A/N: Just a short ficlet about Neal's ordeal taken from his POV. Don't really know how good it's gonna be. Hope it's not bad. Just forgive any little errors there may be in the way things look. I don't have my books with me and am too lazy to go to my room to get them. Also, I'm not too good at writing guys, mainly cuz I'm not one. Anyway, I'll try my best.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters or places. They all belong to Tamora Pierce.
WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS SUICIDAL THEMES.
My Greatest Fear
The large iron gate that was the door to the Chamber of the Ordeal opened as I vaguely registered the arrival of the crowd who would wait in the Chapel of the Ordeal until I emerged from the Chamber at dawn. The crowd consisted of my friends and family.
This was the day I had waited for, for a long time. I had given up my University life for this moment, the moment when I would face the Ordeal and take my final steps towards becoming a knight. This was what life was all about.
I took a deep breath and walked into the Chamber, my heart racing. The gate thudded closed behind me and I was left in darkness. I had no idea what to expect, men who successfully left the Chamber and were made knights of the realm were forbidden to tell what had taken place during their ordeal.
As I stood calmly waiting for something to happen my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I looked around. I was in a grey room that felt cold and was bare of all furnishings. I took a few more steps into the room warily. What was going on? Wasn't something supposed to happen, or was the ordeal no more than a room you spent the night in before you were made a knight? Of course not. Just the year before, Joren had died in this very room.
I was about to sit down on the floor when something cackled. I looked up towards the ceiling and saw a Stormwing swoop down at me. I have always feared Stormwings. Ever since they had attacked Queenscove and killed my eldest sister. That Stormwing had been provoked but not by her. It wasn't natural. By rights, I should have been overcome by anger and the need for revenge but the sight of her mangled body had always plagued my dreams.
I ducked as the creature that was half man- half steel bird and immortal flew over my head. The smell that wafted over me was sickening and enough to make me throw up the small dinner I had convinced myself to eat.
The creature turned around and came back screaming that I wouldn't see the light of day again. Not knowing what else to do I gulped, turned and ran. The Chamber around me changed and I was in a maze with walls as high as the ceiling. I came to an intersection and stopped. Left, right or straight? How did I know which way was the right one? The Stormwing, which was still following me, screeched and I made a quick choice to turn right. I ran on, not noticing which turns I made until the passage came to an abrupt end.
Cursing silently, I turned around to go back but found the Stormwing in front of me. I backed up to the wall and felt around for my sword before I remembered I didn't have one. Cornered by an enemy without a weapon, one of my greatest fears. Was this what the Chamber was for? To make would- be knights face the very things that could bring them down and make them weak? A good idea if you didn't have to live it.
The monster advanced but suddenly it vanished. The maze remained. Glancing around, I decided to start walking. I rounded corner after corner trying to find the way out, if there was one. Unfortunately, I had no luck. I was most definitely lost. Yes, lost with no food and no water and no company. I would surely go insane. I stopped walking as a familiar voice sounded in my head.
"Insane Neal? Only now? I would have thought that you'd cracked a long time ago."
I smiled as I heard my best friend's voice. The one constant in my life was her. Keladry of Mindelan, a squire who was five years my junior and who's ordeal wasn't until the very end of the week. It was she who had kept me sane all the years and kept me going. It was she who had mothered me and helped me keep my temper. She who had challenged me in so many ways. It was she I couldn't bear to leave when I'd had to go away with my knight- mistress, Alanna the Lioness.
"Don't stop now, Neal," Kel's voice said to me. "You've got to keep going. Go on. You can do this."
Yes, she was right. I could do this. I straightened my shoulders and began walking again. I got to another corner and went around it. There in front of me was Kel. Kel, in the plum gown I had given her just that afternoon. She was crying, something I had never seen her do before and it frightened me. Frightened me more than anything I had ever been faced with. She turned her back on me and ran. I ran after her.
I followed her down passages that looked all the same and I emerged into a garden that was the exact replica of the one at Queenscove. It was a wedding and I was the one getting married! To Yuki! How was this frightening? I didn't fear marriage. What I did fear was marrying someone that I didn't love. I shook my head. Enough time to ponder this situation later. Where had Kel gotten to?
She was on the other side of the garden, still weeping. Again, she turned and ran. I followed her through the gardens. We ended up in the garden that was directly under my bedroom window. What met my eyes was cause enough to make me gasp in horror. I stopped myself just in time though. Not a sound was allowed to be made if I wanted to be a knight.
Kel was kneeling on the ground cradling my head in her lap. My lifeless body was sprawled on the ground before her.
I knelt next to my copy and saw the wound in my side. I had obviously been attacked by someone. I looked up at Kel's face which was distorted in anguish. Her mouth was turned down bitterly and her eyes, her beautiful hazel eyes, were red and puffy from crying. Her small hands caressed my copy's face and I could almost feel them on my own; stroking my cheeks, tracing my lips.
Her fingers stopped their enticing dance across my copy's features and I sensed a deep lose within myself. She bent and kissed the lips of what was supposed to be me. How I longed to feel those lips on my own. I didn't even know I felt this way. It really was possible to love someone without knowing it.
She took out the dagger that Alanna had given her years ago. I was startled. What was she going to do with that? Her head went up and she seemed to stare right at me. It was eerie.
I watched as Kel raised the knife and slashed her own wrists. My mouth opened and I was about to yell when I remembered that I wasn't allowed to. I'd never wanted to yell, scream and rage more than I did then.
Kel lay herself down across the chest of my replica and calmly awaited death. I watched as the blood poured from her wrists. There was nothing I could do to stop any of it. I was watching my best friend, the love of my life, die. The fact that she was dying because I had died didn't fail to cross my mind.
I stroked her hair as tears coursed silently down my cheeks. This was my greatest fear. Kel's death was my greatest fear. I had wondered what my greatest fear was as I'd wandered the maze before hearing Kel's voice. How could I have not thought of this? Kel was my life. I would die without her.
I watched and cried as Kel's face grew steadily paler and her life's candle became steadily dimmer. I silently swore then and there that, if I were to survive the ordeal, I wouldn't let Kel die without her knowing how I felt about her.
Kel's breathing stopped. She looked calm, even in death. She and my copy became hazy and I looked up at my surroundings. The garden around me was beginning to disappear. Before long I was left alone, sitting in the middle of the Chamber, crying.
The iron gate opened and light from the Chapel poured in. Was it dawn already?
I swallowed and got stiffly to my feet. I staggered out of the Chamber and was caught by Alanna. I looked around the Chapel and there she was, standing beside Yuki, as beautiful as ever and very much alive.
A hesitant smile crossed her face and I managed a lopsided grin in return. I saw her sigh in relief. I had to tell her but not now. Not now.
Well, it may be disgustingly short but it ended up alright. I'm not too pleased with the beginning but the rest isn't too bad. I think I'll add another chapter. What do you think? I better go put a suicide warning at the beginning of the story, though. I had no idea it would end this way. I only wrote this from my head on a spark of inspiration.
Well, you all know what to do now!