understand why Henry’s so interested in you.”

 

Slowly, methodically, she dragged the tip of the blade up my exposed chest, a thin trail of blood welling up behind it. It didn’t particularly hurt, but it did sting admittedly. At last, she turned the blade sideways, pressing the edge of the blade against my throat. “I can feel your pulse,” she whispered, bringing her face close to mine, voice breathless with excitement. The Thrill of the Hunt thrummed in her veins. Most girls had a scent, whether from perfume, or something else. But Aiz smelled like nothing. Like absence. Perhaps she was Death incarnate, coming to take me at last after all the times I should’ve died.

 

Tossing the sword to the side, she fastened her cold hands around my neck and squeezed. I thrashed, desperate to throw her off, but she held on stubbornly, her grip ironcast. “I think I’ll just do the deed myself, little rabbit,” she purred. Panic roared through my ears, making me struggle even harder than before. But even beneath the surface, I could sense my strength fading. My body needed oxygen to function and draw energy from; the longer she strangled me, the weaker I’d get.

 

Black sparks danced across my vision, obscuring half of her face. She looked…normal for once. Perhaps it was just me hallucinating because of oxygen deprivation, but Aiz looked normal -- pretty, even. Black hair and a dark brown eye blinked at me, lashes long and slightly curved upwards. The person in front of me did not look like a monster, but rather a little girl, completely trapped by her own sadism and bloodlust.

 

Somewhere in the back of my mind, a distant voice echoed. It was too muffled to hear, but it grew louder. Aiz jerked her head away, almost as if she could hear the voice. My throat burned as I sucked down air so fast I almost threw up. My stomach churned violently, still reeling from my terror and lack of oxygen. The sparks vanished, but a dim roar still was in my ears.

 

“Aiz, he comes with me.” The voice was familiar, but I was too disoriented to place it.

 

“But brother --”

 

“No protests.” Henry’s face appeared over mine, his hair hanging down and tickling my nose. The prince wore casual clothing -- a button-up vest and a blouse with cuff links underneath. Detachedly, he ran a palm over my forehead. His hands weren’t as cold as Aiz’s, and it brought a cool relief to the heat pulsing against my skin.

 

But then I remembered where I was and what had just taken place. Slapping the prince’s hands away, I jumped to my feet and dashed as quickly as I could down the halls. I only got about 15 feet before Aiz caught me. Her hand fastened around the collar of my tunic, yanking my neck back until I felt bile rise in my throat. “That’s enough of you,” she said in a cheerful tone as I collapsed to the floor, holding my throat and coughing.

 

“Elizabeth,” I rasped, hardly able to bear the pain of the words escaping my lips. Her sacrifice…. I’m sorry…. Luther had died trying to give me a bid for freedom. Just a sliver of a chance, and he had given up his life for it. My heart ached, and tears stung my eyes. He’s gone, and it’s all my fault. I’m…. I’m what? Sorry? Sorry didn’t fucking cut it. All he had ever done was try to placate my bitterness, and I had spat in his face every time. If I had gone home in the first place with him, this whole mess wouldn’t have happened. I spared no time to hear his side of the story, and merely judged him for my sister’s misery. In my mind, Luther was the cause, even though there were so many other possibilities.

 

I wondered if Elizabeth was glad that her husband, her captor, was dead. He had loved her more than anything, and even took the blow meant for her. The summoner had lost a son, his pride, his freedom, and much more. He kept her close to him, even though there was a genuine risk she’d be taken from him. Just another thing to lose in a whole long list of things he never had. Luther never had Elizabeth’s love. He gave her the world, but he couldn’t make her reciprocate his affections. In the end, broken by his own grief and tragedy, he had done something selfish. He had loved someone, and hadn’t accepted the reality that she didn’t love him back.

 

“Are you going to just sit there?” Henry’s smooth voice jerked my mind back to the present. The prince looked down at me stoically, his eyes giving nothing away.

 

Slowly, I rose to my feet, giving no resistance as I followed him. My feet ached from the burning, and my whole chest stung with crusted blood. I just…want to sleep. I was a prisoner; that’s all I wanted. I wasn’t in a place to make high demands. Food, rest and shelter were the only things I desired. Not revenge. Not bitterness. Nothing.

 

A pitiful yelp left my mouth as Henry kicked me from the doorway, sending me sprawling to the floor. I laid there, breathing labored as dirty strands of hair covered my face. I was no better than an animal lying in its own filth.

 

Paying me no mind, Henry walked past me, his boots indenting softly against the marble. The prince sat on his throne, looking down at me from his perch, the ends of his tweed pants revealing skinny, flimsy ankles. You’re just a boy. And a weak one at that. You’re just as weak as I am. But why? Why was I sitting at his feet while he gazed at me with contempt? It’s because he’s a prince and you’re not. It’s because he’s rich and you’re not. You’re a nobody, Leonard. A nobody.

 

He sighed, blue eyes staring at the wall in contemplation. “You know, I always figured out of all the people in this world, it would be you who would stop me.”

 

My eyes narrowed, but I said nothing. He was just toying with me.

 

Paying no mind to my silence, he rested his head in his right hand. “Looking at you right now, I can’t remember why I even hoped that.”

 

“What do you mean?” Something thick in the back of my throat surged forward, causing me to cough it up. Blood. The rusty smear stained his otherwise pristine floor, the only act of defiance I could manage.

 

“I have no quarrel with you, or with Rachel,” the prince said simply, paying no mind to his now dirty floor. “I just have to keep my end of the deal.” As he spoke it, a shadow crossed over his face. “So it’s nothing personal. I hope you understand that.”

 

“What sort of deal?” I growled.

 

“With the church, of course. The priests there have some truly incredible magic. Magic that you can’t even imagine.” His tone was casual at first, but grew increasingly bitter and shameful as he continued. “You know, my father isn’t a perfect man. Two years after I was born, he met a woman. A peasant, mind you. Poor as dirt. But boy, was she beautiful. The woman had hair the color of spun gold, like in that Rumpelstiltskin tale you probably heard as a child.

 

“She bore him a daughter. A small thing, that girl was. Of course, the king couldn’t raise her as royalty; my mother did not know of this peasant woman, or the daughter he sired with her. Then…my mother died. I was a young thing at the time -- only eight or so. The next thing I knew, I was being introduced to a little girl with hair the color of golden straw, and two chocolate-brown eyes. ‘This is your sister, Alice,’ he said to me. I looked into her eyes and saw something I wanted to protect with all the power I had.”

 

The prince’s knuckles were white as he gripped the armrest, the line of his jaw tight as he clenched his teeth together. His gaze had become a brooding storm. “I was the crown prince, you know. So of course I had things to do. I left with my father on a business trip, leaving Alice at the castle with the guard and counsel.” He closed his eyes in what I could only imagine was a flashback. “When I came back…her corpse was waiting for me. She had been raped and killed at the age of twelve. Tortured before being beheaded.” He opened them once more, looking at me with a focused clarity that sent a chill down my bones. “I had to have my sister with me. You understand, don’t you? I’ve studied your past -- you had that twin sister. Karen, was her name? You felt like you’d do anything to have her back.”

 

He was right. The hole she left ached constantly for years, until I had just learned to ignore it. I don’t think it’ll ever go away.

 

“So I made a deal,” the prince continued, almost breathless in his desperation to get the truth off his chest. “The priests at the church -- they were worried about something, you see. The goddess Yonah was rumored to have reincarnated, and was living in someone as a vessel. They do not worship Yonah -- they worship Largum, her daughter. I’m sure you’re familiar with the legends.”

 

Of course I did. Every child knew them, whether religious or not. When Yonah had sent the humans to war with the dragonkin, her daughter Largum had chosen the side of the dragonkin. Largum believed in the strong, no matter who they were. She turned her back on the humans that worshipped her and her own mother, all to win a war. When the humans won, she was banished, her soul chained to the Underneath where the dead went to rest. In fact, Yonah skinned her daughter’s lover alive and used his entrails to bind her to the Underneath.

 

“Since when did the church worship a traitor?”

 

He waved a hand dismissively. “Details, details. I do not know, in all honesty. They see her as some kind of enlightened being. Besides, Largum was the strongest. She was called the Demon of Destruction. If the church is planning some sort of political takeover, she’s the perfect ally.

 

“But anyway, I made a deal with them. If they resurrected my beloved sister, I’d bring them the vessel of Yonah. I knew not who the vessel was, but I had a whole kingdom on my side.” His eyes glowed with intensity. “I had power.” But the light faded as quickly as it had appeared, instead replaced with regret.

 

“When they brought her back, she was different. Not only did she look different, she acted different. The Alice I knew was gone, replaced by some dichotomized monster who only knew pain and suffering.” His gaze flickered to the doorway and an ominous feeling flew through my chest. I knew who he was talking about before the words even escaped his lips. “Aiz. She’s nothing but a puppet who can only destroy. I’ve seen her slaughter animals for entertainment, and disembowel men while laughing the entire time. She shouldn’t be alive.”

 

“Then why don’t you kill her?” I spat back, losing my temper at the brown-haired prince. “All this whining, and all you had to do was kill her.”

 

“I can’t,” he replied. Henry’s tone was forceful, but not aggressive. “She may be a monster, but she’s still my sister. If she’s a demon, then I am too, for our blood is one and the same.”

 

Technically it wasn’t, since they were half-siblings, but I held my tongue. The last thing I needed was to be killed for pissing off Prince Henry. Instead, I decided a question was the better approach. “So why don’t you just back out of the deal? The church kinda gave you a shitty bargain, and didn’t really deliver.”

 

“If word came out that the crown prince of Lechasis sought out forbidden magic to resurrect his bastard sister, everything would go to hell. Aiz is a secret, and I’d like to keep it that way. Even my father doesn’t know about her. He spends his days wasting away in his room, choked up with his grief….” At the mention of his father, Henry’s voice cracked, reminding me of the boy he truly was. In the end, Henry was a boy who had made a poor decision in his grief.

 

The prince looked over at me, his eyes rimmed with red. I hadn’t even noticed he’d been crying. “I didn’t know it was Rachel. She was my best friend, always at my side. But pride is all that matters in this world, Jackrabbit. You may think it’s money or love, but it’s pride that’s all you have left in the end. I cannot -- I will not -- stain my family’s name with this sin. Even if it means killing someone I care about.”

 

His words suddenly came back to me from what seemed like a lifetime ago: quick and painless. Even though he was forced to bring the dagger to her throat, he didn’t want her to suffer. Not in the slightest.

 

A small bubble of curiosity rose to the top of my chest before exiting my mouth in breathless words. “Do you love her? Do you love Rachel?”

 

The confliction in his gaze told me all I needed to know. Jerking my head back, I wouldn’t look him in the eye. “This is madness, Henry. Just marry her and kill Aiz. The church won’t be able to prove anything.” The last words almost physically hurt when they left my mouth: “She loves you; she said so herself. If you can’t kill Aiz yourself, hire someone else to do it. I’m sure once you tell Rachel everything that’s been going on, she’ll forgive you.”

 

In the end, the prince married the princess, and the merchant boy went home. That was how the story always ended. But instead, Henry shook his head, the hawk feather holding stubbornly to his ear. “I’m afraid not. This either ends in Rachel’s death, or mine.” A gentle smile curled his lips, almost -- but not quite -- reaching his eyes. He tossed a dagger down to the floor. “Go on then. I don’t wish to harm anyone else. Do the deed, Jackrabbit.”

 

Somehow finding the strength to get to my feet, I fastened my hand around the hilt. Each step towards the prince felt numb. Before I knew it, he was only a few inches away from me, his throat bared as he tipped his head back. His Adam’s apple looked especially vulnerable, the skin soft and slightly shiny with a gleam of sweat. A single slice and his blood would litter the floor.

 

My breath was heavy, rasping in my throat under the pressure of the situation. For what seemed like an eternity, I stood there, the weapon poised above his throat.

 

“Go on,” he whispered hoarsely. “Do it.”

 

This is for Rachel. For Elizabeth. For Luther. For Karen. For Renault. For everyone you’ve ever hurt. Raising the blade above my head, I watched as the prince shut his eyes.

 

And I threw the dagger to the side.

 

Immediately upon hearing the clatter, the prince opened his eyes and sat up. “What? Why?!” he demanded, his face tight with rage and pain. “Why didn’t you do it?”

 

I looked down at the trembling prince, his palms sweaty from relief. Deep down inside, he didn’t want to die. Nobody did. Not truly. One day he’d atone for the things he did, but the Prince of Lechasis did not deserve to die. Not today. “You asked Jackrabbit to kill you. Jackrabbit’s dead; my name is Lennard.”

 

“You’re a fool,” he spat, getting to his feet. He was shorter than me by an inch or two, but the prince had always seemed taller just from sheer presence. “This is just going to end in more bloodshed.”

 

“Not necessarily,” I replied.

 

“Oh really? What do you possibly think is going to happen next?!”

 

He abruptly fell quiet, as that was when the rumbling started.


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