The soldiers escort us up to our luxurious prison and right before we are allowed to enter, I pull my favourite soldier aside to thank him.
“You are a proper soldier,” I congratulate him, “You were kind to me.”
“Just doing my job,” he nods, glancing nervously at the other soldiers who are glaring at him. No doubt jealous of the attention. Celeste is also looking in on the conversation, but with curious eyes.
“Would you do me another favour?” I ask.
“W-what is it, princess?” he asks, “I fear I can do no more to help as I have my role as a solider to attend to...”
“I have a sore back and weary feet,” I pretend to look at the ground in disappointment and I bite my lip as I glance back up, “You have impressed me and I’d like you to serve me,” I nod towards his radio, “Is there anyway I can have a radio to contact you at any time... to bring me food... to help me if my Dark Gem Masters cannot attend to my... basic needs?”
“Of course,” he is more than ready to help, he glances at his fellow soldiers and one of them throws him a spare radio, “For you... princess.”
I hold out my hand and take it, pretending to look confused.
“Oh my gosh,” I whisper, as if in awe, “These look so complicated. Is this the button to talk?” I press the red button, then the green, “...hello?”
“The red to terminate the connection, green to open the channel,” the solider explains.
“Thank you, you may go, but first tell me your name,” I smile widely and the soldier blushes.
“Karl,” he nods.
“Let’s go,” one of the older Gems interrupts the conversation, “The gates will be open soon to let in the guests, we have work to do. It was an honour serving you, Princess Sapphire.”
“No, thank you for your trouble,” I am smiling as the soldiers leave, the whole time I am also waving.
As soon as the bottom electronic doors slide shut as the last solider exits through them, I turn to Celeste, a radio in my hand.
“Would you look at that,” I pretend to say, in awe, “Pharis inspired me with his love of gadgets, I thought I’d find a way to grab one. Look, it even comes with a strap.”
“Forever scheming little things, as usual,” Celeste smiles as she says this, and she approaches my door first, “They dropped us off here, so I assume we will get ready in your chamber.”
I strap my radio onto my thigh, out of sight under my dress.
Then I follow Celeste into my chamber.
I guess we both expect to see Dark Gems in the bedchamber, ready to gloat as they prepared us for tonight’s activities in the stadium. We’re wrong, however, which I’m not upset about.
There are no Dark Gems in site. Instead, there is someone else of interest. Celeste and I instantly focus on Seraphine, sitting at a dresser chair with her arms cuffed behind her back, the Light Restraints still on. She has noticed us before we’ve even noticed her, her eyes happy for some company.
“Welcome,” she speaks dramatically, “For our preparation to look pretty before the Dark Gems decide to spank us in front of the whole planet; I guarantee this will be broadcasted everywhere,” Seraphine lowers her tone, unimpressed with how things were moving so far, now glaring at us and then her reflection in the mirror, “How long has it been since I’ve destroyed this stadium last time with my Shadow Fire alone? A thousand years. Now we’re back and I’ve hardly used my magic at all. Even the Dark Gems probably believe I’ve forgotten how to fight.”
“I somehow doubt that,” I mutter as I come up to find a brush for her hair, which always looked a mess.
“Don’t bother, princess,” she rolls her eyes towards the pool entrance, “We have a helper.”
“Oh, who?” I’m curious. However, as I turn my head, I witness the last person I expect to see.
The old hag; Ladonna.
My eyes widen and I take a step back as Ladonna rushes over with a handful of what looked like salt.
“This will make your skin baby smooth,” Ladonna addresses Seraphine who goes quiet in response, but only like a lion ready to strike at any moment when she had the chance.
Celeste and I watch curiously as Ladonna smooths it over Seraphine’s arms, neck and face.
“You enjoy this, don’t you?” I ask the older woman, content with her work. She pauses and turns to scrutinise me.
“I am doing my duty,” Ladonna snaps.
“Yet I thought you enjoyed being the headmistress of my school?” I ask her, waiting for her reaction.
In an instant, she turns to me with wide eyes, her hand trembling in mid air as she takes in my admission.
“You remember?” she asks, her face has dropped, “...you’re the... same Sapphire? Not Star Cursed?”
“Completely myself,” I nod, “We have our memories fully restored now. You know, my only memories of you are how eager you are to please the Dark Gems.”
“Perhaps so, princess, but also because a woman is eager to please when her child gets taken to stay at a palace designed for whoring around...” she snaps, suddenly going quiet, as if she didn’t mean to speak out so much.
“Who is your daughter?” I ask, confused.
“Lilo,” she mutters, her eyes going distant as she says the name. We all watch the moment of the memory of her daughter consuming her. She doesn’t allow it to linger. To distract herself, I watch as she turns to Seraphine once more, brushing her hair next, “All I know after all these years is that when you give in, they are gentle. I don’t want to see my child be treated cruelly.”
“You know what the Dark Gems are truly like, you must,” I snap, “You shouldn’t support –”
“Leave it,” Seraphine cuts me off, glaring at me through the mirror, “Help Celeste find an outfit.”
“We’re all on the same side,” I hiss as I glance at Seraphine and then Celeste, who is looking solemnly at Ladonna.
They both didn’t want me to further this conversation with Ladonna.
They probably thought she was a lost cause.
"Princess,” Seraphine tries to intimidate me, warning me not to continue.
However, I was learning to lead now and I was embracing it. Especially after working out I was a true Royal, born to be a princess. To fulfil my role.
I wanted to fulfil it well.
“In my position as a princess, I can guarantee Lilo is treated well for the rest of her life,” I try to tempt Ladonna to listen further while ignoring Seraphine.
“Sapphire,” Celeste now also warns me, grabbing my elbow, “Don’t ruin everything by telling certain people certain things.”
“I am not stupid, girls,” Ladonna sighs, rising her chin she looks down at all of us condescendingly, “You are all keen on overthrowing the Dark Gems.”
“Wrong, we want something far more long term and we know how to get it,” I blurt out before Seraphine or Celeste can stop me. I approach the older lady now, keen to prove my point. Ladonna slows in brushing Seraphine’s hair and I try to ignore the rebellion leader’s lethal glare. Even I’m glad her Light Restraints are in place right now.
Especially with what I was about to do next.
I swiftly take hold of Ladonna’s arm, quickly leading her into the pool area away from the others.
I walk us to a corner where I can talk one on one with the older female Gem.
Ladonna has gone very quiet, looking at me with great suspicion and jerking her arm back away from me when we come to a stop.
“If you listen to me and if you help us, we will all be much happier,” I start, gently, “Our future is at stake. This is greater than the wars of our past. We’re being connected to the rest of the universe soon. Our cultural values, if reported just by the Dark Gems, will ensure the Royal female Gems have a life of servitude legally acceptable until the end of time,” I try to condense my points down to a few sentences, but all I’ve managed to do is make Ladonna go breathless.
“Are you crazy?” she asks, truly concerned.
“We know other worlds exist, we were contacted 1000 years ago to join a place called Central Universe. This is our chance to set things right on the record. We’re not searching to overthrow Dark Gems, Ladonna, we want a female council, so there is leadership from both genders. We want equality.”
“You have never been one to care about the bigger issues, Sapphire, you’ve always loved being a troublemaker... but it seems you have matured considerably. However, I do not know the purpose of you telling me all this,” she explains, her face far whiter than before.
“I will tell you now,” I smile at her for the first time in my life, “Would you like to be the first female member of the female council? You only have to help us in one small way. I have a job for you.”
“What do you mean?” she asks, suspicious.
“Contact our friends and tell them to come here, tell them to come as soon as possible,” I urge her, “Let us get ready on our own. You need to send an important message out for me.”
“To whom and what on Kiyr do you want me to say?” she seems worried by my forcefulness but our window of opportunity to gain some power was quickly fading. We had to strike while we had the upper hand and the unknown advantage.
Especially right now, we appeared as if we were at our weakest point and I was going to make that weakness our distraction.
“Do you want to see your daughter again?” I ask, “You can see her soon and you can see her happy.”
“How?” she asks, “She did not recognise me when I taught you girls how to yield and follow orders. How would she remember me now?”
“The spell erasing our memories wore off,” I explain, “Do you want to see Lilo or not?”
“...yes, of course,” Ladonna eventually gives in, a tear in her eye, “They sent me away as soon as they arrived back at the Golden Palace. They did not care about my role as a mother. But I... I need to follow orders. I need to –”
“You need to listen and give me a chance to ask you to do one thing,” I say, not breaking eye contact with her so she knows I am confident in what I am about to ask.
“Go on,” she nods, but her wall seems built up a bit more in defence. I can’t keep running around the main point, however, so I don’t.
“You need to find a way to contact the Seraphine Rebellion Squadron. They are heading towards the human mining camps, they won’t be far from stealing transport vehicles,” I have to try and hold back my laughter at how utterly shocked Ladonna appears to be. She takes a nervous step to the side, as if she wants to escape, however she halts. I look over my shoulder and see Celeste now blocking her escape with her arms crossed over her chest and a brow raised.
Ladonna chooses to take a step back. She finally glances at me, nodding.
“...I am listening,” she smiles, forcing in some confidence.
“If you can contact them, presumably through the media centre... where they broadcast whatever they want... tell the girls to come here. I don’t care how you do it... just find a way. If you manage this, Lilo will be insured the best life she could ever have when we enforce the female council in the imminent future. As far as I’m concerned, we may be able to do that tonight.”
“I am helping you prepare, it is my job,” she starts, but she hesitates and licks her lips as she quickly adds, “...but I will see what I can do for my daughter. If I get into trouble and she gets hurt in repercussion; I will make sure that you are the one paying with the consequences, not her.”
I smile, because at least Ladonna has agreed to what I have asked of her.
“Thank you, I agree I will take full responsibility. In fact, if you can, tell the rebellion I am now the leader. Seraphine has given up power to me –”
“What the hell, princess?” Seraphine can obviously hear all the conversation and I hear the chair shuffle along the ground as she tries to get off it, but her arms are tied up behind it.
I grip Ladonna’s elbow again and lead her out to Seraphine and past Celeste, so I can explain to them all.
“I am taking charge of the rebellion because I am the princess,” I snap, “I have a magic-bond with your brother,” I see Seraphine’s smile drop from her face. She cannot quite believe the words coming out of my mouth; as not even I was meant to know this, “Do you want me to lead with him or not?”
“I have to kill Sabir, he is too protective of Traegr,” Seraphine growls, “You leading, will not allow that to happen.”
This is news I am not expecting.
I go quiet, glaring at her.
“You need to kill her too,” Seraphine nods towards Ladonna, “You’ve told her too much.”
“Wrong,” I snap, letting go of Ladonna I grab the radio on my thigh, clutching it out of its strap, “I have a plan. A good plan.”
Seraphine raises a brow, going quiet.
Ladonna also stands back, shocked.
I glance to Celeste.
“Play along,” I bite my lip as I press the green button, “Oh! Look! I think I turned it off. Wait... no... did I? Celeste, how do you work these things?”
“I am... not sure?” Celeste sounds convincing but she is also looking at me like I’m an idiot.
“Is it the red or the green?” I press the red, I then press the green, “I am so confused by this technology,” I sigh, “Perhaps I shall not worry the soldiers. We don’t want them coming here and potentially finding out that I am the leader of the Seraphine Rebellion Squadron. All along we’ve fooled them,” I shrug my shoulders, pursing my lips as I continue to speak, “I would hate for them to know what I have planned tonight. We are so weak... we are so controlled... does our suffering never end? But we will follow through with our plan tonight, won’t we?” I ask Celeste.
“Of course,” she quickly says, to add into the conversation.
“I can’t wait. We will humiliate Traegr as we discussed, and then,” I choose this moment to press the red button, to make it seem it was accidentally switched off as I was conversing, “...and then we do nothing. Because now, our plan is complete.”
“What exactly did you just do, princess?” Seraphine asks, dryly.
“Leading by what I do best; distraction,” I shrug, “Go,” I nod at Ladonna, “Go find a way to contact our rebellion members through the media centre. No matter where they are, they will see our message soon enough. Just manipulate an official message. Type out something like... fighting is imminent. Far-is to can be here. Hurry up and arrive. Don’t miss the action. I’m serious, exactly, ‘Far-is to can be... here’. I know it sounds stupid but that is the point, they’ll read it twice. ‘Faris’ sounds like a name that they’ll know. In consequence, it will just insure the Royal female Gems make their way here. They’ll know we’re asking for help,” I wink at Ladonna, who seems surprised.
“I will think of something more coherent, I wasn’t a headmistress for nothing, I know how to construct sentences,” Ladonna scolds, and I shrug.
“True... I’m not the best at encrypted messages, as long as ‘Far-is’ is in the message, okay? Go,” I motion for Ladonna to leave.
“What now?” Celeste asks as I chuck my radio on a love seat and watch Ladonna hurry out of here.
“Traegr and Sabir come for me, the soldiers would have alerted them to this new information,” I shrug, “When they really should be worried about her,” I nod to Seraphine, “I’ll distract them long enough that they won’t know what hit them when tonight arrives. They won’t be focused on the other Royal females making their way here.”
“You’re a quiet genius, Sapphire,” Seraphine growls under her breath, “A good match for my brother.”
“What is this brother business anyway?” Celeste asks, “Is Seraphine Sabir’s sister or something?”
“No –” I come to a stop, “He isn’t –”
“A little history lesson,” Seraphine begins, cutting me off, “Since the success of my rebellion feels close at hand. And we may die if this does not work. Although I promise to do my part as best as possible. I’ll smack as many Dark Gems down into the ground as I can. Anyway... so... are you ready to listen?” she asks me.
“Yes,” I nod, “No big surprises, please.”
“You know the truth, I see it in your eyes,” she smiles, “Anyway, I’ll start from the beginning. Hraken was thrown aside to die at birth,” Seraphine shrugs, “I saw it happen, I am his older sister. Two twin boys meant that the magic source is ruined and tainted with excess drainage. Only one boy could live. I saved Hraken when they thought the water in the river had drowned him. I ran away that day, and we joined a group of... I guess you could call them Gem Monks. The name of them I cannot tell you, I am sworn to secrecy. They were like savages, lived like them too. But they had control of their desires just like the best monks had back on Earth. We grew up learning a new way. Believe it or not, Hraken didn’t originally come here to lead or to try and be King, just because he is from the Obsidian line.”
“...what else would he want with the Dark Gems?” I ask, curious.
“He came back for his brother,” Seraphine states, “When we found out he was a renowned Dark Gem at the Golden Palace, we travelled there. I saw the Royal female Gems living like slaves and I gained my purpose. Hraken kept his; to save Sabir. No one can save him but Hraken, not even you, princess because you only drive Sabir more crazy with your dwindling magic. Why do you think Hraken keeps his distance from you, Sapphire? So, if Hraken does happen to rule, and he teaches Dark Gems how to control their desires better; Sabir will have a chance... or perhaps he is just not needed... get my point? Our success is so close, Sapphire, we can’t risk outstanding factors like him,” Seraphine does not break eye contact with me.
She wanted me to agree to the point she wasn’t going to repeat from before.
She wanted me to see her reason in needing to kill Sabir.
I knew why.
It would give Hraken the best chance at succeeding the throne.
But the way my plan was working; we didn’t need her plan anymore. Mine would work better – and I didn’t want Sabir to die. Despite his menacing qualities. Even if it was just for lust... but... I felt it was more. I couldn’t see my life progressing forward without his presence.
Celeste suddenly coughs loudly on purpose and we both look to her.
She looks wide eyed and on edge, her hands in the air to halt us from talking any further. The next moment there is a knock at the door.
“It’s them,” she mouths.
I am already facing the door, and Celeste turns just in time to see the thick wood swing open to reveal one figure.
No Traegr; surprisingly.
“Outside,” Sabir catches my gaze, scrutinizing me from head to toe, ”Now.”
I do not gulp.
I do not break eye contact.
I simply do as he says.
Because now? The real games began.