There is a sharp sting hitting my cheek bone repeatedly. I shake my head to clear some of the fuzz and feel droplets of water run down my face. I swat at the moisture and sit up, realizing that the stinging sensation is merely cold water dripping onto my face. The room I am in is dim, and lines seem to cross themselves before my vision. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to sit up only to bang my head against metal with a clang.
I hear someone expel a breath. "Finally, you're awake." It's Daphne.
I open my eyes and can now see that I am in a small metal cage. The type that you would lock your golden lab in when you leave the house, but with a more intricate lock, I can see immediately. I turn as best as I can in the confined space to see where Daphne's voice is coming from. I spot her in about the same predicament as me: in a cage of her own, a few feet away. She has jammed what looks like a stick into her lock, obviously an attempt at trying to pick it open. I realize now that I have underestimated her; she's not the type to go down without a fight. Her dark curly hair is only slightly matted, her nightgown stained. There is dirt on her arms and legs and face. I look down and see that I am dirty as well, though I'm not sure if it's from the struggle against that man or being dragged to these cages from the House.
"Where are we?" I ask.
"You think I came out of that whole thing conscious?" Daphne immediately snaps, though I can hear the strain of fear underneath the bite in her tone.
I try and see where exactly we are, but the only light in the room is being filtered through a grimy window with moth-eaten curtains. The room, I can tell, is small; there is only one door, which I would assume leads outside of this place. I can spot what looks like a dirty sink and a wood-burning stove across the room from us. The basin of the sink is large, like something that you would gut fish in. Along the wall closest to Daphne there is a cot with dirty blankets and a single pillow.
"Where did he go? Did you see?"
Daphne shakes her head. "I woke up to the door slamming shut."
"How long ago was that?"
She shakes her head once more. "Half an hour maybe."
I nod, as if I understand what is going on, even though I don't.
"What are the chances of Cassius finding us?" Daphne asks.
Not good, my gut says, but I don't want to tell her that. I want to believe that Cassius is combing the forest for us right now, but I can't really be sure; we had both left the Manor without permission, all before anyone had really woken up. As much as I want to believe that help is on the way, something tells me that Daphne and I are on our own for now. "I'm sure as soon as he finds us missing, he'll send a search party," I tell her.
"Who do you think this creep even is?"
I shake my head. "Definitely not a Lost Boy. Whoever he is, he's obviously a few screws loose."
"That doesn't help," Daphne says with a slight tremor in her voice now.
I open my mouth to tell her that my help wasn't really what was needed right now, that a key would be more helpful than my advice, when the door knob turns and in steps the man that had taken us. Looking up at him from this angle is awkward, but I force myself to do it anyway. He is wearing the same ratted clothing that he had been before, humming a little tune under his breath. I notice he has a bundle of firewood in his arms.
When he turns and notices Daphne and I staring at him, he smiles. "Oh, good, you're up!" he chirps. I notice he is missing too many teeth to count and the others seem like they're about to take a dive any second. He struts over to the fireplace and begins loading wood inside of it. The smoke from the flu doesn't help the atmosphere at all, burning my eyes and choking my lungs.
After loading a few logs into the fireplace he stands and turns to regard us. His stare is blank as it roams over us, flickering in and out of life certain moments. I shudder as he smiles once more. "Welcome to my home," he says humbly with a bow.
"Who are you?" I ask.
"Just let us go!" Daphne cries.
"My name is Haworth," he says, either deliberately choosing to ignore Daphne or not. "And who are you?"
I work my jaw, thinking. This man is obviously crazy. If Daphne and I play along, we might be able to get a chance to escape. "I'm Morgan," I introduce us once more, calmly as I can, "and this is Daphne."
Daphne shoots me a look as if to ask who the senile person in the room really is, but I ignore it.
"Will you tell us why you've taken us?" I ask in the same calm voice.
He takes a deep breath and begins humming again. To my utter horror I recognize the melody this time: Here Comes The Bride. He kneels and pulls something from inside of his boot. Daphne, seeing it first, whimpers. The dull light gleams off of the blade, flashing over Haworth's creased face and toothless smile. "Morgan," he says, "and Daphne. Tell me: which is the Prince's favorite?"
Daphne expels a startled breath as my heart stops.
He runs the sharp edge of the blade over the rusting metal of the fireplace making a screeching sound. "Tell me now," he says casually.
"It's me," I say. Daphne shoots me another look but I refuse to return her gaze.
Haworth smiles and walks slowly over to my cage. I'm not able to do much but cringe back from him as he places a key into the lock and slides the bolt from home and opens the door to the cage. He steps back to allow me to crawl out and, after a moment of hesitation, I do. "I want the Prince's favorite to join my party first."
I nod as if this is a reasonable thing to say, eyeing the way he holds the knife. His grip on the handle is lax, but I can see the blade is very, very sharp.
He motions toward the sink. "Come," he says. "We wouldn't want to make a mess."
"What are you going to do?" I ask.
"You're going to join the party," he says once more.
"What does that mean?" I ask, trying to keep the rising hysteria out of my voice as I do. I wonder if I can get the key from Haworth and allow Daphne to escape.
He pauses for a moment, looking at the ground. "I have two Brides and they're going to stay with me forever. And then Maxim will want me back," he says, "when I am the Prince with two Brides at my party and he has none."
I dont take long to process this; I snatch the key from his neck and shove him away from me before I dive for Daphne's cage, sliding the key into it's hole.
Before I can completely unlock the cage, though, Daphne screams and I am violently thrown to the side. I hit the ground hard and cry out. I can feel Haworth on top of me, his hot stinking breath consuming the air around my face. I cry out as I feel the chill of the blade slide against my skin and shove out at the area. I hear the sound of metal sliding against wood and know with some glee that I have knocked the weapon out of his hand.
But his weight is heavy on me as he struggles to overpower me. His large hand slides up to my exposed throat and presses down hard against my neck. Struggling to breathe, I now search in vain for the knife that I had knocked loose. My vision begins to blur and blacken as I loose oxygen flow and my fingers fumble uselessly to find a weapon or at least shove him away from me.
Suddenly, though, with a cry, Haworth has released his hold on my throat. I turn away from him, filling my lungs with as much air as I can as my vision slowly starts to come back to me. I turn to see Daphne standing above us, both hands gripping the knife. She has sliced through the skin on his back, seeming to shock him.
"Morgan, let's go!" she screams as she drops the knife and races for the door.
Only a beat behind her, I jump to my feet and run through the door after her. Once we are outside we run straight into the tree line. I have never been in this part of the forest before and I can only hope that we are going the right way. The twigs and leaves on the ground cut into my feet but at the moment I only care about getting as far away from that place as possible.
I can hear him, though, running behind us. He isn't very far behind either. "We can't outrun him," I gasp.
"Stop!" I hear, and I do, because the voice I hear is familiar to me.
"Morgan, what-" Daphne begins once she sees me come to a stop, but I raise my hand to cut her off.
Mary appears from between trees. "Over here," she says, ushering us to where she is standing.
We do as we're told. Once we are within reach, Mary grabs my hand and I grab Daphne's. Distantly, I am aware that she still has a firm grip on the knife she took from Haworth. Mary leads us through a winding path through the trees which looks random to me, but Mary seems to be picking each step deliberately.
"Here," she finally says, dropping my hand. I move to release Daphne, but she tightens her grip on my hand.
Seconds later, he appears across a copse of trees from us: Haworth. There is blood on his shirt now, but he doesn't seem to notice. As soon as he takes Daphne and I in, he grins and starts forward, raising another, bigger knife above his head. Daphne moves to run but Mary holds her ground and I follow her lead.
The crazed man breaks into a run toward us-
And drops into a trap pit an instant later.
Mary placidly walks over to the pit and looks down. "We only let you live by yourself because you promised you wouldn't break any rules, Haworth," she calls down. "Now look what you've done."
"Thank you," I say. "Mary, Thank you so much."
She merely shrugs. "You did the same for me," she says.
Daphne looks between us silently.
Mary pulls a flare gun from a small pack at her side and fires it off. I watch as the red flame shoots into the sky and know that it is only a matter of time before we are found. I wonder how long it took Cassius to hand Mary the pack of flares and recruit her into the search party, knowing that she could get around the forest, her home, better than his own men.
Sure enough, only a little while after waiting, a group of armed men crash through the clearing, led by none other than Cassius himself. Peter is with him, dressed in a more entitled-looking uniform along with Cassius to let everyone know that they are in charge.
It doesn't take long for Daphne to burst into tears and fling herself into Cassius' arms, which, admittedly, I'd like to do as well. Peter walks over to me and places his hands on my shoulders.
"Are you alright?" he asks.
I nod, definitely still sensible enough to realize that I'm only wearing the oversized T-shirt I went to bed in.
He hugs me close before releasing me, a second of affection that I was not ready to receive. "I'm glad," he whispers.
He turns from me to Daphne and opens his arms in condolence. She runs to him and hugs him in kind.
Leaving Cassius and I. We stare at each other for a long moment, simply taking each other in. I have to admit to myself that he looks good in a military uniform. It is black and sports badges that hold meaning I am unaware of. Then, after a moment of consideration, Cassius expels a breath and pulls me into his arms.
I wrap my arms around him and breathe in the smell of him: rosemary and ivory soap. He holds me tight to his chest and buries his face in my hair.
We release each other a moment later and watch as the armed men that accompanied the two circle around the pit that Haworth is now in. Cassius takes Daphne's hand and leads her away as Mary takes mine and does the same. "I don't think even you are ready to see how this ends," she says solemnly.
Once we are a good distance away, I hear the gunshots rip through the air and cringe. "No," I say finally, "I don't think I am."