The Winner's Crown

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Chapter 7

The hand concealing the crystal shard, bleed's against the metal bars, and yet I don't let go. Because what I see, makes me think that I will fall through any surface around me. Desmond comes up beside me, looking at what it is that I see. His face is in a grimace, making it look like he is repulsed by what we both see. Down below, are four men. Fighting, bleeding, crying. My eyes browse through them quickly, but I already know that Kenneth is not one among them.

"What is this?" I ask, shock and anger rushing up all around me. Why would they put men up against each other in such a brutal ring? And especially, why are these men fighting in a cage, in the middle of a garden on Royal territory?
"This is the training arena. It is small only because each color group participates one by one. This is the Green's group training." Desmond explains slowly, but confusing me further with his words.
"Why are they fighting against each other?" I ask, my voice a high pitched menace. Tears fill my eyes as I realize that Kenneth will have to....may have already, gone through this harsh training.
"Because, it is the only way to learn how to fight." The prince tells me. I shake my head no, that is not true.
"You do know that is not a true statement. Right?" My eyes wander away from the arena, instead locking against Desmond's.
"Yes, darling. But I have no control over what my father, the king, makes the contestant's do before the competition. You do realize that. Am I correct?" He fires back, and I can see his hand's move into fists by his sides. He is angered by this as well.
"Have the yellow's already trained?" I blurt out before I can stop myself. Down below, there is a yell, and Desmond and I both lean down to watch the fight. It is a mess below, and I wish that I could look away as one man bring's a sword to another man's leg, slicing a thick piece of flesh off his leg.
My eyes spill with tears as the man crumbles to the ground in pain. What kind of pain will my brother have to endure? Because, if it is anything like this...I cannot finish that thought. I need to stay strong. If not for myself, for Kenneth. That is what he wanted from me, after all.
"You mean your brother?" Desmond asks, leaning against the metal bars, but look directly at me. Shock must be showing across my face, because he begin's to tell the truth. For once, Desmond Williams, is telling me the truth! "You need not look so surprised Leontios. I am the prince, I could find out about anything if I wished to."
"Yes, but why me? Why my life?" I question him, my vision going fuzzy as tears slip down my cheeks. Another yell leaves the arena, and I turn away from the sight.
"There are so many thing's that I wish to tell you. But you have to understand that I cannot. At least...not now." The prince tells me, brushing the hair out of his face out of what seem's to describe, a stressed man.
Desmond always gives me bit's and pieces of his true form behind his Royal mask which he is forced to carry each and every day at the palace. But I know that something true and humane is behind it. Because I have seen that side of him. And even though he lied and hurt me before, I can tell that he was only trying to protect me. Which, no matter how hard it is to admit it to myself...is kind of nice for him to have done.
"May we leave?" I ask, shaking as another scream makes it's way out of the metal cage of the arena. Desmond nod's quickly, and we begin to walk away, just as fast as when we had come. "You didn't answer my original question Desmond." I point out. "Has my brother already had his fight in the arena?" I repeat my question again.
"You know, most people here call me your highness." Desmond tell's me, in a way that I assume, is him trying to lighten the mood. But I am in no state of mind to be calm and happy.
"So? What is your point Desmond?" I say his name with a dangerous line drawn across it. I could be killed for my mannerism towards him. Yet, I already know that he would not do that to me. No matter what, he will lie to me, question me, call me names, but he will never kill me.
"It is just that....well, you are not like other people, I suppose." The prince looks down at his feet for a split second, before returning to look at me.
"If you are trying to charm me, it is not going to work." I tell him, kicking a rock and watching as it bumps against the brick three times before going completely still again.
"Can I not merely give you a compliment without you being so smart mouthed with me?" He complains, sending chill's down my spine as I realize something about him. The prince may not show much of his emotion, but he could hide it within his arguments. And if that is true, does that mean that the prince could like me?After all, ever since we met we have continued to argue. But not in a mean way, more of a competition level debate kind of way.
Should I ask him if he likes me? Would that be awful? What if he doesn't actually like me? All these thought's power through my mind as I contemplate what I should say to him next.
"Of course, let me try to act more ladylike when I am within your presence." I say instead, cursing at myself as the words escape my mouth. But, like always, the prince only chuckles, letting our argument fade behind us. We enter the palace through a secretive door that I didn't see until Desmond moved several vines from it. I am skeptical of entering at first, wondering what could be behind a secret entrance. But what I find inside, is only more stair's, stair's leading to the hallway where we had entered the palace from.
Moving swiftly, I am able to keep pace with the prince. But as we reach the crystal encrusted door, I slow down again.
"What are we doing back here?" I ask Desmond, my feet walking taking me slowly across the hall, and after him.
"What do you mean?" Desmond asks, confused. "This is your holding chambers."
"Holding chambers? Holding for what?" I ask suspiciously, although knowing the exact way he will answer.
"I do not..." I interrupt him as he begin's his now-regular speech.
"...have the authority to tell you that piece of information." I finish for him, and he roll's his eyes at me. Motioning for me to enter the door, I follow his orders, stepping my feet into the shining room adorned with beautiful gems.
"Aren't you afraid that I may try to escape?" I ask him, the question burning holes in my mind.
"Yes, well, you would have to leave this room that I am going to lock now. Then you would have to be able to bypass the guards, while simultaneously looking out for the king or anyone else who may see you leaving. And then there's a matter of the palace door's that are sealed tight." He explains, dangling a key out as I sit myself down on the soft sheet's of the...my bed.
"I didn't see any guards when we were in the garden." I point out the obvious, but he only smiles, making me feel like a fool for even bringing the topic up.
"And why do you think that is?" He asks, staring at me as I rack my brain for answers. And then it suddenly hit's me, right smack in the face.
"I guess, because you were with me." I mutter under my breath. "But they must have been watching us to make sure you were alright."
"Correct you are." Desmond snaps his fingers, making me jump at the sound. "But if you have no other questions for me at the moment, I am going to bid you fair well." He tell's me, and when I stay quiet, he closes the door gently. The faint sound of a key clicking in and out of the lock making me drop down on my knee's, holding my head in my hands. I do not know how much longer that I can keep playing these games. These games of desperation that I continue to play with myself.
I need to be strong for my brother, but it is so hard. And even though I want to be everything that my brother believes I can be, I do not know if I can. Walking to the washroom, I bring the crystal shard out from my palm, placing it back where it belongs. I am in no danger, at least for now. And especially not from one of the prince's. The other member's of the Royal family, I do not know, so I have no idea if they are like Desmond. But I do know that if someone tries to harm me, they will be answering to the prince. And that is a side, I know that no one would want to be on.
I do not know what my purpose being in the palace is yet, but I know I am here for a reason. And not because Desmond wanted a lady friend to accompany him on his daily walks within his garden. The mere idea, even makes me smile.
I wonder why everything in my life changed so quickly. My family, my home, my way of life seem's to have been ripped out from underneath me so fast, I didn't have enough time to complain, or even give my own opinion. But maybe this is for the best? Of course, I cannot be sure until I know the whole truth. But I will learn the truth. Whether it's from Desmond, or the king, or maybe a person I haven't met yet, I do not know.
Much like how I do not know a lot about anything, anymore. But one day, I will look back on today, and realize all of the mistakes I have made. And most important of all, I will look back at myself in this particular moment, and know the truth of all this. My brother being taken away from me, my capture, and every other question I have that Desmond refuses to answer.
Getting up and off the floor, I glance outside. The garden's are beautiful this time of day, or rather night, when the moonlight hit's exactly the right place to make a spectacular view for me to enjoy.
Deep in my mind, I wonder who this room used to belong to. Maybe one of the princesses? I mean, it surely is fit for a princess. But why I got this room, even among every other one in the palace...well, it is certainly a great mystery. One that may never be solved by a novice detective such as myself.
Smiling to myself, I think about all the times I have spent at home with my family. In the arm's of my mother, planting seed's with my father, trying to help Kenneth with his schoolwork. (Although most of it he had to teach me before I was of much use) Doing chores with Sterling, hanging upside down in my familiar spot of the apple tree with Harvey, and making game's up with Wright as we did all the time when we were younger. These are the memories that keep me alive, even through the toughest of times.
And even though my world has changed so completely, in the last few days of my life, I am continuing to live my life as Lydia. Lydia, the strong, independent, adventurous lady my family was always so proud of. I am not ordinary. That is the common misconception many people have towards me. I am just as powerful as any man I have ever met, just as smart, and most important of all, just as weak. We all have weaknesses. That is what makes us.....us. Opening the window, I let the cold air rush around me as I allow myself to leave my old life behind. I need to move on with my life, and stop feeling so sorry for myself.
That is the only way I will be able to focus on my here and now.
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