Flight of the Five Swans

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Flight Chapter 11

Raia

The bedchamber into which the guards deposited Raia was much larger than the previous room had been. The furniture inside was room was all made of the same kind of wood as the throne, and the drapes and bedcoverings were in a deep shade of red. Raia winced at the color, remembering Soran’s infernal book of a similar shade. Then she saw that there was not one, but three sizable four-poster beds, and she felt a stab of hope. Surely this meant that her sisters might also be joining her at some point?

Raia turned to ask the guards that very question, only to have the door slammed firmly in her face.

“Well, that’s rude,” she said aloud, feeling the sudden desire to laugh at herself. With the situation she was currently in, a slammed door was the least of her worries.

She sat down on the edge of the bed nearest the door and folded her hands in her lap. Raia had no idea what to do. What would Thaleia be doing had she been the one left human? What would Petra do, or Cliodne?

They’d look for a way out.

Raia rose again and rushed to the door. She grasped the handle and tried to pull on it. It didn’t budge. She pushed on it then with all of her might, her hands flat against the wood. Still, the door refused to move.

Raia glanced around the room once more, looking for anything that might help her. Her eyes lit up as they fell on a footstool, covered with a fabric as red as all the others in the room. She grabbed the piece of furniture, surprised at its weight. It was heavier than it had looked. Still, Raia was able to lift it without too much difficulty. She tried to ram the door with the footstool, keeping a firm grasp on the cushion as she beat wood against wood. The wood of the footstool legs split and one fell off entirely, clattering and bouncing as it hit the floor.

Raia stopped to survey the fruits of her labor, leaning in close to the door to see how much damage she’d caused.

Not even a splinter.

She threw down the ruined footstool, kicking it away from her. It slid barely a foot before coming to a stop. “Well, I didn’t need to put my feet up anyway.” She said to herself, then a new thought hit her. “The window!”

Raia rushed across the room and threw open the drapes. She let out a moan of disappointment. Heavy bars were built into the window, far too close together for her to have any hope of slipping through them. Raia huffed in exasperation and threw up her hands. “What kind of castle puts bars on the guest room windows?”

She gazed longingly through the glass. The window overlooked the strange forest that grew inside the Deturian palace grounds. Raia craned her neck, trying and failing to catch a glimpse of the pond where she had watched Cliodne transform—had it really only been the night before? It already seemed as though days had passed since them.

Giving up, she returned to her perch on the edge of the first bed, racking her brain for something—anything—that she could try next. After awhile, the long night and her own fatigue caught up with her, and she drifted into an uneasy sleep.

A pounding on the door woke her several hours later. She sat up just as the door flew open to admit several guards. One of the guards carried a large trunk that she recognized as her own. He deposited it at the foot of the bed on which she was sitting and had started to exit the room again when he saw the broken footstool. He let out a muffled sound of exasperation before picking up the piece of furniture—broken leg and all—and taking it with him. Raia watched it go with a new feeling of regret. Had she thought of it before, she could have used the broken footstool leg as a weapon of some kind. She kicked herself mentally for overlooking the possibility until after it was too late. Thaleia would have thought of it, she was sure.

Another of the soldiers carried a large silver tray into her room. Though covered, the tray admitted an appetizing aroma that filled the room, making her mouth water. Until that moment, she hadn’t realized how hungry she was. It had been an entire day since her last meal, as she hadn’t eaten since the noonday break while on the road the day before.

The Deturian guard set the tray down on a small side table. Before exiting the room, however, he spoke. “I would eat quickly, princess. The king has asked that you be brought to him once you’ve finished eating, and after you are properly…clothed.” His eyes glanced once at the garment she was wearing, still the too-large dress she had borrowed from Cliodne.

Raia raised her chin. So that’s what the king wanted, was it? Her anger rose at this guard’s servility towards the man who was keeping her captive—the man who had murdered the real Deturian king. Yet before she could work up enough righteous indignation to respond, the guard had exited. Raia once again found herself facing a closed door.

“And again with the door slamming.” She muttered.

Raia told herself that she would stretch out her meal to make Soran wait as long as possible, but her hunger got the best of her. She devoured all of the food on her tray, and barely refrained from licking the plate clean of spilled gravy. To compensate for her lack of control in eating, Raia took her time selecting a dress, and stalled even more changing into it. She felt an inordinate amount of pleasure in the idea of Soran being forced to wait impatiently while she hemmed and hawed in her cushy new prison.

At last, Raia could find no other way to stall for time. The guards reentered her room at the exact moment she had finished tying the last lace on her sleeve, leaving her wondering about how they had known she was ready. Had they been spying on her? She dearly hoped not.

This time, Raia was not escorted to the throne room, but rather to a smaller room on the second floor that seemed to be a drawing room of sorts. An enormous desk took up the entire right corner of the room, while several shelves of books adorned the walls. On a small table under one of the windows was a chessboard, its pieces already set up in their places as though waiting for invisible players to begin moving them around the board.

Soran was leaning against the desk when she entered.

“Ah, now you do look more comfortable!” Soran greeted her. Raia glared at him.

“Where are my sisters?” she asked. Soran waved away her question.

“They’re flying around here somewhere.” He said airily. “But they’ll be back by the time the sun sets. They’ll have to return, you see, if they want to be human again.”

Raia caught her breath. Though Cliodne had already explained as much, the very idea still shocked her.

“But what I’m interested in,” Soran stated. “Is getting your lovely eldest sister to come join the party.” He gripped one of her arms and led her around behind the desk. A blank piece of parchment lay on the surface next to a quill and a small bottle that was half-full of black ink.

Soran gestured towards the supplies. “You, my dear, are going to write to your sister. You’ll tell her what a lovely time you’re having, and you’ll beg her to come join you.”

Raia’s skin crawled at his touch, and she jerked her arm out of his grasp. “What makes you think I’d ever do what you ask?” she spat, real heat in her voice.

“Simple.” Soran tutted. “You will, no doubt, have noticed that your new room is quite spacious. Large enough, one would say, for six people—though perhaps a little smaller than what six princesses are accustomed to. Should you write my letter, you’ll be escorted back to that room following dinner, and so will your sisters. If not, then you’ll be taken to a different room, one you’ll find to be much smaller and far more…lonely.”

Soran’s ultimatum echoed dully in Raia’s head. Her mind raced as she sought to find a way around completing his request, but she came up blank. More than anything, she wanted to see her sisters, to make sure that they were okay. But she also knew that hey would all be lost should Eralie fall into Soran’s trap as well. And yet…

With trembling fingers, Raia accepted the quill and sat down to write.

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