Chapter 19 - The Banquet
Copyright © DenGlemtePrinsesse, 2020
I lost it. My hands fell to my sides, my body had given in and let him drag me backwards away from the room. I don't think I could ever escape here on my own.
I watched the four of them stood by the door, looking like a tree trunk. Slim, tall tree trunks, whose thin hands and feet are so defined like oak branches. The circular wooden faces held two huge white clouded eyes, occupying almost half of their faces. Two huge thick horns on each side of their heads, twisting spirally to the ends. They were standing against the moonlight, but the outline of their physical being was enough to conclude their monsterious appearance.
One of them remove some hair, or roots, away from its face with its abnormally pointed fingers. It sniffed the air in the room and I wanted to faint when it smiled revealing the triangular teeth it has when it finally looked at the crowd. It advances, and more of its kind arrived at the door. It was in time that I was dragged away from the room, behind the wall, away from all the creature I never would've thought exist.
What are they? I don't want to know.
I breathe, and held it in once more. My eyes are shut but I don't remember closing them. I felt my body on the cold ground. Then a loud agonizing cry filled room. That cry, that sound, very distinct. That ear piercing sound children make when they are in absolute pain, it hurts both my ears and my heart.
"Omaa! Om—" And then it stop. It just stop.
For being a total coward I wanted to clench my fist and hit myself, but the weakness in my helpless being was too dominant I couldn't even move. The room was immediately filled by others' anguish.
"Get up." He whispered extremely low and close to my ear. And I wanted to. I badly wanted to get on my feet and ran, away from here, to my home. I never wanted to stay here, knowing too well that the predators are just a wall away from me. But the cries, the tormented sound of scratches, that sound of something breaking and tearing apart, those loud thuds I hear, they were all sending weakness to every muscle in my body. And I never wanted to imagine where they were exactly coming from.
"Help!" Those people, they could've escape, they could've run from here or fight back. They could do whatever they had to but die in their sleep. Nor wake up just to be brought face to face with death. Those people were not given a chance to choose for themselves. And as much as I wanted to blame Cirga, Rade and Terra for holding me back to go to the people, for being selfish for they only saved themselves, I couldn't. Part of me is shamelessly grateful that they'd included me in their escape, that they'd chosen that path for me when I am so sure I wouldn't be able to escape and move on my own. I detest myself, that despicable, selfish and pathetic me that doesn't want to take responsibility for the lives of those people.
I felt a pressure on my arms, and I was pulled back to the present. Three guys staring down at me, their faces are covered with exhaustion and remorse. Cirga put a finger on his lips, gesturing us to remain quiet. He pointed up the walls. Right, the labyrinth. He might be planning to use that way, out of the coliseum.
Terra climbed Cirga's shoulder. Then he made his own effort, stepping onto the bricks to cross the remaining distance until he reached the top. Rade's hands were on my waist pulling me up to Cirga's shoulder before I realized what's happening. I gulped, letting a short breathe before reaching up to Terra's waiting hands. Both guys followed, they climb the wall faster than I did.
Atop was a spacious room, I should never really had to struggle walking on the bricks for it offers enough room for a person, but that other part of me made it difficult. That more humane side of me that acknowledge what I did is something to be ashamed of. That part that knows I am unworthy of the escape I failed to offer to those people. Hence that part of me wanted to stay here and face the same faith so I could make it up to them. But then again, I was dragging my body away. The other half of me, that shameless part of me that believes I am not in control and that it was not my fault. That part of me wanted to get out of here and go home.
We are all quiet, following Cirga, unwillingly listening to the woes of the people. My nose cringing to the smell lingering around the place, like rust.
Cirga gestured us to stop. I felt hope the moment I saw a huge hole on walls below us. We watched Cirga slid down quietly from the wall and it made me wonder how he seems to know all about this. I wanted to ask but we need to get away from here first. It was my turn to get down when all the crying stops and the whole building once again fell silent. I wanted to cry.
Rade's hand tightened on my arms but he didn't stop moving. He help me got down to the waiting Cirga and Terra.
Once we finally set foot outside the huge coliseum everyone was catching breath. Cirga didn't stop walking like the rest of us, instead he began heading away faster.
"I could not believe it." Terra said, still whispering. He leaned his back to the wall and had his eyes shot at me before following Cirga. What did I do?
"Your kingdom is lunatic." He hissed.
"Why did you say that?" I couldn't help but ask. I don't know where we're heading but I'm sure it will be somewhere safe. We didn't go out from the door we entered, we're not even walking through that improvised path we'd passed through earlier. Instead, Cirga led us through the middle of the muddy, tall grasses. Our feet, sinking to the soft, watery soil, and the towering, sharp grasses didn't make the trek easier. Every step is a struggle to both our balance and vision.
"You know not? Thy kingdom has been sacrificing lives of innocent people for their selfish ways." Terra whispered through gritted teeth.
"We came here to seek nothing but aid from those idiotic princes of yours and yet they deemed us infidels, trespassing their fancy territory. There is chaos everywhere and instead of looking after the needs of weaker territories, they chose to sit on their throne safeguarding what's only beneficial to them." Chaos? Everywhere?
"Please don't blame them. The princes just got back, they can't even remember anything. I'm sure that if they do, they will immediately help you." All three stop walking and looked back to me, their eyes were either curious or suspicious as they scanned my face.
I can't help it, I felt the need to defend them. While my friends remain clueless about what's going on in this world, I know they only needed to learn, to be brief. And once they are aware of everything, they will be making a move right away. They're just oblivious at the moment, but they will act once they know. It hurts hearing those words against them.
"I'm telling the truth." The following seconds felt like a staring contest with them. We just stood there, exchanging glances, me, trying to pursuade, and them, probably internalizing what I said.
What bothers me most is that, if this whole world knows about my friends' return, and yet my friends' remain clueless, people might accuse them of irresponsibility, like Terra does. And it also bothers me that there's still chaos. I believe I heard the Queen said that the evil thing has been destroyed. The Grand Duke said the prophecy has never been wrong. There will even be a feast to celebrate that. I don't understand what Terra is saying.
It was the sound of a twig cracking nearby followed by more twigs breaking and grasses moving that made us all stood alert. My heart is back, beating franctically. I stop breathing again. I badly wanted to take a step closer to them, but I'm afraid that the sound will only give away our location. Dave, help!
I saw the tall grasses nearby moving. I wanted to just faint and wake up when the sun is on the sky again. Cowardly as I am, I wanted to just disappear. If the following seconds will require me to run for my life, this, without a doubt, will be the end of me.
"Ali?" Terra asked.
"Yes." Three of them exhaled in unison, making me feel relieved on my own regardless whether or not I know what's going on.
"I know." A pale hand shoved the grasses in front of us revealing a blonde guy whose hair is flowing straight down his shoulders, it is so gold it looks like it's glowing in the middle of the dark forest. His eyes were pure black, all black that I couldn't find the will to glance again.
"Why are thou here?" He asked.
"We detoured. Those idiotic princes of hers thought we're trespassers, they made us sacrificial lambs." I sighed upon hearing Terra.
"Kindly stop saying that. I told you they are good people. They might not even know what happened here."
"Thou speak as if thou know them well." Cirga commented. I nodded.
"They are my friends—"
"A mortal." Ali stated, and I heard the hatred he tried so hard not to utter. And even though I couldn't look at his eyes, I still nodded in his direction.
"They left from my world. I was with them when they arrived here, I know them and I meant every word I said about them."
"Still they sent thou to die here."
"They didn't. The Que—" The Queen did. Did she?
"It can't be a sacrificial ceremony, can it? We have soldiers that escorted us. And even though it didn't work, they set perimeters outside, for our safety."
"Perimeters are for the people's safety. For their people's safety. Making sure no one escape to tell the gruesome covenant going on for years now." I don't want to think about it. I don't want to suspect. It couldn't be. The Queen, would she really? No. It can't be.
"I need to go back to the kingdom." I utter the words, not even knowing how I would do it, nor what I will do once I get there. Perhaps, asking the Queen would be proper. I'm not suspecting her. I just needed the confirmation she didn't know I was here, that it was a mistake. There probably is another banquet and I was just sent to the wrong one. That could be it. Right?
"You just escaped death and now you want to go back? You really think they would allow you to tell what you'd witness here? You will be dead as soon as they see thy shadow." Disregarding the anger, I manage to pull a smile on Terra's remarks. He cared. And while his every word might be the truth, I know I needed to take the risk. I only need to be next to my friends, that will secure my safety. I don't have anywhere else to go but there.
"If thy mind is already made up, our Ali will accompany thou back." I was so taken a back, I found myself staring at the black depths, I couldn't look away, I couldn't let him see that I'm scared, I never wanted to be offensive. I only looked at him to confirm if he's not in any way going against his own will, if he's surprise too at what Cirga had said, but when I found his impassive face and abyss eyes, staring at me, there lies no trace of objection from him. And I am thankful, knowing too well I couldn't make it out alone.
"We'll be heading back to our kingdom. Tell thy princes what happened here. Don't die." Cirga said, gesturing Rade and Terra to follow, both nodded at me.
"Thank you." I watched them vanished through the grasses. At this moment, I know what I needed to do.
"Shall we?" Ali asked not waiting for my response as his hand begin shoving the grass.
"We have to take the longer route, soldiers are everywhere." I immediately followed, keeping up with his stride.
"What Terra said about the banquet. Is it really the truth? That the people were not brought there to feast—"
"But to be feasted upon." He finished. I felt like someone had stab my chest. I shrugged the thoughts away, I shrugged that feeling of being betrayed. I couldn't accuse anyone, especially not the Queen. I have to hear her side of the story first.
My feet step on the exact spots his did. My shoes and socks were soaked with mud and water, dripping each time I take a step. I'm trying to focus on my surroundings, trying so hard to ignore my thoughts.
"And thy words. Is it true what thou utters back there? Thy princes are solicitous men?"
"Yes. They would help your kingdom if they know."
"Aye. He must have seen hope then, that Cirga." I heard him chuckle a little.
"We came from a neighboring kingdom. Our people is in danger. Our first line of defense has been brought down last night. Our second line must probably being torn by now. Our kingdom is so close to being discovered... Our king has been doing everything in his willpower to protect our people. If thou mortal utters nothing but the truth, I hope thy princes start doing something. The whole Utovaj needs them now, thy princes ought to act now."