The Winner's Crown

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Chapter 17

It all makes sense now. Why when someone wins the competition, they never come back. I always used to think that it was because of the elixir, because of everlasting life. But instead, all I can assume is that the competition is a game of death. There is no winning. No way out. You are dead whether you win or lose. In order to keep the upper classes secret that there is truly no elixir of life. It is all just a game to them. That is why they demand blood. And the royal family sits back and lets it happen, like what has always been.

I slam my back against the entrance to the holding chambers as the voices stop talking and Desmond exit's the room. He does not notice me, walking in the opposite direction as I am standing. I don't know where he is going, and I would rather not follow him. Closing my eyes, I think hard to myself. I need to find Kenneth, and we need to get out of here. We cannot stay at the palace any longer. I hear shoes clap on the floor next to me.

Spinning around, I crash right into something or someone. Not Desmond again! I think this to myself as I look at the person quickly, praying that it is not Desmond smirking down at me. And my prayers must have been answered, because instead of Desmond, it is Carolyn who turns around. She looks at me, a slight blush across her face.

"What are you doing here?" She asks, flipping her fan open to cool herself off.

"I...heard what you were talking about." I admit, studying Carolyn's face as she realizes what it is that I am talking about.

"Every word?" She asks, eyes open big in surprise.

"Yes, every word." I whisper, trying so hard to keep back the tears that will for sure make their way down my cheeks. Carolyn puts a hand on my waist, and I look up, shocked. She is blushing again now as she moves me behind the doors of the chambers.

"What are you..." I stop talking as Carolyn puts a hand over my mouth as she moves us away from the entrance. I can now see what she is doing. She is protecting me from the King as he passes by the hall we were in just seconds ago. If I had been standing out there when he'd walked by...I don't know what he would have done to me. Maybe sentence me to death just like...just like Kenneth will likely be.

Carolyn takes her hand off my lips and I breathe a sigh of relief as the King leaves our sight, but the relief is short lived as more people follow him. Guards, their weapons drawn, force a prisoner, a man, to keep walking after him. And then I realize who the prisoner is. It is my brother. It is Kenneth, his wound still not treated, and his face all red. And right on his head I can see another large gash creating a small trail of blood behind him. A wound that if it goes untreated, he will surely die of blood loss.

"Kenneth!" I reach out, but Carolyn pulls me back, knowing that if I am to run out and try to help him up from his fate, I will join him in death.

"Carolyn, please! I need to save him!" I beg with her to let me go, but she does not take the bate, holding me closer still until I am completely against her. She hugs me close, and I don't push away. Instead, I hold her as close as I can as the tears I knew would escape my eyes, come flowing down my face.

"That's my brother..." I whisper out to no one, and Carolyn trails her hand down my hair like my mother used to do when she tried to calm me down.

"He will be alright. We are going to save him. You, me, and Desmond. We will get him out of this." She whisper silently back to me. So silent, that I almost don't catch what she is saying. I look up, pulling away from the warm and tight embrace and am surprised to see marks of tears also on Carolyn's cheeks.

"How? How will we save him?" I ask, and she nods fairly at my question. She smooths out her dress, Sacramento green just like always, before she answers me.

"We have until after the wedding to make things right." Carolyn tells me, pulling a hand through her curly hair.

"Why after the wedding?" I ask another question, not caring if I am asking to many. This is my brother we are talking about, and I need to know these things.

"Because that is when he is set to be..." She doesn't finish the sentence, she can't. It is too dark of a thought to finish. But I know what she means. Executed.

"It will be fairly private, because the king doesn't want anyone of the lower classes to know what is happening. So we have the chance to take that to our advantage." I nod my agreement, my face set like stone as I remember my brother getting dragged away by the guards moments ago.

If only I could run to him and snatch him away from the king and his guards. Then we could run. Anywhere. I don't know if we could have got to our family, to save them too. But we would try. And then we would be on the run. We wouldn't take refuge anywhere in the kingdom, instead fleeing to the lands outside of this one. It would sometimes be lonely, but not as much since Kenneth and I would have each other.

Carolyn puts a hand to my cheek, wiping away my tears, and I wake from my daydream quite suddenly.

"What are we going to do after all of this?" I am fearful, but not overly so. She knows this, but she doesn't make fun of me. I think that in another life, in another world, we would be great friends. Maybe we could have been friends sooner still. She is a purple and I am a yellow, but maybe, just maybe, we could have snuck around in my village and been companions to each other. I would have loved that.

But instead, for some unknown reason, Carolyn had been mean. She had been mean to me in the village, and now she is being nice to me here, now. I do not know why. Maybe it was just how she was brought up. To believe that she was better than everyone of a lower status. People like me. Like yellow's. But she is kind now, and understands what I have had to go through. So I can forgive the past easily, as long as it does not repeat itself.

"We will figure that out when the time presents itself." Carolyn tells me, placing her forehead against mine. It is a simple act, but it has a big impact on my heart. The gesture, in the yellow village, means friendship and never losing hope. I do not know how Carolyn knows this. Maybe it is because she spent a long time in the yellow village. And again, I don't know what she could have possibly been doing there, in a place that she does not belong in. But she came there often, and that is how I know her well enough for us to have been "enemies," then turned to "friends."

She takes her head away from mine first, but keeps eye contact with me.

"When is the wedding dated?" I ask her, and she looks down at the ground sadly, making me think for the thousandth time that she does not want to go through with it.

"It is dated for the day after tomorrow." She speaks softly.

"But that is only two days away!" I seem to surprise easily I realize. Of course the wedding would be soon after the competition. The king had said so himself.

"I know..." Carolyn starts, her eyes grab ahold of mine, and the next thing I know, she is leaning forward towards me. And right when our lips are about to touch, there is the heavy sound's of walking right outside the door. Carolyn blushes fiercely, but I only smile. I can tell she is embarrassed to have been interrupted by the sound outside the door, so I try to make her feel more comfortable by taking her hand in mine. It is a gesture that tells her everything is alright, and that there is no need to be taken off guard. It is just us after all.

But inside my head, everything is spinning. How could this happen? I have fallen for two people now? First Desmond, and now the person I would never have thought had a crush on me, Carolyn. Wow, I must fall in love easily. But I know that is not true. I'm not even sure I love either of them. For sure I have feeling's for them, but love? Of course, I can't see myself with anyone other than that of Carolyn or Desmond. But now it seems as though my emotions have taken an unusual turn. I am surrounded by doubt and insecurity as I realize this is not going to end well.

Carolyn and Desmond are to be wed, and yet both Carolyn and Desmond have given me the types of signal's you usually get when someone likes you. And not "likes" you, but rather has an unmistakable heart pounding crush on you. And I have given them both, those signals back. So now I am surrounded not only by the fact that Kenneth's life is in danger, and mine is at risk as well. But also and indefinitely how I am stuck in the middle of a love triangle. And there is no getting out of this.

I think all these thoughts as I move to the door, peeking out the side just in time to see both Clara and Louisa rounding the corner. They have their arms around each other as they try to be comforting. I feel instantly terrible. How could I forget about the others who had died? And they had died so extremely, in some of the worst ways to meet your end.

I look back at Carolyn, and she smiles, waving her hand of me to go after them. My face brightens with the support and I rush out the door to catch up to Clara and Louisa. I am still aware however, that I am no longer safe, so as I round the corner, I keep my eyes open for any signs of guards. Luckily, there are none. But as soon as I think that thought, I realize that is certainly not a good thing. If there are no guards here, they must all be with the King. And the King is with Kenneth.

I hope with all my heart that my brother is alright, and that the plan Desmond and Carolyn have brought up, is at least half decent. It will be, they are smart and capable of strategy. Especially Desmond. I know he has trained in combat his whole life. So has Richard of course, with the King probably guiding him the whole time. And I have worked long days with no breaks, I have an idea of what is to be expected. Besides, I have had to think, to fight for my life. And although I never want to have to again, I know that for Kenneth, I will do anything.

I catch up with Clara and Louisa, stopping them in their tracks. Putting a hand on Clara's back she jumps in the air. They both look frightened by my sudden presence and I curse myself for not easing slower into the group.

"Where are you going?" I frown as I realize they must not be walking in circles around the palace. They are certainly going somewhere. Clara answers me, her voice shaking terribly as she explains.

"We can't be here anymore, we are leaving right now." I startle at the understanding that these two girls standing in front of me are free to leave because they know nothing, but I am not. I know too much, and Kenneth is too important.

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