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A v a r i c e | T h i r t y T h r e e

T h i r t y T h r e e

❝A bastard prince;

with a witchy miss.❞

MUCH TO MOTHER’S PLEASURE, I CAME home at the promised time, carrying my books, my cloak, and my potion with me. She was sitting her chair in front of a fire, talking with Gen, when I had come in. I’d given her a quick “hello” before I escaped to the comfort of my room. Luckily, she hadn’t made me come out as I thought she’d might.

In the morning, however, she made her feelings about Cain and I spending time together very clear. After making me clean the kitchen quite thoroughly, she gave me some porridge and a list of things she wanted me to fetch from the market. My brothers, sitting at the table and watching this play out, snickered at me, to which I turned and stuck my tongue out at them.

“Cerise!” Mother snapped at me, glaring.

I quickly turned back to face her. “They were laughing!”

“And you are a lady!” Mother narrowed her eyes at me, shaking her head in disbelief. “Go on, now. You’re giving me a headache.” Rolling me eyes, I quickly got out of the house before Mother could scold me anymore. I hadn’t done anything wrong, after all. I’d gotten home by the time I’d promised, hadn’t I?

I sighed, grabbing a basket on my way out the door. The market wasn’t too far away from our home. You mostly head straight and then there was a right turn and there it was. It was maybe two miles at the most.

On the way there I passed by the pub. There were no longer large crowds of people there, now that the witch had been found and was going to be put death soon. No rallies or mobs or angry drunks spilling their drinks while shouting about killing the lycanthropes.

It was peaceful, almost. As if the town was going back to how it once was, before all of this horror and bloodshed. It was nice.

I’d reached the marketplace and began gathering and buying the food we needed for home when I felt someone watching me. Looking up, I realized it was more than just one person. An entire fleet of knights stood idly by, each of them staring at me in turn. I looked behind me, hoping to see anyone else they could be looking at, but no one was there.

They began to walk forward. Thoughts of running crossed my mind, but what was there to run from? It was probably about something concerning Father, after all. Or Michael. So, I braced myself and turned to face them, walking forward myself. I had nothing to be frightened of, after all. So why was my heart racing a mile a minute?

What I hadn’t expected, however, was that they were, quite literally, here for me.

“Lady Cerise Victoire,” the front man said, “you are to be taken to the dungeon on accounts of witchcraft.”

“I what?” I blinked at them. “There must be some kind of mistake. I am no witch.”

“That’s what they all say,” one of them muttered from behind me. I turned to glare at him, and he immediately put his hands up in surrender, clearly frightened of just what he thought I was capable of doing to him. A sickening feel clouded my gut and I turned away from him.

“I’m not a witch,” I repeated, shaking my head and trying to be free of the knight’s grasp. Someone else came from behind me, gripping my arm to keep me from struggling. I couldn’t believe what was happening now. I wasn’t even a witch.

The knights took my basket from me, stating that they would give it to my family along with any valuables I had one me. I almost wanted to tell them to simply stay away from my family altogether; Mother would surely be beyond angry with me about this. This entire fiasco would damage our family name, but perhaps there was some way to salvage it.

I nodded and willingly let them take me away, giving them the money they had on me and the food I’d bought to give to my family. They forced me into a carriage, one of them getting in with me and sitting across from me. He didn’t say anything, which I was thankful for. I needed this time to think about how I would get out of this situation.

There would be a trial, I knew. And I would need to pass it. That would be simply. I’m not a witch.

But what about my plans? The plan to keep the humans inside of the lycanthropes alive? The plan for the potion and the spell? What was I to do about it all if I was being locked up?

I supposed I could ask Cain to somehow get a message to Lilith, maybe have her do it, but something inside of me was completely against that idea. I needed to get out of this situation, and I needed to do it fast.

Cain, I thought to myself. He knew I used magic, and he had at one point thought that I was the wicked witch. Did he still believe that? Had he turned me in? I shook my head. No, it couldn’t be. He couldn’t be the one to do this.

But what if he was?

“For the record,” the knight sitting across from me said, “I don’t think you’re a witch.”

I looked over at him. I couldn’t see his face from the armor he wore. All of them were wearing heavy armor. On a normal occasion I would’ve asked why that was. But I knew. It was because they were worried the witch in their presence would somehow harm them, and they needed stronger protection. What the armor would do to protect them from any form of magic, I wasn’t sure. If anything, it’d just slow them down, really.

“Why’s that?” I raised an eyebrow, only mildly curious. I’d liked him better when he hadn’t talked, truthfully, because then I could think about how to get out of this horrible situation without it all blowing up in my face and my family’s.

“I’m a friend of Michael’s,” he told me and shrugged. “It’s hard to believe his sister would be a witch. And,” I could almost hear his grin, “you don’t look like a witch.”

I smiled at that spitefully. “And what does a witch look like?” I questioned, thinking about Marquise Trill. Without being trapped in a dungeon and no access to cleaning things, Marquise was a very beautiful woman. I certainly never would have suspected her of witchcraft based on looks alone.

I imagined him to compliment, but instead he shared his thoughts on witches in general. “Personally, I believe that there are always two sides of a story. All witchcraft is deemed evil, but is witchcraft that saves a man’s life truly evil? Sometimes I wonder if we’re constantly condemning the wrong witches to hell because they are the ones making an impactful difference. An evil witch would not be sitting in this carriage with me, because I would be dead.” The man said. He was certainly sociable, but he did have a point.

I nodded my agreement, looking out the window of the carriage. “Perhaps.”

I was not dragged in through the front doors of the castle, as one might hope to be. No, the carriage was brought around the back of the castle where there were doors in the ground; a cellar. The knight stepped out, reaching a hand out for me to take. I accepted it, letting him help me to the ground. “I’m rooting for you,” he whispered to me encouragingly.

I couldn’t help but smile at that, rolling my eyes. This knight was truly ridiculous. He was a type of knight I’d never had the pleasure to speak with. All of them usually were so demanding and strict, such as Michael. But he was different than that, clearly. “What’s your name?” I asked as he reluctantly tied my hands behind my back and then proceeded to open the doors of the cellar, unlocking them with a key.

“Elliot,” he told me while he was bent down. “Sir Elliot James.”

Hadn’t I heard that name before? I couldn’t remember where I’d heard it from, however. Probably Michael. Sir Elliot had said he was friends with him, hadn’t he?

“Well, Sir Elliot,” I smiled down at him and he looked over at me upon hearing his name. “Let me formally introduce myself.” I did a little curtsey, even though my hands were tied behind my back. He laughed at this, his voice rich. “I am Lady Cerise Victoire, daughter of the Marquis Ralph Victoire.”

Sir Elliot opened the cellar, and turned towards me. “I’m sorry about this,” he apologized, and got behind me, walking me into the cellar - into the dungeon. My heartbeat spiked up, hoping maybe Marquise Trill would be down here as well, but she wasn’t. No one was down here, in fact. Except for, maybe, rats. “I really wish I hadn’t been around the castle today,” Sir Elliot muttered, almost to himself. “I’m usually in the forest.”

“Are you now?” I questioned, making conversation. This would probably be the last real conversation I’d have with someone for a long time, after all.

There was a clunk underneath his helmet. “Dammit,” Sir Elliot swore. “I tried nodding,” he explained to me with a deep sigh. I laughed at that. “These stupid things are ridiculous, I swear.”

The dungeon was just as how I’d imagined it. Layered with straw as if it were a stable, there were four cages - prisons - surrounding us on each side. Next to the stairs there was a chair, no doubt for a watchman to sit in. As he walked me over to the left cage, I turned to look at Sir Elliot. “Will you be the watchman?”

There was another clunk and another sigh. “I shook my head. These things are very hard to move in.” He complained. “But, no, sadly. Someone else will take over. I’ve got business to attend to after this.” As such a sociable man, him becoming serious and mentioning “business” was like hearing a one year old say an understandable sentence.

“Do you now?” I said.

Sir Elliot unlocked the cage. “I do, surprisingly.” I could imagine his facial expressions through his expressive, humorous way of speech. He was most likely smiling. “I’m a Commander of the Royal Knights.” He told me. I was honestly impressed by this news.

Sir Elliot opened up the cell door, and, not wanting him to feel any worse than he already did, I got into the cell immediately after he had opened it.

“Are you really? How impressive.” I nodded. Sir Elliot laughed heartily and closed the cell, locking it once more. “Well, you clearly have other duties to attend to you.” I grinned at him. “So, Farewell.”

“Farewell, Lady Cerise.” Sir Elliot said calmly, and turned and left the cellar, leaving me here by my lonesome.

I sat down against the wall, and slid down, sighing. My hands were still tied behind my back uncomfortably and it was beginning to get a bit chilly down here. I had my cloak around me, but it didn’t give me a ton of warmth. I sighed. I suppose this was where I was stuck for the next few days.

The cellar door opened again. I jumped to my feet, hoping it was Sir Elliot coming back, but it was another knight instead. He looked over at me easily, as he hadn’t been wearing the difficult helmet. “Don’t try anything funny,” he demanded of me, and then plopped himself in the seat in front of the stairs, the keys jingling from his belt loop.

He didn’t even bother to look like he was actually watching me, either. He just sat there and fell asleep. It was mind boggling how easy it would be for me to escape this holding. I could easily use the move spell Lilith had taught me to retrieve the key, and I was certain I’d be able to get out of these ties. Sir Elliot hadn’t tied them too tight, after all.

Yet, I knew that I couldn’t. Because if I did and was caught in the process of doing it, I would be sentence then and there. Even if I did do it without being caught, how was I supposed to explain how I got out of my holding?

So, I rested back on the floor. Already my morning and noon had been shattered, and now my afternoon was being wasted away in a jail cell meant for a witch; not me. I could only imagine what the evening held for me.

It turned out, my evening was very eventful.

I had managed somehow to fall asleep in my cell on the hard ground, but was woken up by the cellar doors slamming opening and hard footsteps coming down the stairs. “Release her at once!” Cain ordered, and shook the knight awake.

The knight blinked wearily up at Cain. “Who are you and what authority do you have to release her?”

Cain gripped the knight by his shirt, tugging him forward. ”I am the son of the king, and I demand that she be released from her holdings.”

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