Chapter Thirteen: The Task at Hand
Otis could barely breathe. When he burst into the throne room he had collapsed onto the floor below. The guards who’d been chasing him as he ran past gave up when they saw Jamal and June recognised him. They both cried out as he made his entrance, running over to see him.
“Otis, you’re alive!” they both said simultaneously, as they closed off the distance and reached down to help him.
Otis was happy he wasn’t too late, there was still time but there was one thing he had to get out first.
“Why the-” he spurted, trying his best to speak through his own ragged breaths.
“What, what is it?” asked June, rubbing his back.
“Why the fuck is there so many stairs?” he said, causing both of them to laugh. It hadn’t quite been his intention, but it was nice to hear nonetheless.
“Otis, I swear I wanted to go back for you! It’s just-”
“It’s fine, I’m just happy you guys are still alive,” Otis said, interrupting Jamal’s confession.
Jamal smiled and wrapped Otis in an overly tight hug that didn’t quite help his current breathless condition, but he had to admit that it was a pleasant surprise.
June did something even more expected though. Rather than giving him a distant wave or a patronising remark, she, in fact, joined in, hugging him along with Jamal. It was a sweet moment, also one that was a nice break from their usual bickering amongst each other, even if they were missing one person.
“Where’s V?” Otis asked, scanning the room over the two’s shoulders.
“Well, turns out V’s actually short for Violet, more specifically Princess Violet,” explained June, leaving Otis with a confused expression.
“What? How’ve you never heard of her?” Jamal said, pulling back, surprised by Otis’s lack of knowledge when it came to the royals.
“Southerners,” sighed June.
“You three! I think it’s about time we got to discussing the task at hand, don’t you think?” called the King, the impatience thick in his voice.
June and Jamal stood up, but Otis stopped them both.
“Guys you can’t!” Otis protested, both June and Jamal looked at each other both befuddled by Otis’s objection. Right now was a strange time to be getting cold feet. Then again, though, looking at him, he seemed genuinely worried. The two wondered what he wasn’t telling them.
The king saw it play out, his impatience becoming greater as he threw a signal to the surrounding guards. The three watched as guards closed in on them.
Otis wasn’t having it though, he would not give up so easily. He pulled out his wand.
It shocked June and Jamal as he began pointing it toward the surrounding guards, each stopping as he threatened to attack, something the other three knew wouldn’t end well for anyone.
“Otis, listen, you need to calm down!” said June, watching as more guards formed around him specifically.
V watched as the king went to make another gesture. She caught his hand.
“Don’t hurt him,” she said, trying her best to soften her voice as she spoke, hoping it would help her father listen.
“I would never, as I said we still need the four of you,” he said before looking toward the group of guards which Otis was still threatening to attack, despite Jamals and Junes valiant attempts at calming him. He clicked his finger and one of the guards nodded.
“No! You don’t understand! What I wanted to tell you, it’s a lie! Everything-” Otis couldn’t finish his sentence. His words were cut short as a guard hit him with the hilt of his sword, sending him face-first to the ground below. When the guards were sure they’d done the job correctly, they parted just enough for Jamal and June to run through and check on him.
“Otis!” shouted V, getting no answer. She turned to her father, her face returning to a familiar scowl before she ran over to the place where he’d fallen. “Is he okay?” she asked as she reached him.
“He’ll be fine,” June answered.
“He’s gonna have a hell of a headache when he wakes up though,” Jamal added. The three turned and scanned the room around them. Jamal bowed his head slightly. “What did he mean? What lie?”
“I don’t know, but they seemed very eager about shutting him up,” said June.
V looked at the two. She had the same questions, though asking another would not lead to any answers. She noted the way Grace had acted before, how sombre the mood grew between them when she told her she was one of the Great Four. Now Otis burst into the throne room, trying to warn them. Something was up, but she just didn’t know what. But she knew who she could ask, someone who wouldn’t brush off her request. She stood up, walking toward the throne where her sister stood nervously.
Grace could already feel V’s eyes on her. She swallowed heavily, she already knew what she would ask before it even left her mouth.
“Grace, what was Otis talking about? What’s a lie?”
With those words she felt several more eyes on her, a pair she knew would be her Dad’s, baring deep into her soul, telling her to remember her oath. She couldn’t reveal anything about the deal, no matter who the sage chose. It was for the greater good.
“Perhaps your friend was a bit dazed from all that running. There’s only one simple task you must perform,” she recited, falling back into the role she’d been taught.
A part of V died when Grace spoke. She almost sounded robotic in her delivery. Whatever this lie was, Grace was taking part in it as well, and quite clearly she wasn’t willing to drop the curtain whilst their Dad was watching over her.
“Right then, what’s this task then? The whole time we’ve been kept in the dark, I think it’s about time to get told what it is we’re needed for, don’t you think?” V said, now turning her attention to the king, who let out a scoff. “Tell me! I am royalty and I demand to be told what this task is!”
“No use throwing a title, you don’t own Violet, you lost your right to the throne when you betrayed this kingdom. I don’t have to answer any of your questions, and neither does anyone else,” the king sneered, the last part being accompanied with a faint glance at Grace whose head bowed.
“Fine, fuck this. I’m leaving,” she muttered, turning her back on her father and heading for the door as June and Jamal watched. As she reached the door, the guards stood in front, blocking her exit with their great swords. “Dude, can you fuck off!” she shouted, not receiving any kind of response from the static man who stood in her way.
“I’m sorry Violet, you have a duty if you like it or not. You can’t run away from it this time,” she heard Grace say, her voice sounding slightly warmer than it had before.
“Whatever this task is that you want us to perform, don’t you think it will be a little hard to achieve when you attacked our friend?” June chimed in, standing up and facing the king from where she’d been checking on Otis.
V couldn’t help but smile at June joining in. She supposed it was nice to not be on the receiving end of her sarcasm.
“Yeah! We travelled all this way, and I almost died. We met an old cranky warlock in the woods and thought Otis had died too. All of that and for what? For you to refuse to tell us what we’re even needed for? Don’t you think we have the right to know?” Jamal argued, surprising both June and V, who both looked quite impressed at this sudden spike in bravery.
The king, however, was not so impressed. He moved over and slouched onto the throne, turning to his guard.
“I’m tired of this nonsense, perhaps my guard will throw you somewhere to think whilst we wait for the sage to arrive,” he said, a smug grin lining his lips until he sensed no movement from the surrounding people. “Well, what’re you waiting for!” he shouted.
Jamal’s brothers looked amongst each other, none knowing quite what to do. Despite the fact, they enjoyed messing with him, which admittedly sometimes would go too far. They definitely drew a line at chucking him into a cell.
“Sir, he’s our brother,” said George, stepping out slightly.
“So?” the king replied, not seeing the complication.
“So, we’re not throwing him anywhere,” added Moreese standing out and joining George who was dwarfed by him in comparison.
“Yeah, we can do that by ourselves, we don’t need to be ordered to do it,” said Markus, earning a quick jab from Moreese that put him straight.
“If the four of you keep this up, you can kiss your knighthood goodbye! So, one last time, throw those four away now!” he demanded.
They wouldn’t listen again however and before the king could add anything else Topher threw his sword on the floor, unbuckling his armour and dropping his helmet. The other three looked at him. They shrugged before doing the same. There was no turning back now.
Soon the king had four sets of armour spread across the throne in front of him, his face flush red with embarrassment and rage as everyone watched in shock. The four turned and walked down the steps from the throne, Markus giving the king the finger as he did so.
Jamal couldn’t help but smile. Who would’ve known all it would have taken for his brothers to stand up for him was someone else trying to bully him?
“That was pretty cool guys,” he said as they gathered around him, each wearing a cheeky grin, though none could quite compete with Moreese.
“Eh, don’t mention it, I was getting sick of tucking him, anyway. Who would’ve known to be the king’s nanny you had to wear so much armour,” said George, even cracking a smile out of June.
“Now, don’t mind us. But it looks like we’ll be needing another job,” said Moreese, patting George on the back as they headed for the door.
V watched as they left, though she knew her Dad’s temper too well. As she looked over she saw him making an order to the guards who stood by the door Jamal’s brothers had just walked through. Without thinking, she shouted out to them.
“Run! Fucking Run!” she shouted, but it was too late. The guards had followed them through the doorway and past the corner. Now they could hear the sound of steel meeting flesh, all accompanied by the painful cries of the which echoed around the chamber.
Jamal screamed, calling out for his brothers as he ran to aid them. June and V stopped him. It was already too late, and the screaming had ceased. Jamal’s breath was heavy, his teeth gritted. Footsteps were heard from the hall and the guards returned, their armour covered in splatters of blood. Jamal cried out once more but V and June refused to budge. They didn’t want the same to happen to him. Jamal eventually stopped struggling, throwing his head onto V’s shoulder as he wept.
V rubbed his back, looking over to Grace who was trying her best to conceal the horror on her face. She looked over toward the king, her Dad, smiling. She had never been so disgusted in her life.
“That is what happens when you disobey me, now you lot!” he said, pointing toward five guards who stood by Grace. Despite their armour V could tell they were scared, she could see them shaking from where she stood. Fear is a powerful thing, it can make you do things you normally wouldn’t. And this time was no different as the five walked over to the four.
Two of them grabbed V and June, one slung Otis over his shoulder and another two were required for Jamal who tried to break free again.
“Throw them into the cells, I’ll come down when everything’s ready.”
The guards nodded, dragging their prisoners down the hallway. It’s walls painted in a thick layer of crimson.