Crucible Vows

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Chapter 17

I lost track of how long Luna and I were in that dungeon. I didn’t know if it was hours, or days, or longer. I felt such little hope that I didn’t even hear the Knight come to the door and unlock it. He walked over to me and easily placed cuffs on my wrists and dragged me out of the cell. I simply followed and did nothing. I figured I was on my way to be executed. I had no way out, and I couldn’t fight back. I didn’t pay attention to where we were going. I had been zoned out until I was sat down and the smell of fresh cooked food brought me back.

I was seated in an extravagant room. A hot meal was in front of me, and across the way was the King. He was already cutting into his food and taking a bite. I gave him a confused look and he simply indicated for me to eat. I froze. That was a man who wanted me dead simply because I was an Elf. How could I trust the food in front of me wasn’t poisoned?

It was silent for a while as he ate. I refused to move. I couldn’t run and escape, there were Knights guarding the exit, and there was no way for me to be able to get through the window. Even if I could get out of the castle, I wouldn’t be able to last long in the Capital. As I sat there, the King’s eyes remained on my form. Eventually, he finished his meal and wiped his mouth with a napkin before standing and walking over to me.

He stood over me and took the fork and knife and cut into the meat. Once he had a small chunk on the end of the fork, he offered it to me. I turned my head away. He sighed and ate it instead. He wouldn’t have poisoned the food if he were going to eat it. He continued to cut until the beef was all small chunks. Setting the utensils aside, he sat down in the chair next to me.

Hesitantly, I grabbed another fork and stabbed a piece of meat. Slowly, I placed the food in my mouth and began to chew.

“You know,” he started. “I don’t often have prisoners as guests at my table.”

I didn’t respond to his words. I focused on the food, finding I had little appetite.

“I figured I could make an exception this time because you have information I desire.” He leaned forward and stared at me. “And I can’t very well have the Princess of Nythstaesi eat in a cold room of stone.”

I choked on my bite and turned to him abruptly. He had a smile on his lips, showing he had won that moment.

“So, Princess Meira.” He continued. I hadn’t heard my real name in so long, but it didn’t feel right coming from him. “What are you doing here?”

I wiped my mouth. “How did you know?”

He let out a disgusted sound before standing up. “You have your mother’s features, but your father’s coloration. You’re a perfect mix of the two. Their likeness is engraved into my mind after I gutted them.”

All my appetite had left at that moment.

“I wondered how you managed to escape. It never occurred to me to check the outskirts of my Kingdom.” He taunted. “Luckily for me, Luna was a good soldier and reported back to me. I just didn’t expect it to be you.”

I let out a long breath and stared down at my clasped hands in my lap. “What do you want?”

“An eye for an eye.” He stated plainly. “Did you ever learn about the Obrenor Tragedy?”

I shook my head and he turned back to me.

“My parents,” he began. “Traveled to Nythstaesi to discuss terms of an alliance. There was once even discussion of your marriage to me. But your parents wanted you to be able to marry someone you genuinely loved. After much discussion, a treaty was drawn up that would benefit both Kingdoms. A treaty that was broken not long after signed.”

I stared at the King for a while longer.

“On your side of the border, Elves attacked the carriage and killed my parents.” He turned my chair and gripped the arm rests. “I was left alone to ascend to the throne at thirteen years of age. And your people are to blame.”

He glared at me before he pushed himself off and turned towards the windows.

“That can’t be right.” I responded.

“I remember the report like it was yesterday.” He was furious.

I stood up. “My parents would honor any agreement they made. I remember that day. Reports of rogue bandits attacking carriages along the border was extremely common. We were devastated at the news of your parents.”

“You did nothing!” He turned on his heel and glared at me.

“We did what we could!” I responded in kind. “Once those bandits were found, we dealt with them. I was fairly young so I can’t remember much. But I do know that justice was served. Your anger towards my people is not justified.”

“It was Elves that killed my parents.” He argued.

My knuckles were white with rage. “And you generalized that all Elves were like the ones who murdered them. My father did everything in his power to prevent it from happening again to anyone else. My mother tried to contact you to help, but you refused. Don’t blame my people for your lack of wanting help. And you held this grudge for well over a decade. What makes you any better than those who killed your parents when you sent your army to not only kill my parent but massacre my people in response to a small group that were driven by greed.”

“If every Elf from Nythstaesi died by my hands, it would never avenge my parents!”

I shoved him away from me. “And killing every Elf from Nythstaesi wouldn’t bring them back!”

Two guards rushed over and grabbed my arms. I struggled against them for a bit until the King lifted his hand, causing them to drop their grip. I glared at him and he returned the stare until a long breath left his chest.

“Nonetheless,” he said as he indicated for the Knights to force me to my chair again. “You have some questions I want answered. And you will do so, otherwise death isn’t the only thing you need to worry about.”

I stayed silent.

“Tell me, Meira.” He leaned forward. “Do you hate humans now?”

“No.”

He nodded. “And are you acting as a spy for the Elves?”

“I’m no spy. I’m just trying to get to Alovia.” I said through clenched teeth.

“So, they could help your people against me?”

“To survive.”

He was silent for a moment. “And what of my Captain, Luna?”

“What about him?”

“You care a great deal for him, don’t you?” His smile returned.

My eyes widened.

“You have feelings for the Captain, don’t you?”

I swallowed. I had to do what I could to protect Luna from the King. “No. I tricked him. I manipulated him to get him to have sympathies for me so I could use him to get to Alovia. He doesn’t deserve to die because of me. He simply fell prey to my lies.”

“Why admit that now?” His smile disappeared.

I was holding back tears as best I could. “Because I know that there’s no way for me to escape. I’d rather die with a clear spirit.”

The sound of someone stumbling caught my attention and I turned to the door. Luna was ushered in, his eyes having a look of betrayal played across them. He heard what I said, and my heart shattered. As much as I wanted to run over to him, I had to remain where I was. If I could get the King to believe my words, then Luna could be spared for his part in this whole thing. I turned away and closed my eyes to prevent tears from falling.

“Thank you for bringing him here.” The King said. “I’ll speak to him quickly. Take her back to her cell. We’ll have an execution tomorrow evening. Prepare a bonfire.”

My heart fell, and I let out a shaky breath. I was forced to my feet and followed the guards. Passing Luna, I didn’t look at him. I simply kept going until I was back in my cell. Only when the Knights left did I allow myself to break down and cry. All seemed lost.

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