Stone Warriors

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Chapter 39

My mother’s letter was still clutched to my chest as tears ran down my face, grieving for the mother I never got to know because of a father I resent. Everything he ever told me about her, I knew in my heart was a lie. She wasn’t crazy nor did she try to hurt my sister and I. It seemed her only fault was being with my father.

Why is that room still sealed off? What did he not want me to see? Is there evidence up there that he is a liar? A nagging feeling that I was forgetting something important swam through my brain.

Stretching out my legs, they touched a bag in the floor, then reality hit me. I’m on a mission. I’m not supposed to be here right now. I snatched up the bag and folded my mother’s letter reverently as I stuck it in the side pocket of my dress.

The doorway was blocked with my undecided frame. I knew I needed to get out of the manor, but I couldn’t let what my mother said go. There are mages under father’s study and those poor creatures are forced to serve the family.

Could magic really be the reason my father gets whatever his heart desires? Is that why this town eats up everything he says without question? How could I prove this though? And how am I supposed to even get in his study without father knowing?

It only opens for his voice... Except for Rox! He is the only other one allowed in when father isn’t. So maybe there is another way in the study!

Glancing down at the bag, I reached to get it, when hesitation stilled me. Jyrixi is waiting for me to come back and I’ve already took way too much time. My will was torn in between risking it all to try to get into the study, breaking into the room my mother was held captive in and doing the right thing which was returning straight to the penthouse.

How much could I actually get away with tonight? My father said he was going to bed, right? I could get out of here and not have any hope of running into him. After being rooted in my spot for a few minutes, I made my decision. I’m going upstairs.

As I ascended to the forbidden part of the house, my heart felt like it was about to beat out of my chest. Did I really want to do this? What was I even hoping to find?

When I stepped onto the landing, I saw a peculiar site. The rest of the manor is immaculately clean and polished, but this part of the house looks the opposite. There was a thick layer of dust that crunched under my feet. Cobwebs covered the sconces and the walls were so grimy I couldn’t even tell if the color matched the rest of the manor.

There were six doors all across from each other in a row and at the end of the hall was a picture of my grandfather with his piercing cobalt eyes. They were lighter than my father’s, but they matched in malevolence. Bad apples from the same tree.

On opening the first door to my left, whose doorknob had a thick layer of film, there was what looked like a miniature drawing room that was never used. It had an enormous bar along the wall and furniture that was covered up with sheets. The next door held a bathroom that had such a strong, mildew odor coming from it that I shut it immediately.

One by one I tried them all until I came to the last on the right. This door was the only one that had signs of usage. The doorknob was not dusty and there were no cobwebs along the door frame.

As soon as I touched the knob something unbelievable happened. A beam of red glistened across the whole door like it was being colored by an invisible paintbrush, then I heard a click. The door swung open on its own, leaving me standing there in awe.

It took me a few minutes to understand what just happened as my mother’s words entered my mind, Tamminalin Blood. My touch caused that door to open because I’m my father’s child. I don’t think he ever ventured out to imagine one of us coming up here, so he would have never thought to safeguard it any other way. He’s a little more arrogant than I thought, apparently.

Carefully, I stepped over the threshold half expecting to see more red, but it never happened. I was shocked yet again as I took in the view. This room looked as if it was still lived in.

The covers on the bed were thrown back like someone had just awoken from sleep. There were a pair of blue house slippers beside the bed and a red robe tossed across the comforter. The fireplace looked as if a fire was just recently put out and the room held a warmth that I’ve never felt anywhere else in the estate.

A wooden rocking chair sat beside the fireplace with a blanket laid across it. Books were on the nightstand with covers threadbare and faded so I couldn’t make out the titles. A large wardrobe was against the wall by the bed and that’s where I began exploring.

The dresses that hung up were like new, not a speck of dust on them. There were pinks, violets and oranges that took my breath away at the sheer beauty. I shut it and made my way over to the bed.

A fragrance of lavender and chamomile embodied the sheets and tears ran unbidden down my cheeks. This must be what my mother smelled like. It made me so sad that this scent wasn’t familiar to me. I must have been very young when I was ripped from her arms to not remember this.

When I raised my eyes to the fireplace, I noticed a picture in a frame on the mantle that looked like me. Strange, why would that be in here? Upon closer inspection I realized that I was holding a baby, then I gasped out loud when it hit me; this was my mother holding either Xera or myself. We could have been twins with our violet eyes and hair so blonde it was almost silver.

Trembling, I ran my thumb over her face as more tears spilled over involuntarily. Placing it back on the frame, I looked around the room again. It was brightly painted in spring green and there was a calming presence about it that I couldn’t explain.

The room dropped ten degrees suddenly as I heard the voice I feared more than anyone, “Do you like the room, my lovely? I’m glad because this is where you will be spending the night and part of tomorrow in.” I spun around and seen my father’s shadowed figure in the doorway.

“Father! I..” but he cut me off, “Save it! You think I don’t know what you’ve been doing? I found out all too quickly about you and that filthy peasant! Even tonight my darling daughter, you made an error by parking your coach on a well traveled roadway and the guards seen tatters of your dress strewn about the hedges. I feared the worst! I thought you had been attacked, but as I searched your room I saw your packed bag. That’s when I knew you were planning to run away with that tawdry warrior! Why? Haven’t I given you everything you’ve ever needed? Haven’t I raised you into the proper young lady you should have been? What treason is this when your own flesh and blood deceives you? This is all your whore mother’s fault. Her lunacy poisoned your mind and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Alas, you must be kept here until tomorrow. Cicatrix will straighten you out when you become his wife.”

That’s when I snapped, “My mother was not crazy! You killed her and I will never ever marry Cicatrix. I hate him and I hate this family! I want out!”

He moved so fast I didn’t realize what had happened until I landed on the bed. Blood ran down my chin onto my dress from my mouth and nose. My father slapped me.

“You will never speak like that again, do you understand me? Xori I love you and I’m sorry I hurt you, but that was for your own good. Now I’m sure you’ll forgive me in time, but for now I’m locking you in and you will not be able to open it once I shut it.”

Spitting blood as I spoke, “Why? Getting the mages to trap me in here?”

He faltered in his steps, “How do you know about them? Who told you?” His eyes were wide and then he seemed to take back control of his emotions, “Actually it doesn’t matter because the only way you can access them is in my study which you will never enter. Keep your nose out of things that you’re not old enough to understand. Xera is the one taking over after me. All you have to do is marry Cicatrix and live a life of luxury. You will learn your place.” He walked out the door and slammed it shut before I could say anything else.

There were towels by a water basin in the floor by the nightstand that I used to staunch the blood flow. I cannot believe that bastard hit me then trapped me in the same room he held my mother in. I stumbled to the mantle and grabbed the picture of her. I began to cry again, but this time out of the sheer hopelessness of the situation.

When I don’t return, Jyrixi is going to assume the worst. The only ray of light I have is that Zytriana will be safely hidden with my best friend and will have a new life. I wish I could have hugged her one more time before she leaves though.

Stupid me can’t even get mad at myself for not leaving immediately because the guards had already spotted my coach and the evidence of my contemptible excursion into the manor. I was already caught before I made it to my room. Why couldn’t we have thought to just gotten new clothes for Zytriana?

In irritation I huffed out a breath, but it made my mouth hurt worse so I just laid back on the bed looking around the room. It looks as if mother painted it herself, or maybe that’s just what I want to think. I don’t want to picture her wasting away in here. I want to picture her thriving and making the most of her life.

After a while the bleeding stopped and I got up again. Blood ruined the front of my dress so I decided to wear one of mother’s that were hanging in the wardrobe. I picked the one that matched our eye color and was happy when it fit perfectly. It even smelled like her.

It also had two pockets sewed into the sides of the dress that I could put mother’s letter in. Now to escape. I opted to try the door even though I knew it was useless. The same red beam appeared, but this time there was no click and no door swinging open. Father must trump all other Tamminalins.

Rushing over to the only window in the room, I tried it, but the red beam only teased me with it’s beauty instead of letting me out of the room. Of course, it would be suicide if I tried to climb out the window and sidle along the wall, but the reckless side of me didn’t care. I’d rather die than see Cicatrix waiting to claim me as his bride. That would mean Zakyrik was truly dead and broken.

Tears threatened to spill again, but I brushed them away. I will not give up that easily. There has to be something in here I can use to get out.

Opting to try the wardrobe again, I started rummaging through it and pulling out the drawers in the nightstand. I found a pen, which I put in my pocket, but not much else. I let myself fall against the wall in frustration and surveyed the room again.

The green color stretched all the way to ceiling and I followed it around the room. That’s when I noticed it was faded behind the wardrobe. That was the only thing that looked aged in this entire room.

With effort I moved the wardrobe and gaped at what I seen. In pen, a message was scrawled: Three stones down, two across. Our Blood Rules All. This was my mother’s handwriting! I pulled the pen and her note out of my pocket then wrote it down on the back of her letter. If she went through the effort to hide this, then it’s important.

Putting my hand on the wall to steady myself, I gasped as I felt the change. The wall felt different here, not quite sturdy. I used my nail to scratch the paint and surprisingly some of it chipped away.

Hurrying to the nightstand, I jerked out the drawer, then bashed it against the fireplace until I had a good size piece of wood I could use as a pick. I felt splinters digging into my hand as I chipped and scratched at the wall until finally I found out what it was.

A small delivery door was built in the wall. It was used for servants to pass food into the rooms of guests who don’t want to be disturbed. I almost forgot we used to have these in every room until father had them covered up. This one is in such disrepair though that it’s almost rotted through.

Reaching through the door flap, I found that there was no red shimmer. Father must have not remembered this when he sealed the room. Bracing myself against the wardrobe, I kicked the delivery door frame as hard as I could until it started caving in on itself and created a doorway for me to crawl through. It’s going to be tight, but I don’t care. I have enough cuts on my body, what’s a few more?

Before I could act, I heard arguing outside the locked door. Jumping up as silently as I could, I pushed the wardrobe back against the wall. The red beam flickered around the frame, then in stormed my father, looking mad as sin.

“What the hell are you doing? The guards said you are making an enormous racket in here!” He looked around the room suspiciously as if he was expecting a bomb to have gone off. He then spotted the broken drawer, and I quickly spouted, “I’m angry at you and throwing things. What did you expect?”

He glared at me, “If you do one more foolish thing tonight Xori, I swear your life will be made into a living hell, understand? You think you are angry now, I’ll make sure you hate me when I come back! That is not a threat, my lovely, it’s a promise.”

Trying to appease him so he’d leave, I did my best to look sheepish, to which he grimaced and turned on the guard. “The next time I’m woken up and it’s not an emergency, that person will go out just like Jessuvi!” He bellowed as the door was shut and the beam reappeared.

So this room is extra protected tonight? Fine. I’ll wait until the morning before I get out. With a defeated sigh, I pulled out mother’s letter and tried to figure out the cryptic message behind the wardrobe.

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