The Winner's Crown

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Chapter 4

“I don’t understand.” I stutter, everything around me fading in and out as I rack my brain for answers. Answers to everything happening right before me, but that I can’t quite see.

“Of course you don’t.” The King answer’s bluntly. “Take her to the holding chambers.” He adds, motioning to Desmond as he speaks.

I can feel the Prince come up behind me, but I don’t move. I don’t want to seem weak. I will not be seen weak. Because, if I ever let my guard down again, like with Kenneth, like with Desmond, I fear that I will be devastated with the results.

“Come on.” Desmond commands. But still, I don’t move. I don’t move, not until Desmond grabs a hold of my arm’s, dragging me away from the entrance of the palace. And as we walk deeper and deeper inside, it feel’s as though I am being swallowed by the magnificent structure, whole. Desmond never loosens his grip against my flesh, instead digging his nails into my skin. A firm message, don’t even think about escaping.

I had been wrong about everything. And it’s not like I am particularly upset by this. But I am, however, furious at where my feeling’s got me. I had loved Kenneth far too much, let my guard down when I felt an instant a stranger no less. I should have listened to my mother. I should have kept away from boy’s until the time was right to be wed.

But instead, I defied the world’s warnings. And this is where it got me. Into deep, deep trouble with the Royal family. Although why I am here in the Palace, is still a mystery. I do not know what I could have done wrong in order to earn me this kind of treatment with the law.

My eyes fill with tears as I remember my brother. If only I could have seen the drawing coming. We could have tried our best to escape. Or died trying. Anything would be better than the pain and suffering of having to go through with the competition.

Watching from the floor, as I am continued to be dragged across the hard wood-like floor, I decide to observe where it is that we are going. I want to memorize the path to my escape. Because, I know one thing. I would rather die than be stuck in a palace containing a man I once trusted foolishly, and possibly even my brother. And it may sound silly, but I do not want to have to face another goodbye with him. I can’t do that. Not ever again.

We pass many guards on the way to the “holding chambers,” as the king had put it. Although, I have no idea what a holding chamber’s is. Probably a room that only a palace can afford to have. The men (guards) are all dressed in blue. The Royal Families representing color. On any special occasion, whether a wedding, a birthday, an outing to the public, the crowned family is required to wear blue. A ceremony of sorts, that no other color but the blue’s seem to continue to follow throughout the ages.

Many objects catch my eye, as Desmond walk’s me down the twisting hallway’s of the palace. A vase made of what look’s extremely close to that of a crystal. In the yellow’s village, that vase alone, could pay off about five years of food for my family of seven. Those poor minor's, I think to myself. They never get a chance to rest, and are expected to find as many (crystals, diamonds, etc.) as possible in their lifetimes. I am a lucky yellow, a farmer, compared to the many yellow's, oranges, and even greens, that work in the mines with no chance of rest.

Along the tall, towering wall’s, are tapestries that represent each Royal family throughout the centuries. Each wicked ruler that powered the villages and towns, and that created a show for the upper class societies. A show where death is always, no matter what, a constant.

Finally, Desmond stop’s at a large oak door leading to yet another part of the palace. His hand’s move to my back, forcing me up and onto my feet as he opens the oak slab.

“Ok, ok, I’m walking.” I say as he shoves me through the door, following me quickly. Suppressing the urge to spit out the question both of us have been ignoring, I continue to let him push me up a flight of twisting wood stairs. My leg’s feel like heavy rocks, and just as I think that I may collapse if I walk any further, we step up onto a platform, and reach another oak door.

“Come on, through the door.” Desmond instructs me, letting me open the door myself, this time.

The door is much heavier than I would have thought possible. But I am finally able to heave it open after several tired tugs. But as it flow’s open, I have no time to rest before Desmond is pulling me around yet another corner of the large structure he call’s home.

It seem’s as though we pass 20 more door’s, all the same looking oak, of the first two we entered from before we finally stop all at once. The door we are at now though, is not the normal wood pattern of every other door we have seen so far. Instead, this door looks much more regal. It seem’s to be made of water, but when Desmond touches his hand against it to open it, I can hear that it is actually the same crystal as the vase I saw earlier.

Confused, but still rather curious, I enter the room. Everywhere I look, there seem’s to be something glittering or shimmering all around me. Diamond’s line the room, making it hard not to stare in awe, as well as disgust, by the realization of how many minor's must have worked so hard in order to present these elaborate rock's to the Royal family. But still, wherever I look, my eyes are greeted by sparkling decorations. Even the bed’s headboard and foot board is made out of crystals that reflect the sunlight outside, and blind me for a split second.

The sheet’s look soft, and are of course a deep Royal blue color. Tapestries line the walls, but these are different from the one’s I saw out in the hall. These are print’s of nature, making me feel more at home. Even in a room fit for a princess. Stepping over to where there is a large bay window overlooking what look’s to be a garden in the back of the palace, I turn to stare at Desmond.

“What is this? Another elaborate scheme to make me trust you again?” I ask stubbornly, my eyes never leaving his in what one might call “staring dagger’s,” at someone. A foolish statement, and yet, so accurate.

“Don’t you like it? It’s one of the finer room’s in the palace.” Desmond say’s, his voice showing no sign of intimidation towards my confidence.

“That is beside the point, and you, my prince, are completely aware of such. Besides, you and I both know that I am not stupid. Which bring’s me back to my second question. What in the name of hell, am I doing here?” I exclaim, bringing my hand’s up in a gesture, only to describe a pure excellence of exasperation.

“I am still not fit to tell you such intelligence, my lady.” The foolish prince tells me, bowing down sarcastically with his words.

“You need not treat me in such a manner. I am the lady here, not you.” I spit back.

“So, what? Men are no longer allowed to act in a satirical manner, such as you have presented to me ever since we met.” Desmond smiles, revealing his shining bright teeth, making me blush at the memory of our first meeting. “I take it as you remember such, then?” He adds.

“Excuse me?” I ask, confused by his use of words, directed towards me.

“No need to answer that. I can tell by your apple stricken face, that you remember when we were first acquainted.” Desmond answers, making me blush even fiercer.

I am still so foolish! How can I still feel such a strong connection to a man that has proved my trusting him was a mistake? How can I still get red when he is around me? How can he still take my breath away when we only met three day’s ago? And most of all, how can I feel so greatly for this Prince, even after he took my brother, when he took Kenneth away from me and my family?

“Just let me ask one question.” Desmond says, making me jump up and out of my thoughts.

“And what may that be?” I ask. ”Your highness.” I add ferociously, as I review everything he and his family has taken away from me and the rest of the poor-stricken villages, of this monstrous kingdom.

“If you shall not let me address you by something so proper such as, “my lady,” then what do you prefer me to call you by?”

“Call me by who I am. Call me Leontios.” I speak softly, remembering the tale my mother told me when I was young. About a fearless, powerful individual, who was like a Lion. That is what I want to be called. Because I am sure as hell, I should not give the prince my true name. He lost my trust when it was revealed to me, who he truly was.

"Alright then, I will keep that in my mind. But trust me, I will never address you by just one title." Desmond tell's me, walking into the room and closing the door gently behind him. His step's are slow, yet strong and powerful, and it makes my mind spin how a person can make anything look so powerful. Especially from something as un-extraordinary, just as walking should be. And yet, the Prince makes this common trait of a human being, look so powerful.

"I know what you are dying to get knowledge for. And I also know that it is not the question of why you are here." Desmond tells me, sitting down softly on the bed. Standing tall, I look at him. What could he possibly know that could make me so desperate for information? And how could he know about such a thing?

"And what would that be?" I ask, quite interested in his response. But he does not answer quickly, instead taking his time to get up off the bed, and walk towards the door, motioning for me to follow him. "Why should I trust you?" I question the prince, not daring to move until he gives me a reasonable explanation for his motives.

"Because you have absolutely nothing to lose, now do you darling?"

Blushing beet red for the thousandth time today at his new name for me, I weigh out the options for going with him in my head. He is right, I do have nothing to lose. But I still do not want to chance such immediate danger, because if I do have a chance for escape, I want to be alive to take it.

"Alright, just one moment." I tell him, excusing myself to enter the water closet adjacent to the bedroom. Again, upon entrance I find crystal's lining the sink and all around the mirror hanging in front of me. My reflection is horrid, and even though the mirror seem's to add five pounds to my features, I am still an unhealthy kind of thin. How someone could even look at me without thinking of a ghost, I have no idea. But I am not in here to look at my reflection.

Hoisting myself up onto the counter beside the john (toilet), I grab one of the crystals and pull. No budge. Nothing. Pulling again, I heave out a gust of air. If I am going to make any progress, I need to reach down to the source of the crystal stuck to the mirror.

Scratching my long nails against the hard rock, and finally slicing my hand against the pointed side of the crystal, drawing blood, I bite my lip. Breathing through the pain, I continue to tug harder. Suddenly, I fall back against the hard cold floor, hitting my head, but not caring at all as I open my hand to find one tiny crystal pressed into my palm.

Now, I at least have a weapon, to protect myself from whatever the prince has in store for me. And if I need to fight to protect myself, I will have an advantage. A true advantage, and not just the attack of surprise. This time, I am truly ready. Not only physically, but emotionally as well. The prince may have been able to manipulate me all this time. But now it is my turn to manipulate him. And this time, I am sure of myself.

The prince won't know what hit him.

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