Chapter Forty

I watched her out the corner of my eye. Azalea was walking purposefully toward the room I had been hypnotized in, but reluctance showed in every step. Before we were around the corner, loud voices sounded behind us.

"Rapunzel, stop!" I whirled around the best I could, and stood face-to-face with Guy.

He had several guards behind him, and I could see that they held Nathan and Dwayne by their hands behind their backs. Guy looked at me, and then Azalea. "Get her." He pointed at Azalea.

I protested and dove in front of Azalea with my arms out. "Come near her, and I'll run." Guy knew my clumsiness.

Guy and the guards froze. Nathan spoke, "You touch Azalea, and I'll-"

"You'll what?" Dwayne swung his head to Nathan who glared at him. "If these guards ever turn me loose, you and I are having a long talk."

"I'll have those first and last words, Dwayne." Nathan snapped.

The guards eyed me and Azalea. I glared daggers at Guy. "Leave her alone."

"No, we're not going to." Eugene was suddenly behind me. I turned around to see him grab Azalea by the waist and pull her to him. "She's not going anywhere, Rapunzel."

"Stop! Let me go, Eugene!" Azalea struggled. Some of the guards behind Guy broke away and helped Eugene. I surged toward Azalea and was pushed back by the guards.

"Get on the ground!" The long hallway was suddenly filled with guards and yelling voices. Nathan yelled Azalea's name who struggled to squirm from Eugene's grip. Dwayne roared up and tried to break his way free from the guards holding him with kicks. I watched in helpless horror as Dwayne, Nathan, and Azalea were pushed to their knees. I pushed against the guards holding Dwayne, who was closest to me, and yanked at their arms as another one tied Dwayne's wrists together. "Get on the ground!"

"Rapunzel, stop." Michael was nearby, and I felt hands pull at my waist. I screamed as cloths were put on my rescuers' faces. Within moments, they all stopped struggling and went limp. "It's okay; don't keep struggling."

"Stop!" I screamed and yanked fiercely at the guards holding Dwayne. Michael pulled me back harder and I fell against him, my face washed in tears.

Olivia looked at me from where she was standing with the others, and reached her hand out to me. I pulled away from Michael, avoided everyone's eyes, and ran to the room Azalea and I had just been in.

I locked the door, barged it with a chair, and bawled.

I laid on my back and wiped my eyes continuously though it was no use. I had just watched my friends getting arrested. I should cry.

I pulled myself to my knees and rocked, sobbing harder.

Azalea's Point of View

She opened her eyes, groggy. Where was she? Azalea felt the hard ground underneath her and a chill seeped through her clothes. She shivered as she became more aware of her surroundings. Iron bars blocked the only exit she could see. She sensed light behind her and saw that there was a window with iron bars as well.

Azalea managed to sit up. She was surprisingly slow and fatigue filled her mind.

"Doll?" Nathan's voice was slurred. Was he just waking up as well?

"I'm okay," she mumbled loudly. Her thoughts drifted in and out. "Did they hurt you? Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, don't worry." Nathan sounded close by. He was in the cell next to her, maybe?

"Azalea's awake?" Dwayne sounded across from her. She crawled to the front of her cell and peered through the bars. Dwayne's shadowed shape was barely visible, and she could barely see him in the shadows of the night. With a shock, Azalea realized that it must be past midnight.

"You two are finally up!" A loud, deep voice sounded nearby. Azalea winced and pressed herself against the wall.

She could see a tall figure standing up. He was staring at them through the gloom. "The name is Alexander Ruffin. I'm one of the wardens here, so just call me 'Warden'."

He went on, "I don't expect you guys to be happy here, but you've must have broken a law, so I incline that you try to enjoy your stay." He blinked at Nathan's cell. "Nathan, what the hell are you doing in here? I don't recognize the other lad and the girl, but I do know you."

"I helped my friends out, Alex." Nathan said. Azalea fidgeted and wished for water. She was thirsty from yelling and struggling from Eugene's arms. "What are we in here for?"

"Kidnapping the princess, that sort of thing." Alex sat down in front of Dwayne's cell. "But you guys brought her back, so I don't really know why you guys are in here."

"Great," Dwayne said drily, "We're in here for no real reason. Damn, life's a b-"

"Now, now." Nathan said, chidingly. "Not in front of Azalea, Dwayne."

"Shut the hell up." Dwayne snapped in the darkness.

Alex chuckled. "So you all know each other? Good, I guess. That'll make the duties easier on yourselves."

"What duties?" Azalea asked, her voice catching.

"So she's awake after all?" Alex clapped his hands. "I was about to open that cage up and kiss you, dear."

Nathan and Dwayne made a disapproving sound.

"Chill out, lads." Alex was at ease. "I was kidding. Surly bunch, you fellows are. Anyways, I'm sure that the worst they'll do to you three is give you all kingdomly duties for a few months."

Dwayne huffed. "I'm not changing diapers."

"No, nothing like that." Alex said. "But, sorry Nathan, the worst that could happen to you is you lose your guard status. You might be bumped down a bit. Maybe to messenger."

"Who cares?" Dwayne said. "I just want to get out of here."

"Nah," Alex rubbed his head. Azalea couldn't tell if he had hair or not. "You're in here for the night, for sure. Rest easy, eh?"

Nathan chuckled. "Rest easy? Dwayne? He'll be beating the hell out of me when he dreams."

"And that dream is going to become a sweet reality once I get out of here, Nathan." Dwayne grumbled.

Alex stood up. "Nice chatting with y'all." He walked toward the wall, and Azalea assumed that Alex could see the door. "See you in the morning."

When the heavy door slammed closed, Azalea could hear herself sobbing. She struggled to quiet them, but they rang in the silent darkness.

"Easy, Doll." Nathan cooed from his cell. "It's okay."

"It bloody hell isn't." Dwayne snapped. "She's tough, Nathan, she can handle this."

Dwayne was wrong. Azalea cried into the first light of dawn.