The dormitories are old and plain. It looks like a hospital with all the beds lined up in tight rows. I quickly find a bed that isn't being used, and settle onto it, noticing as the bed creaks underneath me. This is nothing like the bed's I'm used to from the palace. Instead, these beds are small and decorated only in regular white blankets. Even the bed itself is stiff and cold against my back as I lay down, stretching my arms above my head with a yawn.
"Tired?" Como grins from his own bed, positioned neatly next to mine. And I can't help but wonder how long he's been staring at me.
"You aren't?" I scratch my head in thought, wondering how it could be that in such a short amount of time, my life had changed so much. For better or for worse? I don't know. Not yet at least.
"Nah. Too much to think about." Como replies with a shrug, getting up from his bed and motioning for me to do the same. I follow him as he starts for the door, and we walk out the dormitory together.
"What are you thinking about?" I ask out of curiosity. Como is a friend, and yet I still don't know much about him. He is a mystery, just like I am to him. And still we manage to get along nicely.
"My past." He sighs, rubbing his temples with his hands. I look around us as we walk, there are many offices and dormitories that line the huge room of the lounge part of the association. The part that we first entered through. But there are also doors that don't have a sign saying what it is that lies in there. And that scares me more than I want to admit.
"Me too." I nudge him as we sit down at the tables of the lounge. People sit and talk all around us, and it's nice to feel like I am not totally alone. Como grabs two bowls full of slimy mashed potatos lying around on the middle of the table, just waiting for someone to eat them, and hands one to me ginerly.
"Looks almost too good to eat." He jokes, tenderly spooning some potatoes into his mouth, a grimace plastered to his face. I follow his lead, and immediately regret it as a sour flavor washes down my throat. The mashed potatoes are heavy and gross, and to be honest...I don't even think they are made of real potatoes.
"Wow. Who made this?" I gag, forcing down my spoonful of sludge, sliding the bowl away from me as quick as I can be.
"Don't know, but I'm guessing it's shipped from where we get all our resources." Como chokes on his potatoes, and he wipes at his mouth, furiously trying to clean himself of the horrible taste of what must be packaged potato meal.
"And where do our resources come from?" I ask him, my thoughts still on the disaster of mashed potatoes now pushed across the table from us.
"The association has many allies throughout each of the kingdoms. I'm willing to bet that some of those allies have access to many different resources, like...whatever the hell this is." Como gestures at his bowl, making a face, and I chuckle softly at his humor.
"That's good." I say, because if the association has allies, then that means that we have more than enough powerful technology and minds to maybe have a shot at overthrowing the Royals. But that's a big maybe. Because the Royals have guards and weapons that we don't. Except...we have magic.
"Lets explore a little." Como says after awhile, and we both get up together, happy to leave the lounge. We explore most of the headquarters of the association. All of the dormitories, and the offices that hold many barking officers of some kind. It's like a maze down here, so far underground, and I can't help but feel a little trapped, even though I know I am finally free.
The only places that we do not visit are the rooms without a label. And still, I cannot keep out my suspicion. What is behind those doors? And why aren't we allowed entry into them?
I wake up to a muffled sound next to me, and I roll around quickly to find Como in his bed next to mine, snoring into his pillow contently. Even when we stayed at the barn, he fell asleep quickly and his snores always prevented me from doing the same. With a small sigh, I get up off my bed and find my way to the door even in the grasp of pure darkness.
As I emerge to the lounge, I see that I am the only one still awake and that even the people that were in the offices aren't there. They must be asleep too, I tell myself with a nod. I walk to where the dark plush seats are, and turn on a light in the corner as to not awaken anyone, even though I know that everyone is fast asleep right now in the closed doors of the dormitories.
Next to me on a small coffee table, I pick up a thin magazine. They remind me vaguely of the ones my mother and I went through when I was to plan my wedding to Brenton, except that these are small and not about weddings. I flip the magazine over to see if anything on the back will spike my attention, and almost fall back in my chair when I see what is imprinted on the paper of the thin book.
Aella Rose Mistral of the kingom of AirDale, along with Prince Cassius Aly Cly of BloomsRide, and Princess Anahita Aqua Cascade of StormsEye have all seem to have mysteriously vanished. The only left child of Royalty, Brenton Kai Uriel vowed to find them in his speech last week.
The magazine reads as if it is narrarating my life, and I feel my cheeks wet with tears as I realize what this means. Both my sister and her betrothed are gone. Probably dead in an accident the Royals staged as a dissapearance. Or, even worse, they killed them on purpose.
Maybe Aella or Cassius knew something they shouldn't have, and they had to pay for it with their lives. But why didn't Brenton also disappear with them? Did he help with their murders? And how could my parents kill their own daughter? It's a creul and despicable thing for them to do. And I can't help but realize how much I don't know about the King and Queen I used to call my parents.
I cry silently to myself as this all swirls around inside my head, letting my tears slip onto my lap. But after a moment, I realize that this is certainly not what they would have wanted. No, I need to be strong. And I need to figure out what really happened to them. My first instinct is to find a computer.
But I don't know any passwords, and I have no clue how to hack into a piece of technology. So instead, I settle for reading more of the magazine, hoping desperately that it will have more information on the missing Royals.
Princess Anahita has been missing for a week now, and has said to have been spotted fleeing the palace of BloomsRidge. If you have any information on her dissapearance please contact the number below immediately so we can reunite her with her family and betrothed who are all so scared for her safety.
Princess Aella and Prince Cassius only dissapeared a few days ago, and were last spotted running together inside the gardens of BloomsRidge palace. Again, if you have any information on their strange dissapearance please contact the number below.
The magazine stops then, and I sit alone in complete silence. I don't move, not even when the clock on the far right wall strikes midnight. I just stare straight ahead. Too much in shock to do much of anything else. Eventually, I stand up on shaky legs and make my way back to my dormitory, my tears dry on my cheeks. And I can only assume my eyes are a puffy red from my crying.
"Are you ok?" Someone asks, and I jump, almost screaming. But Como put's a hand over my mouth before I can alarm anyone.
"What the hell?!" I scold him, shaking my fists in the air. He just looks at me worriedly, and I turn pink with embarassement.
"Just asking." He tells me, holding his hands out in front of his face in surrender, and I let myself relax again, my shoulders sagging and my expression going back to normal. Across the room I notice a mirror, and I walk towards it slowly already noticing my startlingly different appearance. Of course I knew I would look every bit different than my past Princess self, but I never expected to look like this.
My blue eyes seem tired and older than before, and I look at least 10 pounds lighter than my usual 123 pounds, my cheekbones standing out against my pale skin and my hair covering my head in greasy black strands. I have grown about an inch since my escape from BloomsRidge, and I stand proudly at 5'4.
Even my clothes make me look like more and more a different person, my purple T shirt and jeans already starting to grey from over use. As I look back at my face, I can see my scars perfectly against my skin. One stretches from my temple, all the way to the left side of my mouth, and the other stretches lightly from my nose to my mouth on the opposite side.
"What?" Como asks me, taking the place beside me and staring at me through the mirror, his dark eyes meeting mine for a second before I look away.
"Nothing." I mutter, more to myself than him, and I turn on my heel quickly. I look so different from my usual self that I almost can't recognize her at all. My reflection that is.
"Come on. I know you, I know it's not nothing." Como urges, but I'm not about to tell him the truth. Not about my scars, my sister, the lies I've been told my whole life, or the fact that the one guy I've ever loved, may have turned out to be a murderer.
"Como, I..." I begin, trailing off as a soft cry sounds through the empty Quarters of the association. What the hell was that?
"It's probably nothing." Como reassures me, putting one arm around my shoulders, as if for support. But I am not weak, and I do not need his words to help guard me. Still, I don't pull away from his warm arm around me.
"Yeah, but..." The sound starts again, louder now, more urgent than before, and I bound to the door that I suspect holds the screams. If the person locked inside had been crying for someone to rescue him or her this whole time, it wasn't surprising that no one heard it. The sounds are muffled, and especially in a crowded room, sounds of talking would overpower the small crys for help.
I grasp the handle of the door, but I cannot seem to move it, and I huff in frustration. The locked door in front of me mocks me with every pull, as I try to get the door to open. But I already know it will be of no use, and I step back, drying my sweaty brow on my shirt, with annoyance.
"Step back." Como gently pushes me aside, and I notice a bobby pin in his hands, how he got it I have no idea, as he unlocks the door in a few short clicks of metal against the thin material of the pin. Impressive, I think to myself, staring at Como with awe before remembering the task at hand. The door we are entering is one of the unmarked rooms, and I shiver to myself as we push forwards, and into the darkness of the room.
"Hello?" I whisper, and I nod at Como who sparks up his hands in little bolts of lightning, lighting up the room around us in a second. The first thing I notice about the room is it's tiny size. Probably less than a quarter of the size of our dormitory, and I step ahead cautiously, noticing every detail of the weird room from the dusty floor, to the darkness still ahead of us. My feet make tiny sounds against the hard cement floor, and I reach one of the most horrible sights of my life in such a short moment.
A glass viewing are separates Como and I from a dark figure in the center of the room across from us. The persons hands and feet are tied together in large knots of rope, twisted into the chair that supports the figure, and blood trickles down one side of the shadows face. I stand up on my toes to get a better view of the person, my hands pressed up against the freezing cold glass.
The figure moves, strands of long brown-blonde hair falling over a petite hour glass figure, and I startle.
The figure behind the glass is Aella.