#NaNoWriMo 2013 Chapter 5
“Are you going to miss the dresses?” Oralee asked, her tiny hands gripping onto the fabric and pulling with a strength that showed her desperation.
Alana, weaving the dresses together, tying them tightly from end to end, and looking out the window at the same time, said simply, “I’d miss my life more.”
Alana looked around the window at the barbarians placed along the high windows. She had opened the window of her bedroom on the first hour and had an arrow impaled into the wood as a reminder she was a captive in her own home. When this was finished she would simply have to wait for the archer’s attention to turn elsewhere.
Alana was mostly positive this chance of escape was going to result in her death or Oralee’s death. She was willing to risk it. She would rather die trying to escape and save the kingdom than die by starvation locked in her room. Or worse.
She hated to think of worse.
Her eyes glanced to Oralee, who resembled her father’s side of the genetics more than she or Lena had. Oralee was slender but short of stature, her face more angular, her hair straighter. It did not take away from the beauty. Alana hoped she survived long enough to realize how beautiful she was.
Alana’s attention was caught and her head jerked up. She quickly moved from the window and started shoving fabric beneath her bed. Oralee followed suit, scooting across the floor and quickly hiding the ragged fabric. Oralee moved to sit on the bed and Alana hurriedly took her place back at the window, not wanting the archer squealing that she had hurried to change positions. She did not know how much the archer could see, or was reporting, from him unknown space, but as long as she was allowed to continued the weaving she would do just that.
The door of the bedroom opened and the leader along with two of his large companions came into the room, filling it easily with their size. They could easily make a room feel large or small with just their presence and mood, and this time it felt positively claustrophobic.
The leader, Wyborn, pointed to Oralee and said, “Bring her.”
“No!” Alana screamed and shoved away from the window. She threw herself in front of her sister and flung her arms out as Halvor and Hamar made to take away the girl. “Do you really need three large men to take a small girl?”
“Small girl?” Wyborn asked, glancing at Oralee cowering on the bed behind Alana. “Did she not just come of age? Was that not what that whole tournament was about? I think I will be safe and use the three large men to take her away.”
“You won’t,” Alana said, holding her head higher.
“Stop it, Oralee,” Alana said. “You don’t need her. If you want something, you come at me.”
Wyborn blinked and stared at her before it dawned on him what the princess was thinking. He cleared his throat and said, “Don’t be a daft child. We have no interest in you ladies. We just want answers. Answers come better when you are separate. Now move aside or I will make my way past you on my own.”
Alana stood her ground. She kept her arms out and kept her stare on Wyborn. “I will not.”
“Have it your way.” Wyborn moved to her and was in her face before she could blink. He smiled a bestial grin and said, “Boo,” before grabbing her arms and turning her body. Her back was pulled up against his chest and he let a free hand travel her side while his other gripped her wrists and held her firmly in place. “Though maybe you had the right idea.”
Alana’s foot came up and struck him in the shin. He knew it was coming and braced himself. He laughed, though he felt the sting, and threw her down on the bed beside her sister. “You have my word that your sister will not be ravaged and murdered while she is out of your sight.”
Alana spat at him, trying to drag Oralee close to her while Hamar gripped her and pulled her away, dragging her from the bed. “How can I trust your word? You’ve left us locked in here with nothing for two days. We could have died just from sitting here.”
“And you will be fed in short time,” Wyborn said. Another promise. “Now kindly remove your claws from your sister before you do her more damage than we would ever do.”
Alana debated, holding her sister’s arm while Hamar was pulling her from the other side. Unable to stand seeing the grimace of pain on Oralee’s face Alana released her. She straightened her back and looked to Wyborn. “I’m holding you to your promise, but I promise you if any harm comes to her I will find a way to destroy you if it is the last thing I do.”
“I believe you will try,” Wyborn said and stepped away from the princess. “But try is about all you have going for you.” Wyborn, Hamar, and Halvor left the room with little Oralee between them.
They led Oralee through the hallway, which had been cleared of bodies and people, and down to the dining area. Oralee quietly took in her surroundings and tried to hold back screams of sorrow and rage. She knew where blood had been spilled and she knew where someone had likely died. The barbarians might have removed the bodies, but they had not removed the evidence of the deaths that surrounded the spots.
In the dining area sat a veritable feast. Much of the meat and delicacies had been made and laid out, the aroma of food catching Oralee’s nose and making her empty stomach rumble in pain. Halvor forcd her down into a chair and Oralee felt it grow harder and harder to show any restraint. She wanted to reach out and tear into a drumstick off of the bird in front of her, to feed her face until she was sick and then possibly do it again.
“Give the girl some water,” Wyborn suggested.
Oralee happily and greedily took the cup she was offered and drank the water. She was surprised at the feeling it gave her, filling her enough she was no longer sick with the need for food, though she couldn’t deny the hungry rumble still happening.
“Would you like to eat, princess?” Wyborn asked. Oralee could only nod, it was hard to deny what was obviously being heard from all of them. “Then you need to tell me what you know.”
“What I know?” Oralee asked, dumbfounded.
“This is stupid,” Halvor remarked. “There is no way this little girl knows anything.”
Oralee sat up straight and crossed her arms in a huff. “Excuse me, but I’m an adult now.”
“Yes, but an adult for how long? Two days?” Halvor offered. “You have no need to pretend that on your birthday you were suddenly alighted to all of the ways of adults.”
Oralee was embarrassed to admit, even to herself, that she did not know what the word “alighted” meant. She sat prettily and just tried to make sense of the sentence and simply said, “You have not actually asked me what it is you want to know.”
Wyborn pulled up a chair beside her, leaning in to gaze into her face. He saw a child there, a child playing at the facade of a grown woman. That was the way of the world, though. He needed answers, and she and her sister might be the only ones who could give the to him.
“Why do we need answers?” Saldis had tried to argue when she had Wyborn alone. “What good will it do now? You’ve succeeded in killing the king and queen. We’ve taken out their rules.”
“There are more rulers to a kingdom than a king and queen,” Wyborn had told her. “You have the nobles who work with them, manipulating them. You have the religious figures they turn to. The reason we need to know why exactly we were attacked is because we do not know how far their plan goes and to whom.”
“You aren’t getting answers from those two.”
Saldis might very well be right, but at this point he didn’t know who else to find answers from. There were knights in the dungeons who were raising a stink and trying their hardest to escape, but Wyborn did not know which ones he could trust. He only knew the knights who had promised him easy entry into the castle, and they seemed unaware of exactly why the barbarians had been attacked. They only promised that it would be easy to take out the king, and it had been.
Wyborn knew he was set up for a trap, he just did not understand where the trap was coming from. In his rush for revenge he had accepted the bait.
Wyborn caught Oralee eyeing the food as she tried to remain haughty. Her hunger was winning against her. She was used to being pampered and she was a tad spoiled. Wyborn thought it would work.
“Tell me about your father’s war plans,” Wyborn said, cutting into a brick of cheese. He sliced into it with ease, taking a small chunk between his fingers. Oralee watched it and licked her lips as he stuck the chunk in his mouth and slowly chewed on it.
“There were no war plans,” Oralee said, her back stiffening. For a moment the need for a bite of food was forgotten and all she could think of was the insult to her father. “You are mistaking. Why-ever you are here, you are mistaking. My father may not have been perfect, but he would not have thrown his country into war. You are monsters for attacking us.” Now the girl was remembering that she had not seen her parents, that she was unaware of where they had disappeared to, or if they were even alive. Tears began to burn her eyes.
Hamar had been expecting the reaction and he reached forward and took the next chunk of cheese from Wyborn’s fingers and handed it to Oralee. She took it gratefully, having seen Wyborn eat it, knowing it was not poisoned, and placing it to her lips, savoring the taste as if it was a delicacy and not just a simple block of cheese.
“Your father was not the good man you thought he was,” Hamar said, plucking fruits from the table and filling a plate slowly.
The past tense was not lost on Oralee. She swalled that bite of cheese as if it had molded over and gone rotten in her mouth as she was chewing. Silence filled the room, Oralee’s heartbeat the loudest sound. Hamar realized where he had gone wrong and turned away to grimace.
Oralee’s voice was quiet and slow, “I want to see my parents.”
“I’m sorry, Princess, that is not possible,” Wyborn said.
Oralee knocked the heavy chair back as she stood, ready to run. The men would move faster than her if it was needed, but for now they allowed the the movement to back away from them. “No. I want to see them.”
“You already know that is not possible,” Wyborn told her sitting back in his chair. He did not want to move too quickly and scare her. If they did not have to chase her it would be better. For her. They were determined to pull their answers from her one way or the other. If she knew anything. Wyborn highly suspected she did not, but there was a reason he grabbed the youngest before he grabbed the oldest.
Oralee’s eyes were running with tears but she impressed the men by not breaking into a sobbing ball of misery. She simply stood there, allowing the tears to fall, not wiping them away, but not hiding her pain. “Their bodies have to be somewhere.”
“They are,” Wyborn said, “but their bodies are in a mass with all of the other bodies. They were taken down in fight, they were shown no more respect than anyone else who died, and no less.”
“Wyborn, was that necessary?” Halvor growled as Oralee let out her first sobs. She began to shudder and fall to her knees before them. Hamar was the first to reach her, gripping her arms and keeping her from laying out on the floor. He moved her back to her chair and placed her down. She sat, wrapping her arms around her face and leaning against the table to keep her keening quiet.
“This is reality,” Wyborn snapped.
“Those were her parents,” Halvor snapped, reminding Wyborn of his own father’s death. Wyborn shrugged it off. He did not cry like a child when his father died, and he had been younger than this girl when it had happened. His father had been bitten and poisoned by a snake in the swamps surrounding the temple where the priestess stayed hidden. She refused to treat his father’s wound and he had died, protecting Wyborn from the very snake.
“Your husband or your son,” Zarya had said to Wyborn’s mother.
His mother had looked back and forth. She had seen her husband dying in an immense amount of pain, screaming out as the poison worked through his veins. She glanced to her son, who stood strong, holding his head up, giving every indication of strength and a full life ahead of him.
“Leave my son alone,” his mother had said, wrapping her hands around Wyborn’s shoulders.
“Very well,” Zarya said. She shrugged her shoulders and stood, a sensual being in a diaphanous gown of red and gold. She walked to Wyborn’s father and simply drover her dagger through his heart. He let out one last gasping breath before dying.
“What are you doing?” his mother had screamed.
“Taking him out of his misery. It was going to be hours before he would die. Now, I am assuming you came here about your boy…”
“Princess,” Wyborn said, taking the plate of fruits from Hamar and placing them next to her head, “eat something. You are dehydrated and exhausted. Your parents are gone, but you still have a sister to think of. Two, actually, since your other sister is out there somewhere.”
Only turning her head enough so her voice was not muffled by her arms she ased, “Aren’t you going to tease me with food until I answer questions?”
Clever girl. “No,” Wyborn said. “I want you to eat. I want you to feel good. But remember that every moment you waste my time down here is another moment your sister is not eating. It’s another moment Alana starves.”
Oralee reached out and plucked a grape off of the vine. She moved it to her mouth, but it went into her sleeve, not into her mouth. Hamar caught it, but Wyborn and Halvor missed it. Instead of saying something he simply sat back, watching her carefully. She was more clever than she was pretending to be.
“You are asking me about something I don’t know the answer to,” Oralee explained. Straightening her back in the chair she reached for another grape. This grape she did slip into her mouth, and just like before she chewed slowly, and there was no difference in her chewing. If Hamar had not seen her slip the grape in her sleeve he never would have been able to tell that she had been faking the entire thing.
“I feel you are mistaken, though,” Oralee continued. “My father would not have started a war. His council would have known.”
“And how do you know the council didn’t know?” Wyborn asked.
Oralee’s eyes shifted, then she reached out for the grapes again. She took a handful and Hamar watched as several more disappeared into her sleeve. Her other hand was hidden from view and he had a feeling she was guiding these grapes to a pocket hidden in the dress.
Wyborn yanked the grapes from her hand, throwing them across the room. Oralee did not lose her calm, she simply leaned back and waited for Wyborn’s tantrum to continue, but he halted. He watched the exterior of this girl, one that had changed drastically several times since she had been brought downstairs, and he realized she was playing a game with him as much as he wanted to play a game with her. There was innocence there, that she could not fake, but she was not as naïve as she pretended to be. Pretended to be so much that those in the castle believed she was nothing more than a pretty face, and a weak link. Go after her and th others would fall.
“I asked you a question,” Wyborn said, gaining some semblance of his calm again instead of growling at the girl.
Oralee leaned back and said, “The council didn’t know, isn’t that enough?”
“No,” Wyborn said, “because it makes it seem like you do know something that you shouldn’t know.”
Oralee chewed her lip, deliberating, and for once Wyborn knew better than to push. He simply pushed the plate of fruits back forward and slowly stood. He moved away from the table and over to Halvor and the two stood facing away from Oralee. Hamar busied himself with cheeses and meats, which Oralee watched the entire time.
Hamar held up a plate for himself and sat back. “I might as well enjoy it while we’re here,” he said. “We don’t eat like this at home.”
“What do you eat, then?” Oralee asked.
“We might eat the same meats, but they aren’t seasoned as well. We are a community that tends to cook things together. A few women cook it all and we all eat at a mutual table.”
“We do the same here, and we have seasoning,” Oralee sniffed.
“Do the women who cook your food share your table?”
Oralee grimaced. “That’s an unfair comparison. Besides, you were talking about seasoning, not the degragration–”
Oralee flushed. “Right. Degredation of people. They are maids, they are hired to cook for us. They are paid for it. But they go home at the end of the day and can cook how they want.”
“And do you think after a day of cooking meals for you and your family they want to go home and cook with the same flare, or will they just throw things in a pot and call it a meal? That is what I am saying. Our women work all day and then just want to make sure we all eat. I am not insulting your ways in any way, just telling you I enjoy the seasoning. Sometimes it would be nice to do things more in your way, where a woman doesn’t go hunting with the men, or fight in the armies, or have to work the same hours in a field. Where she can take care of her family first.”
Oralee picked at her food. The conversation was making her uncomfortable. Hamar saw the compassion in her eyes and the grimace on her face answered his question. She did not know of a plot against them. Whatever she was keeping from them it was not an answer to a plot.
“Lena knew things,” Oralee whispered. “She always knew what the council knew. She and Alana took turns listening in when they weren’t invited, though Alana was often invited. But Lena actually talked to me about it. If something like that had been discussed Lena would never have been able to keep quiet about it. Not from me.”
“Unless she was protecting you.”
Oralee’s head jerked when Wyborn’s voice interrupted. She looked back at the leader and again she went cold. Wyborn returned to his seat and said, “She was your older sister, and the other one seems protective of you. Would Lena not be the same way?”
“No,” Oralee said. “She and Adare were open about what they knew with me. They always said… what if…”
“Don’t start crying again.”
Oralee sniffed and had her emotions back in control. Running her hand over the fruits and picking at a round and red succulent morsel she said, “Lena is not the protective type. Alana is. Alana would not have told me.”
“Could Alana not have told Lena?” Wyborn suggested.
It was enough for Wyborn. He had known all along that this girl wouldn’t have the answers he wanted about why the attack had happened, but it was enough to know that Alana was his best chance. The heir to the throne was the likely one to have the answers, and meanwhile he was able to drive her crazy by “torturing” her sister.
“Come on, Princess, let’s bring you back to your sister.” Wyborn stood and allowed her to stand on her own. No one touched her, they only crowded her and lead her through the halls. Upon opening the door the princess that greeted him was a completely different version than the one he had seen before.
This one had wisened up.
He barely dodged the blade of the arrow. She swung it at him and screamed out a feral cry he never would have expected from the pretty little figure. She was too slow and he easily yanked it from her hands, but for a moment she was nearly able to take him down. If her aim had been better he would have been bleeding at the very least.
Wyborn grabbed her wrist and dragged her back into the room, Oralee following behind begging him not to hurt her sister. They were completely different princesses around one another. Alana, seeing her sister, calmed and wrapped her arms around her. The two cuddled back together on the edge of the bed, shooting daggers from their eyes in their glares.
“Where did you get an arrow any–” Wyborn looked to the window and noticed the notch of arrows at the wood. He cursed and turnd to Halvor. “Remove those. Tell the archer to stop giving her warnings. If he sees her head stick out of there again, he’s to shoot her.”
Halvor did not question Wyborn’s orders. He only nodded and moved across the room. As the largest and strongest he was able to remove the arrows cleanly. Wyborn stormed from the room with Halvor and Hamar behind him.
“The young princess stole fruit and secreted it away in her dress,” Hamar said.
“What? That doesn’t help my plans any,” Wyborn sneered, his ire growing. “Why would you allow that?”
“Because it gives you more time to look as if you are trying to starve the princess out while you know that she will not be starving.”
Wyborn rocked back and then smiled. “I like it.”
“Did you really want me to tell the archer to shoot her?” Halvor asked uncomfortably.
Wyborn snored and shook his head. “No. But can we not leave arrows there for her to use as weapons? We’ll figure something else out.”