One Way: Part Ten
Rubia screamed as the mace collided with her chest. It shattered the gemstones embedded over her underbelly and slammed her into the table, burning her delicate skin for several painful seconds longer. Finally, Benjai lifted the mace head, still grinning malevolently.
"You fool!" Amadeus yelled to Rubia. "I could have taken that!"
"I'm... not dead yet... Hurry and persuade Benjai, you idiots."
Cerulean had clambered out of his dining chair and hurried over to her, but he could do nothing but stare. Dromiay, on the other hand, finally blinked. We had everything to lose now that Rubia was slipping away.
I opened my mouth to speak. I wanted to cry out so badly the first word that came to me. Not Rubia's name, but the person I thought of her as.
Faith, get it together.
I turned to Benjai.
"Why won't you look at what you've done?"
I'd barely spoken when something hit me deep in my stomach... my past. The one we didn't talk about.
But maybe I needed my past right then.
"You've ruined the lives of all these people – and the ones at this table don't even realize it."
Maybe I could redeem myself a little more.
"You know what we want. Let go of all this. You'll free yourself, too. Trust me."
Benjai started to laugh again. And then, "You want me to trust you? I barely know your name!"
I stared at the floor for a second. And then I said, "Believe me. I know. I wasn't a person until I let go of being on top."
Silence. Benjai smirked.
I opened my mouth again, but Dromiay placed a hand on my shoulder.
"She's too far gone."
Dromiay was right. I closed my eyes.
It took losing everything for me to change.
I knew what I had to do.
The laws of physics and magic prevented me from completely eradicating Benjai. So maybe it was time to break them, before Rubia died and Benjai picked another of my friends to torture and we were stuck here anyways.
Amadeus. I'm sorry.
I don't know how that I knew I could, but I did. I clambered onto the table. The stage. The only place where any of us could get Benjai's attention. I stood in front of Amadeus, and kicked the last of our tableware off the table.
I stared at my Queen, caretaker, and mentor. Deep, cleansing breath. I sensed the tablecloth's sweet silkiness beneath my bare feet, the weight of my expensive robes over my little body, and the unbearable burden of the sky coming down on my shoulders.
"Settle down a little, darling," she crooned. "Whatever has upset you?"
I winced, sick of being made exceptions for. I've just been her little tool all along.
"You have." I spat the words out like a bug had flown into my mouth. Like the swear words they were.
The Queen appeared mildly upset. "Darling... Did some of the servants put you up to this?"
"No. I put me up to this. I want to go home. Benjai. Please. You're destroying yourself with this life."
My hands pulsed and twitched with magic. I wanted to blast her head off her shoulders, but I kept my cool. I can't kill her. It would leave us all trapped here.
"The outsiders have put strange thoughts in your head, my princess. Don't you understand?" Benjai's face remained amused. "This is home. There's no way out."
Unless I destroy her mind and body, and blindly hope that her heart and soul have been secretly wanting home all these years... No. There wasn't a chance. I wouldn't take it.
I hissed, "This place was never my home."
"There's nothing you can do," Benjai shrugged, ignoring me. "Except cut your losses and apologize to me. Perhaps I'll keep you around."
"Apologize?!" I exclaimed.
"Then again, there's no way to fix a bad egg, is there?" Queen Benjai murmured. "Maybe I should just be rid of you, too. I can, you know..."
"No. Nuh-uh. Not gonna happen." I clenched my fist. I was ready to fight for the people who'd offered me forbidden fruit. For putting a thought in my empty head, they deserved it.
"Oh... I assure you it will happen, Dromiay."
I shook my head and looked up over Benjai's throne, at the clearing with the tapestry and the colossal golden chandelier. I opened my palm and sent a charge of white light over Benjai's head. The chandelier burst into a hundred shards of gold. Benjai didn't flinch. Not as the shards hit the back of her throne, and flecked the table.
I started to smile. That was pretty to watch. One last thing for me to enjoy.
The rest of the room remained silent.
"Darling, nobody gets your joke," Queen Benjai said.
"Oh. I know. But it's okay... Because I haven't reached the punchline yet."
She folded her arms. "I'm waiting."
I stopped my laughter and became grave.
"The laws of physics and magic prevent me from destroying every part of you. So maybe it's time to break those laws."
I looked at the others. Cerulean and Faith were tending to Rubia, but Amadeus stood right in front of me. I made eye contact with him and giggled.
"Bye friend... thanks for everything."
I screamed as loud as I could. No careful spells or order to my magic now. Just force.
Benjai wrinkled her brow at first, and several seconds passed that way. Part of me was convinced I was doing nothing and another part thought I was dreaming. But what was left... What was left knew this was my destiny.
This was the one way.
Benjai burst into a scream.
A choir began to trill off in the background. The world bent back on itself, only to suddenly snap back again. The nobles stared. Maybe chaos ensued... maybe it didn't. Maybe it all was a dream... maybe it could never be.
Maybe I was already gone, or maybe my life was just now starting.
I laughed. Happy. That much was certain.
There came a second of darkness.
And then... not even darkness.
"She's gone!" I reeled. "She's gone!"
Faith's paws flew to her mouth. Cerulean lurched forward, his eyes searching for her.
Rubia finally opened her eyes and exclaimed, "The empty throne!"
"Benjai's gone too!" My own voice sounded like an echo from a distant land. I didn't believe any of it.
And then the sky began to fall.
Nobody moved as a few chunks of gold came down from the ceiling. Then one huge boulder crashed onto part of the table farther down, crushing the nobles sitting there.
And everyone panicked.
Guards, nobles and servants alike were all equals now as they ran for where each one thought the exit was. But it was so seldom used, nobody knew for sure anymore.
"Follow me! I think I remember the way out!" he yelled. Rubia squeaked as he scooped her into his arms. And then he was off.
Some of the younger nobles and servants were starting to scream now. Cerulean was charging down the hall, and Faith dashed a few steps after him. Stunned, I followed them, my steps rushed and uneven. Faith scampered by my side for a few seconds, but then she passed me.
I didn't let Cerulean out of my sight as we raced through the corridors. Faith would duck ahead of him to slam open a door, since his arms were full. I realized just then how merciful it was to have someone to cooperate with. Some of my shock turned into bitterness.
A pack of nobles was charging behind us, but we were close enough to hear whenever one was smashed by a falling chunk. I glanced over my shoulder once, just once, in time to see a servant Acara disappear through the floor.
Lovely. Just lovely. This isn't the ground floor.
Then I saw Cerulean going down the staircase at the back of the hall. Okay, almost there...
I screamed as the ground fell away beneath my own feet.
For one terrified second, air rushed around my sides. All I could do was spread-eagle myself to slow my fall. Then I slammed onto a pile of rubble. Something in my chest cracked painfully.
I rose with a moan. There! The giant front doors were flung wide open. Freedom at last for us. Cerulean's shape caught my eye, fresh sunlight outlining his figure. Faith sprinted ahead of him into the wide open. A glimpse of a red tail in Cerulean's arms told me he still had Rubia.
They made it into the sunlight. I started to run after them. But a weight crashed down onto my head and I sank onto my knees. The hundreds of others who'd been pressing behind us finally rushed out ahead of me.
The world pulsed as I fell onto my arms, aching. The last two people out both stepped on me, but I didn't even twitch. Furniture and more rubble fell all around me. I watched beautiful golden rubble, more and more, rise to cover the lower half of the way out. I was stuck now. I was too weak to climb.
Finally, Benjai's throne landed on top of the rubble. Hee hee. Funny.
Maybe I was about to lose consciousness. But it didn't matter. No one will miss me. Not now that Dromiay's gone... What happened to her, again? Oh yeah, she destroyed Queen Benjai so that everyone who wants home will be able to go home.
The sky fell all around me. Death from above. Except possibly not death for me. Unless Cerulean ends up dying because he can't go home because I'm not with him and Rubia and Faith.
I screamed at the top of my lungs, on my feet before I knew it. The mound of rubble scraped my feet as I went up it, up, higher, higher—
I crested it before I even knew it.
The sky was red. The plants were dead. The people were huddled together in one confused mass. Except near the front were the other three. Cerulean looked graver than I'd ever seen him. Faith peered into his arms. Rubia still hung limply from them. Her eyes were closed, but her wounded chest still rose and fell.
They looked up. But they didn't have a chance to say anything, because then it changed.
It happened in the time it took to succeed. The time it took to change. The time it took for all of my burdens to leave me, except for the one that would haunt me forever.
We were at the place of least resistance. The place where our magic all connected.
The center of our own land.
To be continued...