~Nineteen Months Subsequent to Attia's Departure~
Rooftops burned. The flames were rising, higher swallowing the city buildings. People rioted all gathered in the town center. They shouted, and cursed the king. Attia frantically hunted. For what, she did not know. Yet, she continued running searching for a face she knew. She gazed upon the towering gallows. The gibbet, twisted her stomach in knots and closed her throat. The town's people, of this unfamiliar place, were about to hang someone in chains. Though, not just hang this person, and give him a quick death, but they would take pleasure in watching this person suffer, to wilt away, to go hungry and grow weak. Attia hated the idea. She hated the sight.
Pushing through the assemblage of towns people, Attia sensed her eyes sting. Under the gibbet gallow, she saw a priest idly standing by. He held a bible in his hands, reciting scriptures. How could such a holy man allow death?
Then Attia, saw him. Finn, shackled by the wrists and at the ankles. His clothes seemed to be disintegrating before her eyes, his skin was dirty, covered in scabs and fresh blood. His hair greased, from days, maybe weeks of him being locked up in a prison. She shouted maneuvering her way closer to him, "Finn!"
The priest bellowed over the screams of peasants, "The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and no torment will ever touch them…"
Finn heard his name, his eyes found Attia.
"Attia!" he called.
The priest continued as she rushed towards the king. "…In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality..."
A shot rang out, piecing Attia's eardrums. Her eyes darted around, searching for where the gunshot had come from, but there was no sign of a gun, nor gunman. However, she saw Finn's chained hands clutch his stomach.
"Finn!" she shouted at the top of her lungs. Her vocal cords burnt, than her voice gave out.
Slowly, inertly, he came to his knees. Unchanged was his expression, his eyes were wide, never shifting from Attia's face. For a moment, he tottered, his knees sinking into the mud. Gazing blankly at her, he took a breath and fell backward, his legs doubled beneath him.
She froze in place. "Oh dear God," her voice cracked, she yelled, " Finn!"
"…Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones."
The holy man's echoed eerily in the chilled air. Suddenly, the air turned glacial. She could see her breathe billow in the air.
Running to the king's side, she fell into the mud beside him. Brushing his hair back and caressing his face, she cried, "Finn! It's okay, it's okay."
She laid his head upon her lap, and all the tears her eyes could shed, dropped and hit Finn's face.
And the priest continued recounting, "… But the ungodly will be punished as their reasoning deserves, who disregarded the righteous man and rebelled against the Lord."
Ruby red blood dripped from his mouth. The blank stare made her heart stop.
"Finn," Attia whimpered, but there was no response. All the life had drained from his eyes, and his last breath expelled through his body. It's fog floating through the air.
And the words, "But the ungodly will be punished…" resounded.
Wailing, Attia held him closely, pressing his clammy forehead to her own. "He's not wicked," she whispered rocking him in her arms, "You're not."
A beautiful voice called to her. "Attia?" It's sound resided above her head. Gazing up at the clouded skies, a soft light shone. Quickly, it was brightening before it exploded, and Attia shielded her eyes from the blinding light.
Waking, she did not open her eyes. She could sense a dull light shining on her face, and she grasped it what had just happened was nothing but a horrible dream, just another she would add to her collection of nightmares.
A soft voice called, "Attia?"
Opening her eyes, she was greeted with an innocent face and lax green eyes gazing down at her. The young woman's skin was soft and creamy. It was something Attia envied. A murky light glowed from behind. The girl's lengthy mahogany hair, had been pulled back. Her shorted hairs hung loosely around her face, and in the light, her hair blazed in a red hue.
Her thin lips smirked before she said, "Oh what a beautiful Saturday Attia! Can we go to the market?"
Attia glanced around the body, seeing the opaque clouds roll slowly by the window pain. She almost wanted to smirk. When it was cloudy, she could not see the sky. If she did not see the sky, she would no see nightfall. For twilight was when the stars appeared. She no longer needed to see stars, let alone see them. She had to quit thinking of her past or hoping for her wildest daydreams to come true. They life she now lead, did not include Finn.
Running a hand through her dark brunette tresses, Attia replied with a yawn, "Why do you ask me? You're your own person, you decide."
"I would like you to join me. We could buy new dresses, and pastries! I love pastries."
"Shea," she grumbled, "I can make you a bloody dress."
Rolling over, she put her back to the light. Covering her face with a forearm, Attia ordered, "Now, do what you please but I wish to sleep."
Preshea did as Attia requested. Stepping over to the elongated vertical windows, her heeled shoes tapped loudly with each step.
"You didn't sleep well did you?" Shea asked, "You tired sister?"
"Yes," Attia responded folding her forearm over her eyes, to shield the light. "Shut the damn curtains, it' too bright in here."
Shea took the loosely woven fabric in her fingers and hesitated, "It's cloudy though."
"It's still bright."
One by one, the girl closed the curtains over all three oversized windows. She thought Attia liked cloudy days, it was why she had opened the draperies in the first place. She hoped if Attia was greeted with a gloomy day, perhaps she'd smile a true genuine smile.
Coming to a floor level fireplace, Shea grabbed a poker. Before stabbing at the burning logs she tugged at her skirts, so that they wouldn't catch fire. She said, "You were talking in your sleep again."
In a grumbly whisper, Attia apologized, "Sorry."
"I want to forgive you," she smirked, "I truly do but you're disrupting my slumber."
That smile that was permanently etched onto Shea's face made Attia sick. She roll her eyes. "You seem quite fine in my opinion. Now go, we don't have to be at the pub until later this afternoon."
Preshea cleared her throat. "Who's Finn?"
Attia hand flew away from her face. She flicked her head in the girls direction and snapped, "I'll give you any tips I make tonight, if you shut up and let me sleep."
Striding closer to Attia, Shea sat on the old wool stuffed mattress retorting, "No need sister, tell me who Finn is and we'll call it even."
"Shea, go to the market and give me peace and quiet."
" I've know you long enough, why will you not tell me your secrets? You know mine." She pouted as a child. Attia looked upon the crease in her forehead and pleading in her eyes. The naivety, had never left her as she grew up. It was one more thing Attia, coveted. Preshea, was carefree and light hearted, even though their stories were similar. Both orphaned, and homeless. How could she be so cheery, when Attia couldn't find happiness within herself?
Attia mumbled, "You told me on your own accord."
Fidgeting with the hook and eye closures on her bodice, she looked down at her chest putting false effort into adjusting herself. She probed, "Is he a lover of yours?"
The girl from Incarceron frowned. "What makes you ask such a question?"
"Curiosity," she replied, lifted her delicate shoulder. Unable to look Attia in the eyes, she continued " Since I've met you, I heard you call his name nearly every night…"
"I do not!" she defended.
Becoming upset, Shea reached for a blanket, and swathed it around her body. It made her blood run cold, the way Attia called Finn's name. Her tone was always depressing, and hopeless. She sighed, and lifted her eyes to her sister. " You cry Attia. You have night terrors, nearly every night. I try to wake you but you whimper, like a kicked puppy. With tears and moans you cry his name. It scares me. They're only getting worse."
Still lying on her back, Attia deeply inhaled, and released a heavy breath. "Finn does not exist Preshea, he's just from my nightmares."
"Please sister. I don't know much of you, just tell me little. I only wish to help, the way you helped me. "
"He…" she faltered remembering his warm coffee eyes, his strong chin and confused glower. Finn was everything that was good in her life. Even 'til this day, he was the most positive thing that had ever happened to her.
Yanking her covered over arms, she spoke, " …helped me escape."
Leaning closer to Attia, Shea cocked her brow. "Escape? From where?"
"Not from where, from what?"
Shea's silence forced Attia to proceed, "He helped me escape Incarceron."
With wide eyes, Shea questioned with intense interest, "The prison? How? You're from Incarceron?"
"I was born inside Incarcecron,"
The moment, she said the prisons name, Attia swore the room went colder than it already had been. A flood of memories flashed in her mind. The metals, the darkness, the scent of ket, the rags that clothed her, the cruelty and the hopelessness. Then there was Finn, the one who changed her life, had given her life. He had given her that stars but she had grown to despise the stars. These thoughts exasperated the former dog slave.
"Please don't cry."
Shea's words brought her back to the present. She rotated her head and wiped a tear off her cheek with her shoulder. "I'm not."
"Is it truly real?"
Attia rolled onto her side facing Preshea. Absent mindedly, she gazed at the low flames of the fireplace, saying, "It is as real as you and me, truer than the Realm we live in."
"Where is it?"
"It's in the possession of a very de-lightful warden," she exaggerated cynically.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Never you mind. It is in the Realm that's all you need to know."
Shea came to her feet. Removing the blanket from her shoulders and tossing it over Attia, she said, "But it's not. No one knows where Incarceron is. No one."
She made her way to the wardrobe, searching through the garments. "But the ones from Incarceron are scum, criminals, murders."
Attia sneered, saying, "I am all those things Shea."
Twisting her head around quickly, and tugging a coat from the side board, Shea glared at the young women lying in bed. She rushed to Attia's side while putting on the wool coat. "But you're not. You're not! You're my sister, my rescuer, my protector. I love you, and you are not a criminal."
"I killed Preshea, I've stolen, I've broken several laws and I've hurt many people."
"No. No," she repeated in thwart, "You killed to save me, to save us. You stole so I could eat, so I could have medicine and become healthy again. You've hurt no one. I have never seen that."
Oddly, Attia's mind to visualized Keiro, tugging at her arm, covertly pleading for her to stay with him at the palace. "I once had a friend who requested I stay with him –even though he pretended to hate me- but I left. I think he needed me to be with him."
"I need you here with me sister," Preshea whined, " I need family."
Pushing the covers off, Attia glanced around her flat. The stucco walls were cracking, the dilapidated wood floorboards were splintering and the few pieces of furniture were older than she. She went from riches to rags. From palace life to the life of a poor barmaid. But it did not matter, it felt better to suffer here, rather than suffer wealthily at the palace as Claudia's maid.
Shea could see Attia losing herself in thought. Again.
She blurted, "What happened to him, this Finn?"
Attia looked over to Preshea, ready to shout, but the girl's genuine curiosity and concern softened Attia. She reluctantly answered, "He's gone."
"You could say that."
Getting up from the bed, Attia walked to the corner of the flat and dropped to her knees. Preshea hovered over her watching Attia pry up the floorboard exposing an outwardly bottomless hole. Inside were items that had been banned by protocol. Devices that used batteries and electricity; such as music boxes, electric lanterns, a portable computer , two-way talking ear pieces, anything containing plastic and numerous weapons.
"Now, go to market Shea and leave me be," Attia said rummaging through the pit. She pulled out a shocking gadget. It was an electroshock weapon that could sent an electro current through a person's body causing their muscles to involuntarily muscles contractions. It would give Preshea enough time to escape in case she was attacked. The girl much preferred to render a person useless for a short period of time, versus using the firelock to kill.
Attia favored the firelock but didn't want Preshea to know the guilt of murder. She positioned the floorboard back in its spot, hiding the banded mechanisms.
Attia stood and handed the shock gun to Preshea. "Don't forget this."
Preshea cautiously reached for the contraption. She hated going against protocol. People had been killed because she defied protocol.
Attia slowly pace her way to the fireplace and stood at its mouth, absorbing the heat.
Eyeing the stark room, Shea hated the emptiness of the one room apartment. She wondered if she could purchase a painting or a mirror. Anything to enliven their apartment home. "Can I buy a painting, or mirror?"
The tired woman snapped, "No mirrors."
Preshea nodded and embraced her sister. She stood a few inches above Attia, but the dreg was the matriarch and their guardian.
"Goodbye my sister." She squeezed her sister, and kissed her cheek. "I love you. I will be home very soon."
Attia saw Preshea off, before she sulked alone in the apartment. It was not very long until she shoved the bed from its designated spot. She yanked up a plank to a hidden burrow. It was as the one that held the forbidden devices, except drastically reduced in size. She pulled up an old rectangular metal box. Dust had collected on the top. It was rusting and age bitten, which reminded her of Incarceron. It was why she kept it when she had found it disposed of in Yucaipa.
Fingering the cold metal, she observed the pair sleeping foxes, with rope tired around their torsos. The rope piled up and bordered the animals in slumber in an oval. There had been a fable about the sleeping foxes, but Attia hadn't know of this Realm Tale. She only knew the stories of Incarceron.
Collecting the box, Attia walked it over to the fireplace. Sitting down, she opened the metal chest, and removing nostalgic items. She smiled, seeing a few letters from Andrew. It was so kind of him to think of her. She glanced over his writing, seeing the excitement in his penmanship. He had successfully courted Lillian, and had been married. Attia pulled out the wedding invitation feeling guilty for not attending.
Wanting to disremember anything of Incarceron and the palace, she decided to burn the evidence she had. She threw the invitation in the fire, then a ring the Court had given, she tossed news clippings about Finn. Then she came across a letter from Keiro. She couldn't help but read it.
To my honorable friend and sister of Incarceron,
You have permitted me to your faults, but I wish I could show you my own, for you've only seen my greatness and will only ever see how flawless I am. Things are better here, peaceful. I enjoy the thrill of fence for pleasure and not survival. It has taken some time to become use to the plush mattresses and stiffness of new attire. I will inform you that I expect a letter, to know you are…You know, I can't take this any longer. All this formality IS bullshit! It's phony. You have to return, Claudia has proven to be a bigger bitch than you. She has taken credit for your strategy on how to end Protocol and ignores me completely. She pushes court to find treatment for Jared and Finn does nothing to correct her. Some king he is. Hell, some brother he is. He's been travelling to stabilize the economies of towns and villages by giving them specific tasks in agriculture and industry, as YOU suggested. He says he's lost countless hours of sleep, but as to why, I am unsure. He swears it's not his travels but I beg to differ. He stays in fancy inns and has time for rest, even though his tours have not seized since you left. He returns home miserable and exhausted. He does not hunt anymore nor converse with me. But if he does, he says he's tired because of bad memories. I have the same memories of Incarceron and you don't see me floundering in depression. Why the hell did you leave me here with all these, idiots?
Shaking her head, Attia couldn't help but roll her eyes. Even the halfman's written words dripped in conceit and mockery.
Not caring to read another word, Attia allowed to paper to fall on the cinder and low flame. The heat engulfed the letter, and it shriveled away in a burst of fire. She moved on to the next. It was another, though very short, letter from Keiro.
I hear you are in the town of Poshel, known for its bars and brothels. Don't worry I haven't told Finn where you stay, It's only a matter of time before he travels there and sees how you chose to live your life. How do you think our Price Giles would take it, knowing you've left the comforts of the palace to become a lady of the night? I don't think he'd be too pleased. Write us, so we know you are well and alive.
Believe me at all times with sincerity and respect, Your oathbrother K
One following another, they all wasted away in the fireplace. Sifting through the letters, her heart stopped. Attia held the weightless paper in her hands. Only the wealthy wrote on such reedy paper. The edges were lined in gold, but the ink bled and was smeared. It was sloppily written. Almost as if he were in a hurry, as if he could careless who the letter was going, as if it were addressed for a dog slave.
I am afraid you've put yourself in an inconvenience by leaving, since the court has approved your idea of my touring the Realm. It is a campaign of sorts, to win over the people. And I will find each city a productive use, to improve their standard of living, as well as economic growth for the Realm.
There is additional matters that the court, Claudia and I must finalize and I am remaining enthusiastically optimistic, that my traveling abroad with prevent revolt.
Sad to say, I must travel alone with a few Crats and a dozen sapients from Court, as well as the matching amount in guards. Keiro is not the least bit interested and Claudia is much too preoccupied with the matters happing within Incarceron.
I am requesting your companionship, as well as your philosophies, on this journey. My excursions are to commence a month from now, on the eighth of May. We will leave at the breaking of dawn. If you have not returned by then, I will take your absence as a refusal to support this trek.
My sister Attia, I beg a thousand pardons for my not asking how your own trip had went. It was very rude of me not to ask if you are not well. I pray the horse had carried you safely to Yucaipa, and that you are on your way back to the Wardendry to join me in this adventure.
I hope you receive this letter in time, for your assistance on these expeditions may prove valuable.
Do not neglect, dear Madam, yours, with all sincerity,
Also, in Incarceron, I silently made a promise. I promised that Keiro, you and I will always remain together. I will be taxing myself, to keep that oath.
Staring down at the embers, Attia observed the flame eat away at Keiro's annoying boastful letters and Andrew's heartfelt ones. It was what she had to do to forget the past ever occurred. She told herself, she never had a family, she never had a home in an alleyway made of stolen wire and mesh. She was never kidnapped and made a dog slave. She hadn't tasted food for poison, or been chained by the neck and wrists. She never knew Finn's kindness or seen Keiro's face. There was no such thing as Incarceron and she never escaped such a prison. In her delusional mind, she concocted the story that she and Preshea were orphaned in Poshel. That was it.
With her knees pulled to her chest, Attia embraced her legs, the paper still clutched in her hands. Her wrists were forever scared from the metal cuffs, reminding her that all that she wished hadn't happened were true. Taking a hand she smoothed down the cotton of her skirts, debating as to whether or not she should burn the few documents she had collected from Finn. For the strangest reason, her heart would not allow it even though she desperately wanted to forget all that had ensued her capture.
Quickly, she read over the letter once more. He had called her sister, but not a friend and most certainly not a lover. He requested her companionship, because Keiro and Claudia did not want to partake in his excursions. Miserably, she saw that she was not even a second choice and he was married. It would be unfitting to journey with the married King. It would only earn her more hatred from the Crats, the servants and as she came to find out, the public. She would not be the king's supposed whore.
Ignoring the hole in her heart and the pull in her soul, she tossed the letters one by one into the amber coals. Slowly the heat ate away at the parchment turning them to ash.
Author's Note: (I will re-edit this chapter soon. Only my grammar though) OI! I am so sorry it has taken me such a long time to update. I've been super busy, 'Tis the season….Right? Anyways, a gibbet gallow looks like a telephone pole, google it. And sorry for no name dropping, but if you review I will send you a preview. As always. Also, we will explore how Attia meet Preshea in the next chapter. Much Love & Happy Reading!
P.S. Tell me if this story is okay, because I feel it's lacking, but then again it hasn't even really begun yet. BLAH!