I was swimming peacefully in the inky darkness of my consciousness. I was completely alone, no responsibilities, no mysterious enemies trying to kill me and capture my family. How I loved every inch of this nothingness. Then everything around me started trembling.
“Myra, wake up.” A disembodied voice echoed in the abyss. I swatted out at the empty void. Go away, I wanted to scream. Leave me in peace. The blackness vibrated again and the walls collapsed around me. I awoke to Reena’s face nose to nose with me. I jumped back in surprise but ended up slamming my head into the wall behind me.
“Ouch” I groaned and rubbed my aching head. Reena’s chocolate eyes bore into mine, like she had lost her diamond earrings in my eyes. “Where am I? What happened?” My voice felt like a rock that had been eroded away with sandpaper. I ran my hand over the delicious leather couch. I managed to stand on my doe legs and drank in the room. I felt like I was standing in the middle of the museum. Pillars stood scattered around the room displaying impressive vases, stone statues, golden plates and intricately woven tapestries. The open-air room let a gentle breeze waft over my skin. “I was shot.” I muttered to myself. Like a frenzied monkey looking for its misplaced banana, I patted myself checking for new bullet wounds.
“You were shot with a tranquilizer dart.” Reena strolled leisurely over to me, then she pulled me into a hug. She squeezed me so hard like she was trying to get the last drop of ketchup out of a bottle. I stifled my yelp as she put pressure on my old bullet wound. Reena pulled away from me, her forehead crinkling in confusion. “Are you okay?” She asked me. Her eyes were so full of concern, that I considered telling her what really happened last night, but then I decided the less people that knew, the better.
“What happened Reena?”
“Well, after your little stunt, I managed to convince the guards that you were in emotional distress and were not a real threat. So, they brought you to this magnificent place. The trophy room.” She spun around like a ballerina. “Isn’t this wonderful Myra? Everything is so perfect here. Every artifact has value. Not a single thing in this room is a waste of space.” She ran over to a stand that stood in the far corner. A blue diamond the size of my fist glistened around magnificent white diamonds. “The once famous Hope Diamond, now is just another treasure among the elite.” I looked around the treasury, puzzled at the lack of security. Reena followed my gaze to the open windows. “There are invisible lasers that circulate the perimeter. Even if the smallest fly tries to get through, ZAP! They’re dead. If anyone attempts to steal an artifact, metal walls come crashing down and all the oxygen is sucked out of the room. So, there is no need for security.”
“So, they brought the person who made an attempt on the Monarch’s life to a room full of precious artifacts because it’s basically a death trap.” I stepped away from the nearest display stand. After everything I had been through, I very much valued my oxygen.
“No” Then she contemplated, “well I guess yes and no. I told them you needed to be reminded of who you were and being surrounded by all these priceless riches would be the perfect way to clear your mind.” I gawked at her. She wore an olive jumpsuit that popped against her rich skin and raven hair. She raised her eyebrow at me, like she expected me to read her mind. “I didn’t want you wasting away in a cell.” She closed the gap between us in two steps. She leaned in like she was giving me another hug. Her lips grazed my ears and sent my scalp tingling. “More importantly, your parent’s cells are close by here.” I almost jerked away from her in surprise, but she held me steadfast. “We must be quick. Follow my lead.” She turned and started to weave through the marble stands, her wide leg pant suit swishing dramatically as she walked. I blinked once, trying to understand any part of what was going on, but my brain had been oven baked in confusion mixed with battery acid. I composed myself and scurried after Reena. All that consumed my thoughts was finding my family.
She climbed up a winding stone staircase. Her heels sharp echo did little to help my pounding head. Instinctively, I reached for the provisional pack of medicine that Riya had given me, but then I realized it wasn’t on my back. My gun was missing also. Great, I was unarmed wandering around the enemy’s fortress with nothing but a pair of high heels. I figured Reena’s pointy heels were weapon-ly enough in the worst scenario. I giggled at myself. Life had changed so fast. Just a few days ago, I was worried about my performance at work and being bogged down with a man who I never wanted to Unite with. Now I was planning out how to defend myself against attackers with a pair of high heels as my only weapon. Reena glared at me and raised her fingers to her lips. I raised my hands in apology. We continued up the stairs until my legs went numb.
I expected that we would find guards at every landing, but each floor was empty and quiet as a graveyard. Just as I thought I would fall over and roll down the stairs like a slinky, we came upon a stone floor landing. Reena held her long slender arms out to stop me. She pointed around the wall and mouth the word “guard”.
“Stay here. Don’t move” She whispered to me. Then before I could protest, she vanished around the corner. I held my breath in anticipation. I felt like I was injected with a double shot of caffeine and my body was thrown in hyper drive. My ears perked up at the sound of faint murmuring. I slid off my black blazer and placed it on the floor. The last thing I needed in a fight was my blazer weighing me down like an anchor. I peered around the corner, ready to charge out like a rhino in heat and trample the guard. Instead of witnessing the guard put Reena in a headlock, he was nodding his head in submissively. Before I knew it, he was marching down the opposite corridor and disappearing around the corner. Reena swiveled on her heels; she beckoned me out of my hiding spot. A warm breeze caressed my skin. There were arching windows that loomed over the corridor. The fluttering curtains almost caught me in their tentacles. To the side of the center corridor were two of the most beautiful swords I had ever seen. The hilt was royal gold, with moldings of ivy weaving through the hilt. The grip was etched with a swirling “R”. At the base was a crown with two red rubies inlayed in the gold. The blade itself was frosted with patterns of golden leaves. One sword was tarnished and stained brown, making it less beautiful and deadlier.
“This way Myra.” Reena steered me by the elbow towards the center corridor. Our heels were the only sound in the corridor. This section of the mansion was pulled from the ancient past. I didn’t see any chandeliers or light fixtures anywhere. The only light that poured in was from the magnificent stone windows. I was about to ask Reena how she was able to get rid of the guard, but the she pointed to a row of metal bars a few yards away. “They are over there. I’ll wait here, give you some time to say goodbye.” She squeezed my hands and walked back to through the corridor to give me privacy. I stared at her as she sauntered away. I didn’t understand her kindness, but I also didn’t dare question it. I sprinted to the cells.
My father’s hands were wrapped around the rusty metal bars. His haggard face broke into a smile when he saw me. He reached out to take my soft hand in his bruised and bloodied ones.
“Father” My voice shattered like a mirror being struck by a sledge hammer. Behind him, my mother was cradling Jaya in her arms like she infant. Jaya’s eyes were closed and her arms rested on her barely rising chest. My mother gently laid Jaya on the ground and ran to the bars. She took my other hand and raised it to her face. Her silent tears fell on my skin as she laid kisses on my hand. They looked like they had battled their way through a hurricane. Their clothes were shredded and their bodies were painted with nasty blue bruises. The spark I had felt when I first saw them had now turned into a raging inferno of loathing for the Chancellor. I wanted to take everything he ever loved and erase it from existence. Though I highly doubted he was capable of feeling love.
“You shouldn’t have come Myra.” My father’s dull eyes resembled a flashlight sputtering out of existence. “If anything happened to you, we couldn’t…” His voice broken. He sucked in a deep breath of air and tried to compose himself. My father was always a happy man, but now looking at him, I couldn’t find a glimmer of who he once was. He was fading away from the sorrow and anguish. He wrapped his arm around my mother, who was silently muttering to herself while crying. “We just wanted to protect you and now I fear, we have brought our own daughter to her death.” His grip around my hand tightened, like I was a life vest he was clinging to in the ocean. “When I first saw you, I promised myself I would never let anyone harm a single hair on your head.” I wiped a tear from my cheek. “I hold myself to that promise until I take my last breath, my daughter.”
“I love you, Papa.” I breathed in his essence. I committed every laughter and worry line of his to memory. His sparkling brown eyes, that I like to think I take after. I drank in his words and his love, like they were precious last drops of water in the desert.
“I love you too.” He muttered. He laid his forehead against the rusty metal bars. He had more lines in his forehead than I remembered.
My mother pulled me close to her. Her hair was matted with sweat and flecks of dried blood. Her neck was a battlefield of angry red scratches and torn skin from the metal collars they had been forced to wear.
“You are my daughter.” Her words emitted glowing pride. “Nothing anyone can say or do will ever change that.” She brought her cracked lips to my forehead and kissed me tenderly. “I’m sorry I was hard on you sometimes. I just wanted you to be safe. I didn’t want a seed of doubt to be sown in anyone’s mind. I thought if everything was perfect, no harm would come to my child. But I was wrong, please forgive me my dear.” She sobbed into my hands. My heart felt like it had been struck by lightning and exploded in my chest. No one broke my mother. It was just wrong. It was as if I had woken up on a summer day and the sky was swamp green instead of soft blue. Seeing her broken, only threw more oil on my fire of hate. I lifted her head gently and brushed away her tears. I locked my eyes with hers.
“You’re my mother. Don’t apologize for a mother’s love. It’s the fiercest thing this world has seen. I am lucky to be receiving of this love.” I tried to hug her as best as I could through the thick bars. I stood there for a few moments in silence just holding both of my parent’s hands. My eyes flicked to Jaya who lay still on the floor. “What’s wrong with Jaya?” I asked. I could barely bring myself to ask, because I was terrified of the answer. There was little I could do to help on the other side of the cell.
My mother gazed at Jaya with pity. “She is a strong woman, but she is old. There is only so much her heart can take. She is still with us but only just.” A fist clenched around my heart and squeezed it like it was trying to get the last bit of toothpaste out of a tube. A shuffling sound from the corridor caught my attention. My body stiffened. I could almost feel the air around me as I strained to listen. Both of my parents tightened their grips on me. “You need to go Myra. We need to know you’re safe.” My mother pleaded with me again. I shook my head defiantly. I had already left James behind, there was no way I was leaving them as well. As quietly as I could I began to search the stone walls for keys or any sign of weakness in their prison.
“I’m not leaving you until you’re free. Besides Reena is keeping watch for me.”
This time it was my parent’s turn to stiffen. Their ears perked up at the name Reena. “Reena?” My father asked me. He said her name like it might invoke an evil spirit. I turned back to them. Their faces were long and grim, like they were staring at their own corpses.
“Yes, Reena. What’s wrong?”
“Last night during dinner, a young woman rang our doorbell.” My mother lowered her voice, so I had to lean in to catch her words. “She was asking for you. She said she was a co-worker and you hadn’t shown up to work today, so she wanted to make sure you were okay. I told her you were sick and couldn’t see anyone at the moment. By that time of course, I had gone to your room and found out that you were gone. But I didn’t tell her that. She kept insisting to see you and to speak to you. But I didn’t budge. The last thing we needed was a stranger to know you were missing. Eventually I asked her what her name was. Her name was Reena.” I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion. Reena hadn’t mentioned any of this. She had plenty of time between waking me up and guiding me to my parents to tell me she had scouted me out last night.
“Something isn’t right.” I whispered to myself. A cold shadow of dread creeped over me. I looked back at the corridor. I could hear no sound now. I turned my attention back to my parents. Their concerned eyes large with worry. “I will get you out of here.” I pivoted on my heel and quietly walked away before they could stop me. I could hear their faint calls for me to come back, but I knew they wouldn’t shout my name, out of concern that would call the attention of the guards. I peered around the corridor, but it was as empty as the Chancellor’s soul. I ran my hands over the rough walls, until I felt the touch of fine metal. I wrapped my fingers around the golden engraved hilt of the sword. Two dove wings sprouted at the cross-guard. The crown at the pommel shone in the sunlight. I pulled the beautiful weapon out of its display and admired it in my hand. Even if this sword was stained with what I assumed was blood, it was just as enchanting. It was surprisingly light in my grip. I slashed the air in front of me and felt the perfect balance in my palm. I heard the sound of high heels before she rounded the corner. Reena appeared at the opposite end of the hall. She looked a little startled when she saw me, but quickly masked her surprise with concern. She took a few tentative steps forward but stopped about ten feet away from me. Her sweet smile almost lulled me into dropping the sword.
“Myra,” Reena pointed at my sword like I was a toddler playing with a pointy stick. “What are you doing with that sword? Put it away before you hurt yourself.” I raised the point at her. The swirling design of frosted flowers imprinted in the blade were poetic. This sword cut down anything that bloomed, regardless of beauty or majesty; everything must come to an end.
“We need to talk.” I took a step towards her. She sighed like an exasperated mother, who was tired of telling her child to do as they are told. She pulled her hair free out of her ponytail and shook out her lush mane. Casually, as if she was taking a stroll in a park, she walked over to the other sword. She drew it out of the sheath and leaned on the sword like a walking stick.
“You’re right. Let’s talk my sweet little sister.”