Jackrabbit

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

Chapter 5 (v.1) - Chapter 5

Submitted: October 09, 2017

Reads: 149

Comments: 3

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 09, 2017

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Rachel was making an obvious effort not to fidget while she picked at her food. Across the table, King Leviatan smiled next to his wife. She was very similar to Rachel, although considerably more elegant. Where Rachel was a girl, Her Majesty was a woman. In fact, something of her feminine beauty could be seen in the boy’s face in that picture. It must’ve been Prince Leon; the resemblance banished any doubts from my mind.
 
On the other side of the table, Prince Henry smiled politely. “This food is marvelous, Your Majesty.”
 
“Oh, please,” the king gushed. “You’re practically family. Call me Richard.”
 
“And call me Louise,” the queen added.
 
Though the prince seemed flustered, he nodded politely and continued to eat the food. “So, Rachel, how have things been since we’ve last met?”
 
“Oh, it’s good,” Rachel replied, trying to think of something interesting to say. “There has been talk of engagement. How about you?”
 
“Oh? Engagement to who?” Henry shrugged. “As for me, well, my father’s mentioned it once or twice. Can’t say I’ve met anyone though.”
 
“Oh, um,” her gaze searched across the table before meeting mine. “Lennard and I might get engaged.”
 
Stifling a snort, a piece of bread went flying across the table. Rachel shot me a dirty look as she hid it from view. My eyes darted over to the king and queen, but neither of them seemed perturbed by the lie.
 
They merely smiled and kept their mouths shut.
 
“Oh? How wonderful for you, Lennard,” the prince said, not an ounce of malice in his voice. “Make sure to treat Rachel nicely; she’s rather delicate.”
 
“Oh, um, sure,” I replied, my gaze dropping down towards the table.
 
Rachel deflated, not having received the reaction she had been hoping for. “Then again, we might not,” she said loudly. “He’s not very adept at magic.”
 
Before I could contain myself, my temper flared. “If you’ll excuse me, I used to control magic at a young age. Unfortunately, a tragic accident occurred and I can no longer use it.”
 
Henry tilted his head to the side. “He sounds like the servant you mentioned earlier. Now that I look closely, he’s wearing the uniform as well. Rachel, are your parents truly discussing your marriage to a commoner?”
 
“Well,” Rachel blanched, “it was on the table for a little bit. Now I doubt it.”
 
Henry shook his head. “No, no, don’t let me get in the way of your happiness. If he is what makes you happy, then so be it.”
 
Despite myself, I was beginning to blush. “The marriage was talked about for sake of convenience, rather than love. It would unite the merchant families with Leviatan even closer than before.”
 
“Oh, you’re a merchant’s son? Pardon me, I didn’t think someone high up in society would be doing common labor like this.”
 
“Sir Wesley Collins of Langsport,” I admitted, wary to speak my father’s name. “I am his son, Leonard Collins. However, I thought that some hard labor would suit me well, so I decided to try for a position here. It’s quite humbling, really, seeing how the common folk have it.”
 
He smiled, light glinting off his gold lapel. “It truly makes me happy seeing someone trying to understand the world we live in through hard work. I don’t understand why you shouldn’t marry Rachel; she’d be a fine wife for a strapping lad like yourself.”
 
Rachel slouched in her chair, sulking. “I’m not some prize to be won,” she muttered, but the words went unheard.
 
Renault finally broke the silence by scooting out his chair. “Pardon me, but it is time for Lady Rachel’s bath,” he said, collecting the princess. 
 
Seeing the opportunity, I quickly mumbled my dismissal and followed. The servants’ quarters were musty as people milled around grumbling about various things. Even the cot let out a squeal of irritation as I laid down on the mattress. There was nothing, not even a coin to my name. So I merely stared up at the ceiling, eyes counting the threads of each spiderweb entangling the wooden beams. My mind whirled, recalling the prince’s words: “She’d be a fine wife for a strapping lad like yourself.” Now that I thought about it, he was right. The princess was annoying, not to mention I held not an ounce of love for her in my heart. But she had influence, the one thing my father desired more than anything. Influence was why he insisted Elizabeth married Luther. Influence was why he pushed his family away after Karen’s death. Influence was why my failure hung so high. If I married Rachel, Elizabeth would be free to live her life as she pleased.
 
Don’t be stupid, my inner thoughts chastised. She’d never agree to marry you. She has all the power in this situation, and she clearly wants another. Unfortunately, I knew that voice was right. Unless I magically became Prince Henry overnight, the chances of her agreeing to marry me were ridiculously small. And despite all that, a deeper, more selfish voice screamed. It shouted at me to choose my own freedom over my sister’s.
 
In all honesty, it was very tempting. No matter what I chose, Rachel was not going to marry me either way, so my freedom was ultimately going to go above my sister’s. Besides, a spoiled brat like Rachel wouldn’t throw her future away to save some random merchant’s girl. Even a perfectly sensible person wouldn’t. So it was back to plan A: somehow recover my magic. And I knew that it wouldn’t be here. It was at that moment that I decided I’d leave in the middle of the night, leaving nothing behind. It didn’t matter where I went, so long as it led me towards magic.
 
By then, the servants’ quarters had turned down considerably in volume as people went to sleep. Night was approaching rapidly; even the summers in Est couldn’t keep the moon away for long. It was just a cold country. Slipping off the cot, I took great deliberation not to make any noise as I crept towards the exit door. For an agonizing moment, my leg brushed against a young servant boy’s outstretched hand. He yawned, stretching his fingers as I held my breath. After several moments, he withdrew it close to his body and continued snoring. Looks like my luck had held. The hallways were even quieter, not a sound filling the vacuous space. It was unnerving with no background noise. It almost felt like I was naked. With each footstep, a soft sound was heard against the smooth marble. Not completely silent, but quiet enough so that someone would have to be really close to hear it. I was no trained assassin, but even I could recognize someone’s presence in such an empty space.
 
I was halfway towards the entrance before I thought of grabbing something for the road. I meant the house of Leviatan no ill will, but wishes and prayers wouldn’t keep my stomach full. The only thing that came to mind were Rachel’s scrying stones. She has a lot of them, I reasoned. There’s no way she’ll notice if I take one. Most likely she’ll just think she lost it. Before I had even really thought about it, I was on the second floor. 
 
An empty tray sat on the floor, holding little more than scraps of food and silverware. Since it was such fine cutlery, I snagged a knife off the tray and slipped it into my pocket. It was nice, but not engraved. No one would know any better if I sold it at a later date. 
 
In the dimness of the hall, a faint light shone from the crack of the princess’ door. It flickered, signaling to be candlelight instead of magic. Warily, I crept closer and peered through the crack in the door like before.
 
Henry stood across from Rachel’s bed, a considerably large dagger in his hand. Rachel sat on the ground, tears streaming down her face. Blood spattered the front of her nightgown, but it wasn’t an incredible amount. “Why would you…do this?”
 
The man flicked the dagger down, staining droplets of blood on the carpet. “I didn’t want to do this, Rachel. I really didn’t. But it’s for the sake of this country.” He paused, looking down at her with his robin-egg gaze. “Why were you awake at this hour anyway? Is experimenting with your scrying stones that important?”
 
Indeed, now that I looked, the sparkling gemstones were laying on the floor in assorted colors. They must’ve been dropped when Rachel was confronted.
 
The princess looked down, tears continuously flowing down. “I was trying to look into the future,” she confessed. “I wanted to know the answer to my question.”
 
Henry raised the dagger, looking down at the princess with a mixture of regret and sorrow. “Since you’re about to die, I’m curious. What was your question?”
 
“I wanted to see if I’d marry you….” The words were hardly more than a whisper, choked out as the girl continued to cry silently. She met his gaze intensely, not breaking away eye contact.
 
This time, the man’s gaze was also filled with dismay. And something deeper. Something I couldn’t describe…. After several moments, he raised the dagger. “I’m sorry. I wish it didn’t have to end this way.”
 
My mind was a blur. And before I had even recognized what I was doing, my feet were carrying me into the room. My mouth was dry, lips struggling for words. Say something. Anything. “Aha! Caught red-handed.” Okay, something other than that. I wish I could’ve taken the words back, but they had already been spoken.
 
For several critical moments, the two merely stared at me in shock. Then, the prince turned the blade on me and charged. I had nothing. Nothing to my name except a piece of cutlery. A piece of cutlery and my wits. Flashing my hand out, I used the flimsy metal of the knife to clumsily parry the dagger. Even so, I let out a hiss of pain as the metal dug into the flesh on my hand. Keep calm. Even though my mind told me that, my heart was beating like a wild animal’s. He swung the weapon, but each time I narrowly dodged to the side. 
 
“You’re fast,” he spat before pinning me to the ground. I struggled vainly, unable to move. The dagger was right over my throat; an inch lower and I was a goner. “Your heart beats quick, just like your feet,” he murmured, savoring the moment. “Hmmm, just like a jackrabbit. Yes, you’re a jackrabbit. But now I’m afraid I’ll be taking your pelt back home as a prize.”
 
He was so busy talking, in fact, that he forgot about Rachel. The princess snuck up behind him, Lævateinn clutched in her trembling hands. A smile graced my lips as I gave up the struggle. “You should really keep your eyes on the big hunt, instead of focusing on the small prize,” I snarled.
 
Before he could ponder the meaning, the staff came out of nowhere and smacked the back of his head, rendering the man unconscious. As we laid there, panting for air, muffled voices could be heard in the hallways. “There! The princess, we need to capture her! For Lord Henry’s sake!”
 
“Lennard --”
 
I put a finger to her lips, shushing her. Now wasn’t the time for words. Pushing her towards the window, I urged her out slowly. Rachel was hesitant, unwilling to take the second story drop. True, it would hurt, but it was better than being dead. As she fell from the window with a muffled screech, I followed her. To my pleasant surprise, the girl made no complaints as we hurried along the courtyard. In fact, her eyes seemed hollow and shell-shocked. “You’ll have to make a run for it,” I whispered. She was jittery, but somehow she managed to understand the order.
 
While she made a mad dash across the open clearing, I skirted the sides, peering into shadows. My heart continued to pound, unable to slow down. What was this madness? I came here to regain my magic, not to thwart an assassination attempt. What if they went after me now that I’ve saved some spoiled princess?
 
Even though those thoughts raged through my mind, I was soothed to see Rachel in one piece at the gate. She looked frail, shivering in the brisk night air. We both jerked around upon hearing a rustling noise. Instinctively, I moved in front of her, ready to shield the girl. The figure was towering, broad-shouldered with a mop of tousled, brown hair. “Are you on Henry’s payroll too?” I growled at Renault. Despite my bravado, I knew the situation was hopeless. Prince Henry had a weapon, but he was a novice. A hardened soldier like Renault was too difficult an opponent for the likes of me.
 
The manservant shook his head. “I awoke to see guards running all over the place searching for the princess. Lady Rachel wasn’t in her room, but Master Henry was there instead, collapsed on the carpet.” He narrowed his steely gaze. “So tell me, Sir Lennard, what exactly is going on?”
 
“The prince went mad and tried to kill Rachel,” I spat, aware of how pathetic I sounded. There was no way I would be believed. But a dying man was a desperate man, willing to commit any sort of atrocity so long as he lived to see another day.
 
Renault raised his broadsword, the blade almost as long as I was tall. “Enough with your lies, wretch. It is my duty to ensure Princess Rachel is safe, which means away from you.” I closed my eyes as the blade flashed downwards.
 
“Enough!”
 
Opening my eyes, I could see the glint of steel mere centimeters from my head. Renault looked over behind my shoulder at Rachel. “Milady?”
 
“Enough, Renault, enough!” the girl sobbed. “I just want to leave! What Lennard said is right, and we need to leave now! Before the guards find us!” She shook, barely able to hold herself up.
 
Our conversation was cut short as muffled shouts were heard in the distance. “I hear her voice! She’s over by the gate!”
 
Without wasting a moment, Renault grabbed the princess and hauled her over his shoulder. His pace was brisk, not weighed down by Rachel in the slightest. Right outside the gate, several horses were tied up. They whinnied, unnerved by all the commotion. Renault quickly untied one of the elegant animals and sprang up onto its back, Rachel in his arms. He took off, not skipping a beat. Clumsily, I untied a horse and followed. The moon was bright overhead, illuminating the dirt path. It took all my effort not to lose them in the desperate ride for freedom.
 
After what seemed like hours, we came to a gradual stop. Renault let the princess down from the horse, folding her in a blanket he had found tied around the saddle. It wasn’t very long until we had a campfire going. Rachel said nothing since her earlier outburst, merely looking at the ground hollowly. We were silent amidst the crackling of the flame.
 
My fingers cracked loudly. “So, we survived. Now what?”
 
Renault shook his head. “No doubt Henry will spin some fanciful tale once His Majesty wakes. Most likely, you’ll be accused of treason.”
 
“And I gave him my full name too,” I growled. “He’s likely to go to Langsport and trouble my family.”
 
“We have bigger troubles,” Renault interrupted unsympathetically. “His Majesty is not safe with Henry so closeby. It wouldn’t surprise me if he attempts an assassination on the king’s life.”
 
“So what do we do? He has a palace full of soldiers. Who would believe us?”
 
Renault fell silent, eyes intimidating as the fire reflected against the glassy surface of his gaze. A sudden crack from the fire sent me jumping, but the manservant didn’t even blink. “We take the castle by force. If we ally ourselves with the right people, we might stand a chance.” He met my gaze intensely, almost as if daring me to look away. “You’d best take your leave now while you still can. You may not have a home to return to, but you still have the possibility of living a life away from the conflict lingering on the horizon. If Princess Rachel is found, no doubt they’ll look nearby for the both of us as well. You’re just a merchant’s boy, unable to truly fight.”
 
Despite the verity of his statement, I still bristled in indignation. “I’m going to stick by my decisions no matter what. I made the split-second decision to save Rachel when I could’ve just turned a blind eye and fled. What’s the point in leaving now?”
 
The night had fallen eerily quiet as we sat there in a somber silence. Rachel stared at the flickering flames, every so often blinking. Her cheeks were shiny, though I wasn’t sure from tears or the light reflecting off her pale skin. Meanwhile, Renault looked like a castle statue, staring at the ground without moving an inch. Finally, the manservant spoke, his voice quiet even in the silent atmosphere: “Then…are you willing to throw away who you are now and to become a new man?”
 
“What does that mean?” I wanted to laugh, but something about his tone struck me as too serious to make light of.
 
He stood, the dagger in his hand glimmering. It was the same one Henry had tried to kill Rachel with. Even so, the princess didn’t even react as the blade was drawn. Her pupils didn’t even dilate. “Where’d you get that?” I inquired.
 
“I took it off of Master Henry’s person. I don’t like to molest the prone bodies of people above my station, but I needed a weapon on such short notice with Lady Rachel missing.” He lifted it higher, approaching me. He suddenly grasped my hair, yanking it back.
 
I yelped, my eyes watering. “What the hell are you doing?
“Are you willing to become a new man, Lennard?”
 
“It’s Leonard,” I choked out, struggling to speak from the pain.
 
“Well? Are you willing to cast off that name, Leonard?”
 
“Yes! Yes, so stop it already! Whatever you’re doing, just get it over with!” I screamed, desperate for the pain to stop. Within several agonizing seconds, the pain suddenly faded away. My head jerked forward, like he had let go of my brown locks. But no, something wasn’t right. My head felt…light. As if most of the weight had been removed. Almost in horror, my hands slowly drifted towards my head. But instead of where there was supposed to be hair, there was empty space.
 
Renault backed away, a significantly large clump of hair in his left hand. “There. You’re a new man. You’re no longer Leonard Collins, but someone else. You’re free to come up for yourself whatever you please, just make sure you’re satisfied with it. After all, this is your new life.”
 
It was unbelievable. For some reason, through the attempted assassination of a princess and the desperate bid for my life, having my hair sheared off was the most shocking thing that had happened. My fingers kept grasping for something that wasn’t there. My hair…had been the only thing that remained of Karen. Her hair was silken and wavy as it flowed in the wind. After her death, I couldn’t bring myself to cut it.
 
“Do I have to come up with something now? I need time,” I muttered, shaky. 
 
After a moment, Renault nodded. “All right. For now, we must rest. Get ready, for we leave early in the morning.”
 
The dirt covered my tunic, but I was too tired to care. Laying my shoulder against the ground, it didn’t take very long until I was sound asleep.


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