Chapter 10- Here for me
"The most important thing in the world is family and love."
I ran as quickly as my legs could carry me, passing several of the staff and Guardians. Nearly all stared as I raced by.
A determined Viktorya met me as I made it to the second floor. "They're not in your office. I had them moved to a room. They're tired, Penelope."
I nodded, unable to voice my thanks due to the knot in my throat. I followed after Viktorya, eager to see my parents. Nearly eight months since I'd last seen them. My last words between my father and I had been strained. I was ready to let it all go just to see their face once more.
I needed to see that they were okay with my own eyes.
Just as we were about to reach their suite, Viktorya held a hand out. "They've had it rough, seven months in an enemy camp. Prepare yourself."
She held my gaze for a second longer before pushing open the door open.
My parents sat huddled together on the couch, meek and withdrawn. What once were two people full of hope, now looked jaded as if they'd seen too much of the world. My father's sea green eyes once held a mischievous gleam but all I saw now was weariness. My mother's once joyful smile was now muted, withheld.
They turned to face me and a sob broke through my chest. I crashed into them and stumbled to the carpeted floor with them in my arms.
"Penny," my mother cried.
I pulled back and looked from one to the other, ignoring everyone else in the room. "I thought I'd never see you again," I admitted.
My father pulled me into his arms as my mother looked on.
"I thought I'd never get to apologize for my severe words and I'd die with you hating me." Tears pooled at the corners of his eyes.
"I could never hate you, Papa. Never," I whispered.
"You forgive me, sweet girl?" he asked as he held me in front of him, hands on my shoulders.
"Of course, papa."
He sighed and pulled me to his chest once more.
My arms easily wrapped around him. He had lost weight. I peeked over at my mother and she had as well.
What had they gone through?
"It seems we both have stories to tell," my mother said softly as she noticed my lingering gaze.
Two people on the other side of the room caught my attention, Lucas and Trixie.
What had they learned in Terra?
My mother caught my eye and gave my shoulder a light squeeze. "Go. We'll be here when you come back."
My father nodded in agreement.
"Are you two okay?" I implored.
My mother's gray eyes softened. "No, but we will be."
Papa grabbed hold of her hand and offered a small smile. "Go and be queen. We'll catch up when you return."
I reluctantly agreed and motioned for Trixie and Lucas to head out before me. After another round of hugs and kisses, I left their side with Viktorya on my heels.
We rushed to my office, the only logical place Lucas and Trixie would have gone to.
"Do you think they have any new information about the supposed coup?" Viktorya asked.
In all honesty that was at the back of my mind. All I wanted to know was who had been holding my parents captive.
Viktorya made a good hand to the queen. She reminded me this wasn't just about my parents. The Queendom was just as important.
I flung open the door to my office while Viktorya quietly shut it. Trixie and Lucas huddled around the small fireplace whispering but quickly stopped as we entered. Winter had begun to slowly trickle in and the night brought in the cooler temperatures with it. The fireplace offered the fading heat of the remaining embers in the hearth. It wasn't a crackling flame but enough to pull the ache from cold muscles.
I had no idea where to begin and thankfully I was saved the trouble of starting the questioning. Trixie rubbed her hands together above the fire one last time before turning to face me.
Her appearance was immaculate as ever. A tight braid still whipped at her back like a snake ready to strike. Her clothes showed no sign of the journey they had just made. Lucas, on the other hand, was a mess. His clothes were frayed and stained, his hair looked nearly as dirty as when I first released him from prison, but his eyes held a spark once more. He'd come alive again during his time away from the palace, with Trixie at his side.
"We found your parents stashed in a small rundown house in the poorer parts of Terra," she said, getting straight to the point. "No Terran officials or anyone in relation to them visited the house. They were guarded by only two soldiers and visited once while I cased the house. I'm not sure if the Terran King is responsible for the capture of your parents but I can tell you that the person who visited them was a disciple to the Terran Trinity."
"How can you be sure it was a disciple of the Terran Trinity?" Viktorya asked from the window she was perched against.
"The woman held the mark of a disciple. They receive a tattoo of the tree of life somewhere on their bodies. This particular woman had the tree just below her left ear. I almost didn't see it."
"Do you think the Terran King had anything to do with their being taken?" I asked them.
Trixie and Lucas exchanged a brief glance before Lucas continued with their story. "I do not."
Viktorya scoffed. She didn't like Lucas and wasn't afraid to let him know it. "And please tell us why your opinion should matter?"
He ignored her underlying tone. "I snuck into the palace through the catacombs and discovered that King Romulus is missing. He has been for a couple of months now. It's all being kept withheld from Terra. Only a few seemed to know the truth."
That explained the state of his clothes.
"What?" Viktorya asked astounded.
I didn't blame her for sounding so surprised. It was a big thing not to have known, especially from the Terran Trinity we were currently housing.
"Can we say we know anything concrete?" Viktorya asked as she pulled her hair into a messy bun.
"No," they replied together but Lucas continued. "I was able to snatch a small photo of the king from the palace while I was there," he said as he unfolded it.
I sighed and rubbed the bridge of my nose with one hand and grabbed the photo with the other.
Before I looked at it, I faced Trixie. "Thank you for bringing my parents back, both of you," I said staring from one to the other.
They shared another small smile and it made me think they enjoyed their time together more than either of them anticipated.
Viktorya came to stand by my side to get a look at the picture as well. Neither of us had ever seen the king of Terra.
Viktorya gasped and my mouth fell open an inch.
"What is it?" Lucas asked.
"Do you know him?" Trixie asked, just as curious.
"King Romulus is Cane Goldrian."
We spent the next hour discussing why Cane would masquerade around as a participant.
In the end, we all agreed confronting him was the way to go. Thankfully, he was still on the grounds and would be until the following morning. Opal and I would be paying him a visit tonight.
We were all about to leave for the evening when I decided to speak with Lucas. Viktorya wanted to be kept in the loop with what happened with Cane. As if I'd keep her in the dark about it. Trixie ordered me to the training field the following day and I groaned loudly. She grinned her wily grin before leaving Lucas and me alone.
"Back to the cells then?" Lucas asked.
"Lucas, I can't grant you your freedom," I said sadly.
His shoulders fell and the spark in his eyes dimmed. "Yeah, I knew I wouldn't be able to live a free life after what I was complicit to, knowingly or otherwise."
His hazel eyes continued to lose the gleam he had regained in his time away.
I continued," I can't offer you your freedom to travel the world or even Iron Forge freely but I won't be locking you in the cells again. You brought my parents back and for that, I would like to offer you a sort of conditional freedom."
He raised his head, eyes blazing with hope.
"As long as you stay on the palace grounds, I will not put you back in your cell. You can stay in the room offered to you before you left and live here until maybe at a later date we can discuss your early release from your sentence. Would you like that?"
He grinned and nodded fiercely.
I would probably hear the council's complaints on the matter but I didn't care.
He moved to hug me but I held up my hands. "Boy, no. You are filthy."
He chuckled. "Thank you, Penny. Thank you so very much."
He moved to leave, no doubt to find Trixie and relay the news, but he stopped to face me once more. He bent forward at the waist. "My queen."
I laughed as I shooed him away.
My smile fell away as soon as the door shut. All I wanted to do was spend the evening with my parents but other things needed to be taken care of first and Cane was at the top of my list.
I pushed my loose hair behind my ears and adjusted my clothes before heading out to find Cane.
The palace was quiet and cold. We couldn't generate enough electricity to warm the palace and I was already missing the warmth of my office. I needed to start dressing with the weather in mind or at least start carrying around a sweater.
I asked a few of the posted Guardians if they had seen Cane or knew of his whereabouts but none had. Opal found me as I was asking another one of her men.
"Viktorya said you would be in need of my assistance?"
"Yes, Opal. Thank you for finding me. I'm trying to find Cane. I'm in desperate need of speaking with him. No one seems to know where he is. Do you happen to know where his room his?"
Before Opal was able to respond, light laughter came from behind us. "Oh Penelope, off the whore yourself out to another man?"
My eyes narrowed at the small figure that slunk out of the shadows.
"You are out of line," Opal reprimanded her.
I stopped her from moving another inch. Opal looked as if she was about to attack the raven-haired woman.
"It's okay, Opal. Let's let her speak freely."
I figured something like this would happen, if she really was here for Tobias. I'd let her have her say.
Olivia smirked. "Well look at the commoner acting the queen. You're nothing but riff-raff from one of the lower slums of Iron Forge."
I rolled my eyes while Opal restrained herself from attacking her. Opal was loyal.
"What do you want, Olivia? I know you're not here for Killian and Georgiana."
"I'm here for my fiance," she drawled.
It seemed she had a bit too much to drink with her dinner.
"He's not your fiance, Olivia," I replied, quickly getting bored with the conversation.
She sniffled. "He deserves better than you."
She was right but instead of telling her that, I laughed. "What? Like you, Olivia? You think you're good enough for Tobias?"
She held her head higher. "Yes."
"You cheated on him."
She gasped, obviously surprised that I knew.
"Yeah, I know about that."
She wrinkled her stupid button nose.
I continued, "He deserves better than what you gave him. Heck, he deserves better than both of us but he is here for me and I'm not going to take that for granted. As much as I'm enjoying our lovely conversation, I have important things to do."
With that, I turned away from her and returned to what I'd been doing prior to her presence, with Opal following closely behind me.