A v a r i c e | T h i r t y F o u r
T h i r t y F o u r
❝A mysterious, mischievous person;
left her only to go crazy and worsen.❞
THE GUARD IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWED CAIN’S ORDER, too frightened to go against him. I stood at the door of the cage, staring at Cain. He met my eyes, his own blue eyes blazing and his teeth clenched. He was obviously angry.
Well, it had definitely not been him, then.
The guard unlocked the cage, letting me out. He looked down, mumbling for me to turn around so he could take the ties off of my wrists. After he had gotten them off, Cain held a hand out for me to take and practically dragged me all the way out of the cellar.
“Don’t you think he’ll know you lied?” I questioned him with a frown.
Cain’s jaw tightened more. I stared at him, not quite understanding what he was so stressed about. Clearly, he didn’t want to say, either. So I didn’t ask. I didn’t want him to in turn be angry with me. So, instead, I asked him where we going.
At first he didn’t respond, but after a minute, he did. “We’re going to see the king,” he told me, his voice deep and dark. I blinked at him. We came to a brown horse, waiting a few feet away from the cellar doors. Cain helped me up onto the horse before getting on himself.
“Are you being serious?” I finally asked. Cain didn’t have the authority to actually call upon the king, did he? Unless, of course, what he had to the guard was true. But how could that be? Wasn’t he from another kingdom, as a knight? My mind was jumbled with these thoughts, so when Cain had responded to my question, I hadn’t actually heard him.
“What?” I said, clutching onto him as he made the horse go faster.
“Yes.” Cain answered simply. I couldn’t see his face, but I was certain it was as stoic as it had been earlier.
I said nothing more. What if Cain was the son of the king? But that would make him a prince, and I would certainly know if he was a prince, wouldn’t I? The entire kingdom would know, especially my mother. She’d probably worship the ground Cain walked in if she had thought he was a prince. So he couldn’t be.
Cain stopped the horse in front of the castle and jumped off, pulling me off as well to stand beside him. He marched up the staircase. As we passed by the seneschal, Cain said, “George, take care of my horse please.” The seneschal, George I assumed, nodded and went down the steps to do just that. I followed him with my eyes in disbelief.
The seneschal had known him, on a name basis. He hadn’t even questioned why Cain was here, or stayed to make sure he didn’t steal anything.
I gaped at Cain. “Oh, my God,” I said as realization dawned on me. “You really are the king’s son, aren’t you?”
Cain’s jaw tightened as he glanced over me, scanning my face. “One of them,” he digressed to me, looking ahead once more. “Did you want to wait here?” he asked me, looking down the hallway for something.
I shook my head. “You’re going to see the king, aren’t you?” This was something I did not want to miss. Cain nodded and held his hand out to me. I took it, and he tugged me along down the halls of the castle, with many twists and turns.
He knew exactly where he was going. His father was the king. I remember the first time I’d really gotten a good look at Cain; during the dinner with the royal family. He’d acted so obscenely, we had thought. So disrespectful to the king by the way he had spoken to him. And how he seemed to always know what was going on within the castle. I had thought it was because he was a really good knight. But, now I knew that he was the king’s son.
“So, you’re a prince?” I questioned, frowning at Cain.
Cain shook his head. We passed by guards and seneschals and maids alike, neither of them giving Cain a second glance. It was extraordinary. “Not exactly,” Cain told me.
I raised any eyebrow at him. I’d begun to not even look where I was going because Cain was the one who was leading me. “I don’t understand.”
We stopped in front of two large doors. Cain turned towards me. “I’m his bastard son,” he divulged finally. “We’re going to go in now, and please do not interrupt me, alright? Or him.” I nodded in understanding.
Cain took a deep breath and then opened the doors.
“What in the hell is the meaning of this?” the king stood up straight. He’d been leaning over the table, talking to a few knights. Everyone had looked up when Cain marched in, demanding a presence from them all.
“Why did you put Lady Cerise Victoire in jail this morning?” Cain responded, choosing his words carefully. His voice was slow and deep, thoughtful even. He was clearly trying not to yell at the king in front of the knights.
The king stood up straighter and stared at Cain, then looked over at me. “There was an accusation,” the king shrugged.
Cain’s jaw clenched as he stepped forward, placing his hands on the table and looking his father in the eyes. His voice lowered, his sharp gaze scorching. “I want to be promised that Lady Cerise Victoire has been excused of all accusations and that she will never be sentenced again.”
The king’s jaw tightened as well. I could see the similarities between the two, kind of, but I was certain Cain mostly retrieved his mother’s looks, whoever she was. The king was tall and had piercing blue eyes, just like Cain. He did not have Cain’s olive skin or Cain’s dark, dark hair, however.
Finally, after a stare down between the two, the king sighed and nodded. “Fine. Anything else?”
“Yes, actually.” Cain stood up straight again, walking back to me. He rested a hand on my lower back. “I want this to be kept quiet. The Victoire family does not need this kind of bad public, and you’d be damn sure to keep it that way.” With that, Cain escorted me out of the room and the castle, but not until I saw one of the knights give me a thumbs up.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked on our way back to my home, where we had decided it’d be best for Cain to drop me off.
Cain shook his head, obviously understanding what I was referring to. “I’d rather talk about who turned you in.” Cain said while leading the horse to turn to the right. He gave a quick glance back at me. “Have you an idea of who it was?”
I shook my head. “I’ve only ever been accused twice, I believe. By you and someone else.”
Cain winced when he had said me. “I think we can cross me out of that list, yes?”
I nodded, even though he couldn’t see me.
“Who was the other person?” Cain asked curiously. We weren’t too far away from my home now, where I was certain my family was waiting for me. Where the one other person who had accused me of witchcraft would be.
I sighed. “My brother.”
Cain didn’t speak after that. He didn’t have to. Comforting wasn’t something I imagined Cain to do, anyways. I didn’t need words of encouragement from him, anyhow. I had my own things on my mind, like how I was going to ask Samuel if he had turned me in or not. And mentally preparing myself for the possibility that he had.
“Can you ask the king - I mean your father - who had accused me?” I requested. I didn’t want to go about this without having any sort of knowledge of who it was. Perhaps even a description can help me to decipher who it had been.
Cain shook his head. “I doubt he knows. Marquise Trill had been an anonymous tip, as I’m sure you were as well. Not many people want to spread the word about a possible witch and give their name, you know. The witch could always get out and act her revenge.”
I rolled my eyes. “Hardly. I just want to make sure it wasn’t family.”
Cain nodded in understanding. “Don’t worry, I’ll ask him. But don’t get your hopes up.” I nodded in agreement to this.
Not longer after, Cain dropped me off at my house, promising that he’d see me sometime soon. I opened up the door to find my family - all but Father and Samuel - sitting at the dining table, talking in hushed tones.
When I came in, they all went silent. Mother stood up, her eyes teary and her cheeks puffy and red. She ran to me and gave me one of those big hugs you always get after being away for a long while. I didn’t mind it, really. I missed my mother, on some sort of level. I’d especially missed her when I’d thought I was going to be dead.
“Oh, Cerise,” Mother sighed into my hair. “What happened?”
“Cain got me out,” I answered simply.
Mother immediately pulled back, looking me in the eyes at that speculatively. “How did he ever manage to do that?” Mother’s eyes widened and she took a step back from me, as if I was the plague. “Oh, God. Did he break you out honey?”
I laughed and shook my head. “No, no. He has...a higher authority in the castle than what we had originally thought.”
Mother raised an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“So he finally told you?” Michael questioned from his place at the table. I walked over to it, sitting down in the chair beside my mother upon her request. She played with my hair while we sat. She clearly had thought I was going to die, too.
I raised an eyebrow at my brother. “What do you mean? You knew? I thought you didn’t even know Cain.”
Michael laughed, rolling his eyes at me. “Of course I know Cain, Cerise, don’t be ridiculous. As well as being a very good knight, he was constantly around the castle, talking to the king, fighting with the king. It was never ending, those two.”
Mother was frowning.
Sighing, I glanced over at her without turning my head, so as not to mess up the braid she was putting in my hair. “Cain is the illegitimate son of the king.”
Mother’s eyes widened. She let my hair drop, clearly not caring anymore. “Is he really?” she questioned, wonderment within her voice.
I nodded, even though I knew exactly that she would be soon heading to a conclusion that was beyond ridiculous. My mother was truly a biased person.
So, before she could mention anything else to do with Cain, I said, “Where’s Samuel?”
Ralph, sitting across from me and staring down at his hands, said, “He’ll be back soon. He went to finish getting the rest of the stuff at the market.” Of course he had, since he was the second youngest. That was how our family worked, basically. Although maybe I was sent to do everything because I was a female.
I could never be sure.
“I’m going to get some rest,” I said, standing up and excusing myself. “I’ll see you all in the morning.” My family bid their goodnights to me and I escaped into the comfort of my own room. I’d already gotten into my nightgown when there was a knock at the door. I opened it, finding my mother waiting outside with a worried expression on her tired face.
“Cerise,” she said carefully, seriously. I nodded for her to go on, my eyebrows pulled together. “Please, tell me the truth. I won’t be angry with you,” she added the last part quickly, which made me think that she probably didn’t mean it. It didn’t matter, however. I nodded for her to go on again. Mother took in a deep breath. “Are you visiting your grandmother?”
Even if I had wanted to tell her the truth about what was going on whenever I left the house to do some errands, I physically wasn’t able. The only choice I had was to lie. So, I shook my head. “No, of course not. I haven’t seen her since the ball.” I added, for good measure. “Why?”
Mother nodded, a sigh of relief escaping her. Her shoulders relaxed and a smile crossed her face upon my declaration. “Oh, thank God,” she said, a genuine smile spreading itself across her face. “That was all,” she told me. “Goodnight.”
“Wait,” I called, reaching out to grab her hand. Mother stopped and turned to look at me expectantly.
“What’s the matter?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Is Samuel here?” I questioned.
Mother nodded and began saying something else, but I was already walking past her, looking for the youngest of my five brothers. He was in the kitchen, munching on an apple when I’d come upon him. The second he saw me, a cloud covered his happy facial expression. He knew damn well what I wanted to speak with him about and mutedly set his apple, following me outside.
“Was it you?” I got right down to business.
Sam shook his head, his eyes pained and his expression pinched. “No, Cerise. I swear to God I would never do that, even if you were one. I would never trade in my own family like that.” He pleaded with me to believe him, which I of course did.
Although Sam was anxious and a bit of a scaredy cat, I believed him when he said he wouldn’t do this because I knew my brother, and he was right. It was stupid of me to even have the idea that it had been him.
But he had been the second of the two people who thought I was a witch, at least openingly.
Which meant someone else had turned me in, someone who clearly didn’t want me to know who they were, either.
But I would find out.