Chapter 8 - In the Hands of the Sharns
“You have done very well.” He said grinning.
“Who are they?” One of the men asked.
“This is the High King’s own brother High Prince Fain.” He said kneeling down in front of Fain who scowled at him. “And this…” He looked at Alice and frowned. “King Calin will know who she is.” He said before standing back up. “Ready the horses. We need to make the Kings Camp within the hour.”
They tossed them onto the back of a horse each and tied them to the saddle before riding hard to where camp lights shone in the distance.
Alice huddled against her horse, grateful at least for the rope holding her on because she doubted she’d have the strength to hold herself. She felt the barrier drop and looked over at Fain.
Don’t worry, he thought to her, I’ll keep you safe.
She shook her head slightly. You can’t promise that, she thought, and she looked away knowing that this was all her fault. She had tried to help him and all she’d done was get him in more danger.
They rode into the camp, their leader slowing down so that everyone could see them as they were taken to the King’s Tent. Alice gritted her teeth at their stares and shut her eyes to block it out.
Prince Fredric came out of the tent and stood watching as the horses approached. They stopped in front of him and Alice and Fain were taken down and thrown on their knees before him.
“High Prince Fain.” He said looking down at him. Fain narrowed his eyes but said nothing.
“Where is the King?” The man behind Fain asked.
“Don’t worry King Calin will be back soon. And you will be suitably rewarded.” He said irritated before looking across at Alice and his jaw dropped in shock.
The King’s Magi stepped forward and whispered in his ear but he already knew what she was. He waved him away with his hand and moved closer to her.
“Do you know what you have brought us?” He asked of the men and they shook their heads. Alice felt their eyes on her and she gritted her teeth staring at the ground. “This is a Fae Girl. High King Uther’s Fae Girl.” He said quietly as he bent down to look into her face.
Alice shifted back on her knees looking away from him and he grabbed her face to hold her still.
“Let me go.” She snarled at him but held her face firm in his hands as he stared at her.
Fain gritted his teeth beside her, wanting to fight, wanting to protect her but knowing that it would do nothing to help her right now. He had to just bide his time and wait for the opportunity.
“Put them in a tent until the King returns and make sure they’re guarded.” He said. His Magi muttered in his ear again and he nodded. “Fine. Put her in the Iron Cage then.” He replied and he got back up.
“No.” Alice cried out remembering how the Iron had felt when the Agnai had bound her wrist with it and knowing that to be surrounded by it would feel infinitely worse. But they ignored her. Hands grabbed them and they were dragged away.
They tied Prince Fain by his waist against one of the tent posts and bound his arms and feet together. He struggled against the bindings, struggled to get free, and to get to Alice.
Three soldiers wheeled in what looked to Alice to be a human sized bird cage. She quivered as she saw it, already remembering how the Iron had burnt her from when the Agani had tried to burn her. And remembering how it had taken her Magic from her, long after the Iron was gone from her skin.
“Please don’t.” She begged them as they dragged her towards it. “Please…” But they forced her inside, ignoring her cries when the Iron burnt into her skin as they shoved her roughly through the entrance and locked the door shutting her in. The bottom of the cage had a small board of wood on it and she shrank herself into a ball, feeling the weight of the Iron all around her, feeling it compressing her essence, compressing her entirely.
She curled herself into a foetal position shaking with nausea and trying not to whimper but the noise still escaped her. Fain shifted in his bindings, twisting round so that he was nearer to her.
He called to her in his head but felt that same block he’d felt when the Agnai had got her. He leaned nearer, trying to stretch the ropes as far as they would go but he was nowhere near her. He called her name quietly.
Alice looked up at him and then looked away ashamed. It was all her fault, she thought, she’d done this. She had gotten them caught and now she was responsible for whatever happened to him.
She stared at her hands, watching them slowly curl up under the pressure.
It felt like hours that she lay crumpled and still whimpering under the oppression of the Iron.
The tent opened and King Calin walked in, squatting down beside the cage and looking at her through the thick Iron bars like he couldn’t quite believe his eyes.
“Open it.” He said quietly.
“Your Highness…” the Magi said behind him trying to reason with him.
“I said open it.” He repeated more forcefully to his guards ignoring his Magi completely.
The lock clanged loudly as it unlocked and Alice barely had time to register it before she was yanked out of the cage and was held up trembling by her arms.
“What have you done to her?” Calin asked looking directly at his Magi.
“It was for the best. She is Uther’s Fae. There was no telling what damage she might have done.”
“Look at her.” He snapped. “I ought to throw you in there and see how you like it.”
“If we hadn’t have put her in there she could’ve killed half your army.”
King Calin shook his head. He glanced over at where Fain was still tied and was glaring at him and he sighed.
“High Prince Fain.” He said. “Are you injured?”
Fain shook his head.
“Fine. I will see that you are taken care of in a manner fitting your station if you promise you will remain in this tent.”
“I can’t make that promise.” Fain replied and King Calin sighed.
“Then I will be forced to leave you tied as you are.”
“Do what you want with me but leave the girl alone.” He said and Calin looked at him and then at Alice who was still trembling but not so much.
“You know I can’t agree to that.” He said calmly before turning and leaving. “Get the girl cleaned up. I want her in my tent as soon as she is.” He ordered and Alice cried out as they dragged her from the tent and away from Fain.