The Princess Calling: Part Four
PART FOUR: Rosellen to the Rescue
Golden sunshine poured in my open window, and I turned ever so wistful at the thought of lying in its warmth. To be bedridden was truly the worst of feasible methods of torture. Why, even being thrown into the castle dungeon could not be as harsh! A soft sigh slipped off my lips. Boredom once again came to call, and I sank into the satiny depths of the bed and willed it all away.
Nobody was about to converse with. The other princesses were partaking in lessons, Dalton lived so many painful miles away, and Siri was cleaning the castle for the upcoming ball. Genevieve came to call at times, but the royalgirl Kougra was too busy entertaining her inscrutable uncle to be of any company at all.
Quite sorrowfully, I was alone. And quite frankly, it was my own fault. Oh, never for a moment did I regret rescuing the little Kyrii boy's kite from the high branches of the castle-ground tree. I only regretted being so clumsy and falling out of that tree. My ankle still hurt and my body seemed to have a dull ache all over. I desired so terribly to get up and go outdoors, but Madam Lupine was adamant, saying I wasn't truly strong yet. Even the doctor said it'd be best to wait a few more days, as I did take a pretty nasty fall.
So I waited quite anxiously to be well again. In the mean time, however, I could not promise anyone that I wouldn't go mad before the whole ordeal was over.
"I cannot believe you are going to miss the dance," Hadley mourned to me the next day.
"I know," Emilia sighed. "'Tis truly awful, Rosellen. Are you sure the doctor said you won't well enough to attend?"
I sighed along with her. "I will be stronger by then, but a princess cannot very well dance in crutches, can she? Besides, I would be a true disgrace to the entire kingdom. To have an invalid princess in training hobbling about, simply getting in the way? 'Twould be truly absurd. Not mention I fell out of their tree, for that matter. No, I could not show my face."
Labella shook her head and huffed nosily. "Rosellen, Rosellen, always getting herself into the toughest of scrapes. If you had not been so stubborn and clueless as to climb that tree in the first place, you would not find yourself in such a dilemma."
"I have been firmly aware that my decision was not the brightest," I stated severely. "But I had to rescue the kite. Wouldn't you have?"
"Indeed I would have not!" Labella said indignantly. "Such an act would be purely foolish."
"But the little boy," I mourned. "Not even for him?"
Labella softened just a touch, though she was still heated. "Look, Rosellen, you can't always fix everything—especially the problems of others. The Kyrii was senseless himself to be flying the kite so close to a tree in the first place. Even so, it wasn't your calling to mingle with his wrongdoing. We are princesses and we stick to ourselves. Now look at yourself. Poor, poor Rosellen with a broken ankle and bruised body, not the mention that gruesome bump on your forehead. I take that you've finally learned your lesson?"
I stared at the candid Labella for many, many moments. How dare she pinpoint my so many faults! "Labella... you are wrong about a good many things," I stated calmly yet with great solemnity. "The Kyrii boy was not senseless; he was having fun. And it was indeed my calling to rescue his kite; nobody else would have. Also, princesses do not stick to themselves at all. If we did, how would we successfully govern our kingdom in a way that is compassionate and knowledgeable? And no, I have not learned my lesson. Surely I won't be climbing another tree anytime soon, but as for helping another in need, I shall never cease from doing it."
The princesses' eyes grew wide and they turned to Labella, seeing how she would react. Labella's eyes grew narrowed, her expression darkening. "You think you're so good, Rosellen," she growled. "You think you have logical, sensible reasons for everything. Well, they aren't reasons—they are plain excuses. You've excuses for everything! You always have to try to make yourself look good, don't you? You always have to make yourself seem so innocent and worthy. Well, guess what, Rosellen: You will NEVER be a good princess." The words came as a snarl filled with venom. "Try hard as you can, little Rosellen Dellamore. But you'll ALWAYS fail. You're bound to it." Labella turned to leave, though she first fixed me with an austere glare, eyes dark and ominous. "Have a nice time here all by yourself with your puny little maid girl. The rest of us plan to have fun at the dance." She stalked from the room, leaving four horrorstruck princesses and one severely wounded one staring after her.
Labella never did return. I saw not a glimpse of the royalgirl Kyrii for many days. Then without warning, the others stopped visiting as well, and that was more than puzzling. Finally, I had Siri track down Hadley. She'd always been so honest with me. But it was a rather reluctant-looking Gelert that came shuffling into my bedchamber, face grim.
"We... we don't want any trouble," Hadley admitted with raised paws when I demanded the truth from her. She was standing a good ways from bed, as if afraid to come to near to me. "We've decided... to distance ourselves."
"What?" I was truly bewildered. "Whatever for?"
Hadley bit her lip, eyes going elsewhere. She hesitated.
"Hadley, I command you to tell me what is going on," I said, raising my voice.
"We just..." Hadley shuffled her polished shoe. "We all think that it is better this way... for the time being. The dance is Saturday, and... and well, we just don't want any trouble."
"Trouble?" I turned defensive. "This is all utter nonsense. You all can at least speak to me, for goodness' sake." I sobered. "Can you not?"
Hadley sighed. "Look, Rosellen... it's not as if we don't like you, because we do... umm... it's just that... well, we can't jeopardize the dance. It's very important, Rosellen. This is our chance to show that we've improved. To suggest that we can indeed be good princesses. Especially in front of the great king of Greenvelle. This is very, very important to us, Rosellen." Hadley paused, though the Gelert would not make my eye. "Surely you understand that?" she finally asked, though very soft.
"No," I said, shaking my head. "No, I fear I do not understand. I do not understand why you would turn your backs to me this way. I thought I was your friend."
"Rosellen," Hadley said harshly. "Stop taking this the wrong way."
"Well, how else am I supposed to take it?" I demanded, turning angry that the Gelert would not even look at me when speaking of this horrible news. "You come and tell me that you all wish not to associate yourselves with me anymore. What am I supposed to think?"
"That this is what is right," Hadley said. She paused. "We... we all had a good talk yesterday, Rosellen." My eyes widened as a wave of sorrow tumbled over me at the thought of them working against me. "We all decided that it was best. You were... bringing us down, Rosellen. Your way... they aren't... I mean..." Hadley crumpled, sighing. There was a vast pause. When Hadley finally spoke, her words were layered with apology. "Goodbye, Rosellen... at least until after the dance. Perhaps..." Hadley turned around with her back to me, seemingly sad. For many moments there was a painful silence.
"Hadley..." I started. "Don't do this... not you." But the Gelert just shook her head.
"I... I truly am sorry, Rosellen." She began to tremble. "Goodbye..."
She rushed from the room. She did not look back.
"How do they feel?" Madam Lupine's anxious eyes surveyed me carefully. I put wait on my crutches, took a few steps, and smiled.
"Quite well, actually. I will get used to it, I think."
Madam Lupine sighed. "Very well."
"Now, Princess Rosellen," the doctor Gelert said. "I still do not want you to be partaking in too much physical activity. You're not altogether strong yet. You may still be prone to dizzy spells with that knock to the head you took."
My paw went to the knot on my forehead and I smiled grimly. "Very well, doctor. Thank you."
With Siri's assistance, I was finally able to be up and about. We hobbled around the castle together, and I relished every moment of it. Soon Madam Lupine informed me that the king and queen wished to see me. I admit, I was quite fearful. But in reality, they were quite amiable. King Lyle seemed a bit rough around the edges, and Queen Marceila was too prim to judge even a Bilguss. Even so, they seemed sorry I'd had an accident on their grounds.
As I was hobbling back to my part of the castle however, hushed, low, indignant tones filled my ears. Once again, it was curiosity versus sensibility. Be sensible and mind my own business, or be curious and see just what the ruckus was? I wanted to sensible, honest I did. But then I caught the words "take over" and "the throne will be mine," and I knew I could not let this matter pass without taking heed to it.
I crept over to the cracked door and took a peek. I saw a finely attired Kougra, bent over and talking to a short, stout little Bruce.
"B-but, Sir C-Carmody!" the Bruce babbled. "Such a notion is a-awful wrong."
"Keep your voice down, you idiot," Sir Carmody snarled, looking like he might grab the poor Bruce by the collar and give him a good shake.
He must be Genevieve's uncle, I noted, eyes falling over the austere Kougra again. Genevieve was right; something was indeed amiss. I continued to listen, heart pounding.
"Now," Carmody continued in a low tone. "Here's the deal. I've spent quite a while trying to sort it all out, and I daresay my efforts were worthwhile. All we have to is take out the..." Suddenly the sir Kougra stopped talking. As his head slowly swiveled toward the doorway... right where I was standing... I whipped my face away and, as quick as my crutches would take me, fled. My heart nearly pounding out of my chest, I did not stop until I had reached the golden door of the Decorum School. Then I leaned against it, panting like a Warf.
Like a true sign, Genevieve came walking in at that moment. I sputtered horribly before I was able to exclaim breathlessly: "You were right, Genevieve!"
Genevieve put up her paws. "Whoa, first off, Rosellen, do calm yourself. I daresay that you're about to go into hysterics."
"I might be!" I cried, still in shock at what I'd heard. "Genevieve... your uncle... he is up to no good! Why, he is planning something truly diabolical!"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Genevieve said, shaking her head, halting my rant. "First, catch your breath. Second, I told you already that I was through with thinking up foolish notions of my uncle. He is here strictly on visit; he comes every few years or so. There is nothing to be so worked up about."
"But I heard him!" I cried desperately. "He's going to take over the castle!"
Genevieve froze. Then ever so slowly she looked at me with a strange expression. "Rosellen, I think you'd better go lie down. I daresay your knock to the head is making you delusional."
"I am not being delusional!" I sputtered indignantly. "Genevieve, your uncle and his butler are in cahoots, and surely that cannot be good."
"His butler?" Genevieve said with a near laugh. "You mean that fat little Bruce? Hudson is not one to conspire. Why, we've known him for years and he's never done anything unseemly."
"I'm telling you," I said, desperate for belief. "Something is wrong. We must find out. We must stop them. We must—"
"The only thing we MUST do," Genevieve said rigidly, cutting me off, "is mind our own business. He is my uncle, Rosellen. How dare you pinpoint such heinous acts on him."
I sighed, seeing how I was clearly defeated. Perhaps I had heard wrong. Perhaps I was overreacting. Perhaps my fall had made me a bit befuddled.
However, that night I was plagued with the most unsettling dreams. Ones of Sir Carmody with a laughing, mocking face standing before Genevieve and her family all locked up. Their solemn faces looked hauntingly through the iron bars of their dank, dark cell.
"The throne will be mine!" Sir Carmody roared, a large crown on his head as he turned his face to the sky and uttered harsh, triumphant laughter.
I shot up in bed with cold sweat pouring down my back. My breathing came heavy and fearful. Colleen was oblivious however, the Bori sleeping peacefully on, most likely dreaming of princes and dancing and long, fancy dresses, whereas I was burdened with a dark secret, one that I did not understand nor knew how to come about. All I knew was that Genevieve and her family was in trouble.
And nobody could stop it save me.
"'Tis almost time." Sir Carmody grinned mischievously. "Soon, the throne will be mine."
"S-Sir Carmody, let us be r-reasonable," Hudson the Bruce stuttered, red in the face. He nervously removed his glasses to wipe them on his jacket, a terrible habit of his, I'd learned.
"Quiet!" Sir Carmody ordered harshly, pouring something clear into a vial. "I've requested this potion from the deepest regions of Shenkuu. It is said to knock out anyone who consumes even a mere drop off it." His eyes narrowed with pleasure. "Even a royal king and his entire family."
Hudson gulped loudly, the Bruce wringing his flippers. His pushed up his glasses and let out a strange squeaking noise. "B-but... but... this... was... n-not p-p-part... of... the d-deal!"
Sir Carmody froze, his whole body tensing in silent rage. His gently set down the vial and gave Hudson the most ferocious look, his eyes gleaming with fire. "My plan has changed," he said stonily. And in my hiding spot in the closet I nearly thought he would strike poor Hudson. He raised his paw, caught himself, and instead curled it into a fist. "Look, when I asked you be my ally, I knew I could trust you to withhold even my darkest of secrets. Seeing how you doubt my motives, however... I may just have to finish you off like the rest of those sorry little royal pains."
Hudson's face grew red as raspberry jelly. "N-no, Sir. I d-do not doubt you, sir. Your plan is m-most c-c-clever." He recoiled and ducked his head, folding his pudgy flippers over his face. A smug grin washed over Sir Carmody.
"Good. I see we are on the right page now, and that is the way that I like things. Crystal clear. Perhaps now there shall be an award in your future, good Hudson, once all is said and done and Greenvelle is mine." But then Carmody's eyes narrowed, and he bent over and glared fiercely at the trembling Hudson. "But if anyone gets word of my plans, I know who is at fault. And trust me, good Hudson. It would pain me dearly—seeing how we've been chums for years, you know—but still, I would not hesitate to annihilate you as well." He smiled evilly, revealing rows of sharp, silvery teeth. "Do I make myself clear, Hudson?"
Hudson, trembling worse than a flower in the wind, nodded and squeaked, "Y-yes, Master."
I myself was trembling. Fear so vast and strangling fell upon me. Carmody was going to take over Greenvelle, and anyone foolish enough to stand in his way would be taken down. I closed myself and willed away this horrible discovery, wishing my life was filled once again with princess lessons, reckless mishaps, and laughing princesses—even the not-so-kind ones. Yet instead I was an invalid princess, weak and utterly powerless, bearing a dark and terrible exposure. Could nothing be done? Could anyone stop him from performing such an odious crime?
The voice flashed in my head, soft yet undaunted.
No... I cannot, I thought, suddenly wanting to scream. I am weak in my state. I would be destroyed.
You are strong, Rosellen, the voice argued. You've always been. If anyone can stop Sir Carmody... it's you.
No one was in sight. Not a royal nor a maid. The hallway was empty, quiet... yet in the silence, darkness lingered, a cloud of foreboding evil blanketing the castle. I crept on on my crutches, which were so much of a burden that I was tempted to chuck them aside and carry on without them. I was up all night, thoughts upon thoughts tumbling around and around in my head. I tossed and turned, nearly breaking down into tears because my ankle hurt so and I was completely powerless in everything. But the whispers in my head persisted on.
You can... You can stop him.
NO! I screamed back. I cannot! You are mad!
Finally I knew it would do no good for me to stay in bed. Sleep would never come in my state. So on my burdensome crutches I walked out into the night. I felt aged. Different. Not like the carefree, vivacious girl I'd once been; the one always getting herself into the wildest of scrapes without a heap of common sense. In the darkness I sighed and trembled.
Greenvelle would be no more tomorrow. Everything would be different. Who knew what abominable acts Sir Carmody was capable of performing? Who knew what means he would take in order to claim possession of the throne? Genevieve and her family could be in danger. The entire kingdom was in danger.
And nobody had a clue.
That's when revelation dawned like a stream of white light through the darkest of clouds. Someone did have a clue, and that someone was me. I knew the plan. I could stop him. I did not know how though, and I knew it would be risky. Extremely risky. But if anyone could sacrifice themselves to save a kingdom, it would be me. What did I have to lose anyway? I could never be a fit princess. Everyone thought me unworthy of such a thing. So even if I were to be thrown in the dungeon forever because of my efforts to end the take over, nothing would be lost. Because everything I ever fought for was finished.
I had to find out Carmody's exact plan. Once I knew that, then I could conjure up my own to stop him. I knew who to confront—a certain babbling Bruce who'd be too fearful to disregard my rampant accusations. I found Hudson in one of the royal offices, the Bruce looking over a packet of papers in his flippers. I knocked on the cracked-open door and waited. The Bruce looked up, startled. "C-come in?"
I did so. When Hudson saw me, his eyes widened. "Y-yes, yes, hello there, miss," he said, fumbling to straighten his pile of papers. "What-what can I do for you?"
I felt tongue-tied, then burst out, "I want to know Carmody's plan."
Hudson's face grew red and he looked like he might choke. "Well... well... I-I-I'm, miss, but I c-cannot." I'd completely baffled the poor Bruce. But now was not the time to feel sorry over that.
"Look, I'm sorry to come on so strongly as I am," I said. "But I demand to know—"
"Hudson, whatever—" Sir Carmody had come strolling in, but he froze when he saw me. "Whatever are you doing here?" he demanded severely. "Who are you?"
Well, this certainly wasn't turning out at all as I'd planned. I looked around nervously, fumbling for something to say.
"Well?" Sir Carmody waited anxiously. "I haven't got all day. Who are you, I demand? Do you know anyone is strictly prohibited from entering this room save Hudson and I?"
"N-no, sir, I did not. Forgive me."
"Forgive you? Are you mad? Leave now and never return. I cannot stand for nosy little girls. Well, don't just stand there dumb! Take your leave this instant."
I waited not another second. I left, my plan destroyed. Well, now I'd just had to find another way. And fast. Time was running out.
Steal the vial.
I shot up in bed with a sharp gasp. The thought had come and brutally awoken me from sleep. I yawned and rubbed my eyes. What time was it? Late. The room was engulfed in utter darkness; I heard Colleen's soft breathing. After dinner I'd planned to take a little nap and then continue my mission. Looks like I overslept though and now it was night. I crushed my teeth together and threw back the covers. I was behind schedule, and I could've kicked myself. Every precious moment counted now.
Steal the vial. Was that the plan I was going with? Without the vial, Carmody would be powerless to perform his plan. Taking a deep breath, I grabbed my crutches and set off into the dark castle.
So far, so good. I gritted my teeth as I hobbled along. I was on a mission. Nothing could stop me. Nothing could... I gasped as I saw a shadow coming around the bend. Quickly I fled around the opposite corner. In the dimness I saw a guard march by. When he'd passed, I sighed under my breath. Finally I reached the room where I'd seen Carmody and the vial. I peeked around the corner, my body sagging in relief. Could I really be this fortunate? Not a soul was in sight, and the vial was sitting alone on the desk.
My breathing became jagged, my heart pounded wildly, and I began to tremble. Suddenly I was too afraid. Surely stopping the take over couldn't be this easy. Did I really have the courage to walk in, steal the vial, and slip back to my bedchamber unseen, just like that? I gathered a deep breath and ordered myself to proceed. I was far too close to back down now.
Silently, holding my breath, I crept cautiously into the room. Just a few more steps. I could do it. The vial was before me, and I reached out my paw to grab it. I was just about to place it in my dress pocket when I froze. That's when I heard the muffled voices coming down the hall. Panicking, I set down the vial on the nearest table and fled to the closet.
"Everything is set," I heard Sir Carmody say. "I have all my guards in place, and nothing can stop me now." I heard a terrible pause. And then— "Hudson, did you touch this vial?"
"N-no, sir!" Hudson exclaimed.
"That is strange," Carmody said. "Because it appears to have moved from where I placed it earlier."
"Well, sir, I a-assure you that I d-didn't touch it, sir," Hudson blabbered.
"Very strange," Carmody murmured. I heard the suspicion heavy in his voice. "Very strange indeed."
One Hour until Take Over
I was at my wits' end. It was the morning of the grand ball, and I'd accomplished nothing. I was running out of time and options. While the other princesses were having their hair done elegantly and donning their finest ball gowns, I was lying in bed, unable to keep the strangling worry out of my mind. Was there anything else to do? I had tried. Fyora knows I've tried. Even now the tears welled in my eyes. My whole entire life, I had simply tried.
Then keep trying.
The little voice in my head spoke truth, I knew. I could not stand idly by while Greenvelle became ruined. I was Rosellen Dellamore, and I NEVER gave up. I fought and I tried and strived. And perhaps one day, I would succeed.
I had the vial. It was cool in my paws, yet heavy. Heavy with all of the power it possessed. I was just slipping it into my dress pocket when I turned to make my quick escape. That's when my heart sank, and I gasped.
Sir Carmody was standing in the doorway, eyes gleaming fire. Then he lifted his lips in an evil grin. "Hudson, come in here. It looks like we have company." Sir Carmody stepped into the room, Hudson coming in behind him. Then Carmody shut the door. "Be sure to lock it, Hudson," he ordered the Bruce. "We don't want Little Miss Thief to make a getaway." Carmody turned his dark expression to me. "I've been waiting for you, Rosellen," he said.
I was trembling wildly. "How... how do you know my name?" I demanded, my voice shaking.
Sir Carmody laughed. "Dear, sweet Rosellen. Don't pretend we've never met before. I know you've been sneaking around in here; I know you were the one who moved my vial last night. And besides," he said, "what other princess hobbles around this castle on crutches, hm?"
I glared hard at him, stepping back. "Sir Carmody, what you are planning to do today is horribly wrong, and I will not let you do it."
Sir Carmody laughed long and hard. "Hudson, can you believe your ears? The little invalid princess thinks that she can keep me from stealing the throne! Imagine!"
"I-it is quite f-foolish," Hudson agreed. But the eyes he turned to me were filled with sorrow.
"Foolish indeed! Now Rosellen, stop this little game of yours and hand me the vial," Sir Carmody ordered, holding out his large paw. "I'm on a very tedious schedule and I cannot have you distracting me."
"Didn't I already tell you?" I asked fiercely. "I won't let you take over Greenvelle."
Carmody's eyes burned up in a raging fire. "I didn't wish to hurt you, princess, but honestly I have no other options," he said, but he seemed more irritated than apologetic. He held out his paw expectantly. "Now give me the vial or else—"
I fumbled for the vial in my pocket. "Want the vial, Carmody? Well then, catch!" Then with full force, I sent the vial flying. Carmody went to leap for it, but it went right out of his grasp. Instead it crashed against the wall and shattered in a pile of glass and clear liquid.
"No!" Carmody cried out in disbelief. "NO!" With an angry roar he dashed over and pushed me down hard, sent me sprawling over onto the ground. I cried out when my foot twisted under me.
"Despicable girl!" he spat. "How dare you!"
"I had to save Greenvelle," I murmured, trying hard to keep from crying in my pain. "You left me no choice."
Carmody snarled at me. "And you think some petty little vial is going to keep me from stealing the throne? I've other options, you know. Hudson," he ordered the Bruce, "come on. We've a mission to accomplish. We've wasted enough time."
"B-but what about the girl?" Hudson asked, peering down at me worriedly.
"She's no threat to us in her condition," Carmody concluded savagely, looming over me. "Just take her crutches; she's utterly powerless without them."
Hudson gazed at the crutches lying beside me, and even though I gave him a pleading expression, after a few moments' hesitation, he grabbed them up.
"Good," Carmody growled in satisfaction. "Now dispose of them and let's get moving. We'll take care of her later." They marched past me and left me alone where I was lying, helpless and hurt. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I was far too angry to stay down though. I struggled to stand, but once I was up, I was determined that nothing would ever take me down again.
I heard the desperate pleas as I rounded the bend.
"Stuart!" the king cried. The king and queen along with Genevieve and her younger twin siblings were all sitting at the royal table, and guards were standing behind them, tying them securely to their chairs. "What is the meaning of this? Untie us at once!" King Lyle demanded.
Stuart Carmody laughed shamelessly. "Untie you? The royals of Greenvelle? Now why would I do a foolish thing like that?"
"Because this is not right," Queen Marceila cried out. "Carmody, I beg you, do not hurt my children! Please!"
"Uncle, you are making a huge mistake!" Genevieve called out, fighting the grip of the rope around her wrists.
"Uncle Stuart, please let us go!" young Rebeckah and Evan, Genevieve's siblings, cried in fear. "Please don't hurt us!"
"Enough!" Carmody yelled at them. "That is quite enough babbling from all of you. For years I've been the younger brother to you, Lyle," he addressed the king, "the younger brother who was rich and dashing, and who was so close to power." He clenched his paws. "So close to power yet so far, because someone stood in the way." His eyes narrowed, and he walked over to his brother and growled at him. "Now nobody can stand in my way."
"I can," I whispered to myself.
The family cried out in desperation.
"I would say I'm sorry things must end this way," Carmody said, "but sadly, I cannot. Honestly, it was actually easier than I thought. My initial plan was to secretly take you down by slipping poison into your evening tea, but some little meddling princess destroyed that plan, and now I've other means of destruction."
Genevieve gasped. "Rosellen!"
Carmody gazed at her with piercing eyes. "So you know her? She's a feisty one, I admit. But she's no threat to me now."
"No! What have you done to her!" Genevieve screamed at him. "Where's Rosellen? Uncle, what have you done?"
"Gag her," Carmody ordered one of guards standing by. "I'm sick of her wailing."
"No!" Genevieve protested against the cloth being placed over her head. "Where is Rosellen? What have—mmmm!" Her words became muffled by the cloth the guard tied tight around her mouth. Genevieve thrashed and fought, tears streaming down her face. Her eyes fastened hatefully on her uncle, who grinned smugly.
"That's better. No more whining. Now, what was I saying? Right, my other plan. Thankfully one of my guards thought to pack me some poisonous gas instead. Otherwise, that scheming little invalid might have gotten away with her meddling." He removed a spherical object from his pocket. "Guards, you may want to leave. This bomb is sentenced to go off three minutes time from when I push the button. I'm pushing it now." Carmody walked over and placed the gas bomb on the center of the table. "The poison wears off in about six hours. We'll come back then and dispose of them."
All the guards had retreated, and Carmody gave his family one last look.
"Again, I wish I could say I was sorry." Then he quickly made his exit. Carmody and the guards disappeared around the corner, and I sprang to life. I went over to the door and flung it open. The family all gasped when they saw me.
"Don't make a sound," I ordered as I snatched up the bomb. "I'm going to take care of this, then I'll be right back." Carefully I ran down the hall. My broken ankle protested with each step, but now was not the time to worry about pain. The blinking numbers on the bomb said I had less than two minutes.
Suddenly strong paws grabbed my shoulders and threw me hard into the nearest room, sending me falling onto the ground and the bomb sailing through the air. The angry Kougra heaved the door shut with a vigorous slam and faced me with blazing eyes.
"You!" Sir Carmody roared, flinging a finger at me. "Why must you always ruin my plans! I thought I'd finished you. I thought I'd weakened you. I thought I'd won."
"Well," I said, my voice tight as I clenched my teeth against the fierce pain that shot through my leg, "you thought wrong, Carmody." I was breathing heavy. Carmody glared at me before marching toward the door.
"I've no time for this—no time at all. You're ruining everything." He went to reach for the door and turned the handle.
It would not open.
"What!" Carmody fumbled with the knob, shaking it madly. "Why won't it open?!" He pounded on the door. "Open up! Somebody open this door this instant!" He tried the handle again, but it was no use. "Somebody! Open the door!" He flung his body against the door. But nobody came.
"Did... you not know?" I asked weakly, and Carmody turned and peered at me. "This is a room sentenced for prisoners," I said quietly. "It locks automatically when shut. We cannot get out."
Carmody's mouth dropped and his eyes grew wide. "But we must! That cannot be!" He wildly pounded and struggled with the knob again. "We must! HELP!"
"Carmody!" I yelled austerely. He ceased his rant and stared at me dumbly. "We cannot." I sighed and I shook my head helplessly. I glanced over at the time bomb ticking away on the ground a little ways from me, dreading what I saw. My eyes shut against the horror of it all. "We have twenty three seconds, Carmody," I said lowly, my voice strangled. "Nobody could untie the king, retrieve a key from him, and set us free in that length of time."
"So what are you saying?" Sir Carmody demanded, though he seemed to crumble at those words.
I swallowed hard. My head fell back against the ground and I accepted my fate as it was. "We cannot escape," I said bluntly. "We are finished."
"No..." A look of terror crossed Sir Carmody's features. "No! That cannot be so!" He shook his head madly, pure disbelief all over his face. "No! All I've ever worked for! It cannot be lost!" He stumbled backward, falling against the wall. "No! No! No!" he wailed, shaking his fisted paws.
I sniffed as tears fell silent from my eyes. Perhaps I would die. But then, Greenvelle would be saved. But I didn't want to die! I wanted to finish princess school and become Princess of Satinsand. I wanted to see all of my family and my friends again—even Labella! And Dalton... oh, Dalton! I wept silently into the hard wooden boards of the floor. That's when I heard the awful ticking sounds pick up speed, and then a single, long beep emitted from it. The sphere began letting off a smoky substance that filled the air. I fought against breathing it, but it filled my lungs anyway.
It's over, I thought as my mind blurred and I fought for awareness. Carmody's cries echoed in the background of my thoughts. I struggled for air. If only I'd tried harder.
"I'm sorry," I whispered, though no one could hear. "I'm so, so sorry."
Then there was nothing.
To be continued...