A Tale of Crowns and Stars

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Cold Endings

Cold. The shackles against her skin were cold. The cell was cold. Her heart was cold.

The torchlight just outside of Cyra’s cell cast her hunched shadow on the walls, making her look even as pitiful as she felt. The freezing floor of the cell scratched the sides of Cyra’s feet as she rubbed them together for some semblance of warmth while the shackles on her arms jangled angrily. The outcome of the day had startled her but only up to a point.

Who was she kidding? This had been her fate all along. She knew it when Leonel sat here, in her same spot, not too long ago. Even though she had attempted to kill Omar and failed, she knew these events would occur the same way they happened with Gunnar. The sinking feeling never went away, Cyra realized. It just got duller with time.

The ending of the thought accompanied the screeching of the outer door to her jail cell, and Cyra’s head shot up to see who had come to visit. First, she listened to the sound of the measured strides against the floor, which meant it wasn’t Omar. Several people could be the first to visit, but she imagined the twins or Mirabel would want to take that chance. But the lack of rushing meant it wasn’t Mirabel either.

“Inside,” the guard at the door grunted, and Cyra could almost picture him jerking a thumb at the inner door. More measured strides.

The light that spilled in with the open door almost blinded Cyra, causing her to look away from the entrance hurriedly.

“You look like shit.”

The disgusted voice belonged to none other than Armantha. As the inner door shut with finality, Cyra eyed the woman carefully. When neither of them could find the words that needed to be said, Armantha inhaled and leaned on the cell’s bars.

“I don’t understand why you didn’t just follow the fucking plan,” The lady began, sighing out of her nose. “We had it all set up for a nice little coup d’etat. But instead, you pull a coup de main, and we’re all left to clean up after your mess.” Armantha groaned loudly, wiping her hands across her face. “The twins aren’t speaking. Mirabel and your family have disappeared like I knew they would. Eres and Idria fled, too! Everyone did their part except for you.”

“I didn’t mean —”

“I don’t want to hear your stupid excuses, Cyra.” The woman growled, slamming a hand on the bars. “You had the opportunity to seal this for all of us, and now…” In the dim light, Cyra swore she saw Armantha drop a tear before sighing deeply. “How would Gunnar feel about this if he was here?”

“Don’t bring him into this,” Cyra croaked, pointing a weak finger at the woman. “He has nothing to do with what happened today.”

“He has everything to do with what happened today! Gunnar, Markus, Halewijn, Tamar, and who knows who else has everything to do with this! We had the chance to right this wrong.” The accusation hung heavily on Cyra’s shoulders. She was the reason the plan went haywire. There was no one else to blame except herself. “You might as well have brought them all back from the dead and then handed them over to Omar again, as far as I’m concerned.” Armantha pushed off of the bars and took a few steps back, glaring at Cyra. “I trusted you.” She whispered, then turned away, heading for the door.

“Where will you go?” Cyra wondered, feeling her bones shake beneath her dress.

“I’m not going anywhere.” Armantha stated, hand on the door. “I’m staying right here. It’s not like I have anywhere to run to.” With that, the woman opened the door and walked out, leaving the room even colder than it was when she entered.

Tears coursed down Cyra’s cheeks at the realization that she had foiled her own plan in her haste to save the day, but all Halewijn wanted was for Cyra to save herself. She fell asleep between crying spells with her head on her propped-up arms, lying still on the freezing floor.

“Sentencing you to a trial seems to be the only fair way to handle things…”

The High Court’s remaining members stood outside of the cell with varying degrees of shame and sorrow in their eyes. Lynna seemed the most torn apart by the recent events, with her puffy red eyes and constant sniffing into her handkerchief. Cyra couldn’t look at Hannah in the eyes, though, her expression blank and unforgiving.

“I am so sorry for your loss,” Marcel whispered, turning to face the others and usher them out of the packed room. Cyra wished she could walk out with them with every fiber of her being, wished she could fly out of the Golden tower with nothing but a whisper left behind to ever tell of her time there. But there was nothing she could do that would free her from the shackles on the wall, nothing that would ease the burden of another death on her shoulders. When the door shut again, darkness enveloped the room once more. Unavoidable, unmerciful, absolute darkness.

There were voices and pictures she couldn’t ignore in the dark, and there were thoughts that intruded upon the emptiness. The gaping hole in Cyra’s center wanted to grow past the confines of her body… if only she could summon emptiness and disappear into the void of grief again.

“Why would you want to be empty?” A clarion female voice asked in the semi-darkness of the cell. Cyra scanned the room quickly, trying to locate the source of the sound. When she could find nothing that would possibly speak, Cyra closed her eyes again, squeezing them tightly.

I cannot go mad in here. Omar wins if I lose my nerve.

“I asked you a question.” A figure in red and yellow flashed behind Cyra’s eyelids, startling the High Princess into opening her eyes and crawling back to the rough stone wall. “You’re in trouble,” The voice continued, rattling Cyra’s bones with every word as it grew more assertive and more demanding. “I can help you, but you need to give me an oath.”

“An oath?” Cyra replied out loud, and the voice chuckled deeply.

“Just one oath. You’ve already paid the price in blood twice over.” Blood. The mere thought of the fluid running down her arms from the dead guard made Cyra shiver, a sick feeling draining what strength she had left.

“What advantage will you give me?” Cyra whispered, looking at the sliver of light trickling in from the gap between the door and the floor with renewed interest. Was freedom genuinely possible?

“I can’t free you from this prison quite yet. But I can give you quickness of mind, renewed strength, and control over your unchecked rage for now.”

“Unchecked rage?”

“Do you really think it was love that propelled you to try to kill your father-in-law?” Cyra didn’t even have to answer. The truth was plain to everyone, and this rage had gotten her into the deepest trouble she could have managed. But now… it appeared she had a way out.

“What must I do?” Out of the darkness, ten dark-skinned arms reached forward towards Cyra with palms held out to receive.

“Just say these words: I give my body and soul in service to you, goddess of conquests and beginnings. I am your vessel until the day I return to the earth as dust.”

“I give my body and soul in service to you, goddess of conquests and beginnings. I am your vessel… until the day I return to the earth as dust.” When Cyra finished whispering the words back to the ten arms, all ten of the hands closed, then opened again, releasing red dust into the air that swarmed about the space haphazardly. One hand reached out to force Cyra’s jaw open, which allowed her to choke out a strangled scream as the dust was sucked into her mouth, packing it tight like cotton stuffed into an open wound. Within seconds, the dust had all disappeared, clogging up Cyra’s throat and dragging down to her stomach in tendrils of dryness. When she tried to cough, no air entered her throat; the limited amount of air stored in her lungs escaping in gasps.

“When you awaken, it will all be as it should be. Remember, everything is as it should be…”

Cyra jerked once, twice, three times, then succumbed to the darkness closing in on her as she slumped to the ground, surrendering to the finality of the void.

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