The Third Wheel
CH. 1 the Rebellion has begun
Hair straight and feather free; check. Breath absent of the telltale scent of liquor; check. Pants on and worn correctly; check, and not a single blood stain from the bar fight—kudos to me. So with a final sweep of the hall I step out of the shadows and strutted toward my room, nobody taking notice of the barely of age "delinquent" princess. However, this isn't surprising. "Madam Raven?"
My head snaps to the right to see none other than Jasper, looking extremely shocked. "Madam, what happened to your…well…?" Jasper doesn't finish his sentence instead points to my shirt.
Ever so slowly my eye trails down my body and I cringe at the giant ale stain. Note to self: check shirt too or at least bring a coat. Jasper sighs and says, "Come with me madam; your older sister has an extra shirt your size."
"Thanks Jasper, but you don't have to…"
"Nonsense; I was heading there anyway, and we don't want anyone to be aware of err…your…nightly activities...and madam, there's a leaf in your hair."
"Thanks Jasper. I tried to sneak back into the castle but the gates were locked, and I swear, those soldiers don't need sleep!"
Jasper chuckles; he's used to my odd humor by now. "And even if I did make it in, a maid would have found me and… well, you know how Logan gets."
"Yes your brother does tend to get perturbed at you leaving the castle."
"Jasper, that's the biggest understatement of the year and you know it."
At this Jasper chuckles again just as he opens the rather large doors to my sister's room. Her room is large, larger than mine anyhow, and in the corner was a used desk, and an unused dog bed. All her curtains are shut tightly, not letting an inch of sunlight get through, and Rose's blankets are wrapped tightly around her like a cocoon. "Jasper, is that water cold?"
"Ice cold, but why…?"
In an instant my hand snatches the water and pours it all over Rose. "!" she squeals. Rose shoots up, hand going to her back, trying to remove the ice. Her border collie, Knight, jumps off the bed in a rush.
"Good morning sister," I say, an innocent smile on my face, as the water soaks into the bed.
Rose glares at me, brown eye meeting green, flushed peach skin meeting pale, and fine russet brown hair meeting—you guessed it—raven black.
"Raven dear, can you come here?"
"There is something I must tell you that is for your ears only."
"What is it Mommy? What do you have to say?"
"Raven my dear; I am not long for this world…"
"No, don't say that mommy!"
"…so before I do you need to know the truth," Mommy said, as if I hadn't spoken at all.
"Seven years ago, a young woman was with child and begged me to help her to raise this child as my own if she should perish…she didn't make it through the birthing."
"So why does that matter, Mommy?"
"That child was you."
"I don't care! You're still my mommy!"
"Raven…hey; earth to Raven…you in there?"
"What? Oh, sorry, lost in thought, so, my lovely kind-hearted sister… how about you let me see one of your shirts?"
"I don't know…you did dump water on me."
"I'll love you forever."
"You'll love me forever no matter what I say."
"I'll help you with your boy toy."
"His name is Elliot!"
"So you two are together!"
"No that's not what I- what I mean is- balls," my sister swore, a tiny frown on her lips.
"I'll take this secret to my grave…as long as you let me borrow one of your shirts."
"Sister, you are evil."
"And you love me."
"On that note, if you follow me, perhaps we can find more appropriate clothing for today's activities. Master Elliot is most eager to speak to you this morning, and is waiting for you in the garden."
"My, my sister mannequins you really are a spoiled brat," I say with a playful smirk on my lips.
"I'm two years older than you, sister!"
"Yes…funny how that works out. And now that I have grabbed one of your shirts, I am going to go see Logan, tatty bye." Rose and Jasper both cringe at the reminding word, while I tilt my head back and laugh, strutting out of the room and, once hitting the hallway, sprint toward the war room.
Once reaching the large, wooden door I pause, wondering if Logan is in a bad mood. Then I decide that if he is, it is even more necessary for me to enter. So boldly reaching out, my small hand knocks lightly on the imposing door. A few seconds later a worn, but strict voice says "come in," and so happily I do. Logan is sitting in an overly large, comfy chair, his bony pale hand supporting his slightly hollow cheek, and his midnight sky eyes gaze at the burning fire tiredly. He stands up quickly, pulling back his already slicked back, black hair.
"Good morning Lo…"
"Where were you last night?" Logan says; a silent fire is in his eyes.
"Last night you were not in your room. Where were you?"
Logan's face is flushed from anger, eyes in a heated glare. It is more than obvious he is furious with all the documents and letters from idiotic nobles. His desk is littered with notes, workers' complaints, and more than one of Reaver's ridiculous plans. So with a charming smile, my mouth formed the simple words "a bar" and he snaps, just like I predicted.
He screams at me, about my un-regal behavior, about his people expecting too much of him, about Reaver never leaving him be, and about Walter's disapproving looks. Finally, he can yell no more, and slumps into a chair, breathing heavily, mentally exhausted. "Feeling better?"
Realization and horror comes to his face as he says, "Raven, you should not have let me do that."
"You do feel better though, right?"
"Much better, thank you," Logan says, still looking extremely guilty, but definitely more relaxed.
The great thing about Logan is that he never fills the silence with useless drivel, and he expects the same of you. If Logan says something, it is always important, even if the meaning was lost to you. "Raven, did you tell sister you're adopted yet?" Logan says nonchalantly, his hands tracing the patterns on the chair.
"No, Logan, I haven't, and I don't think I will."
"Why?" he says, glancing up at me, already knowing my answer, but polite enough to ask.
"Because it doesn't matter; nothing will change, so why say anything?"
"If you don't, somebody else will, and then she'll be furious that you didn't tell her."
"Good point. Well, then I'll take my leave, tatty…"
"Please don't say it. I hear that word at least five times a day from Reaver; my ears can't take it coming from you."
"Spoil-sport; fine then, goodbye Logan, I'll see you later for horseback riding."
"When did I say we were riding horses?" Logan says, his brow crinkling in confusion.
"You did just now; bye!" I say, grinning like a fool.
So with a spring in my step I leave the war room, proud to say it was me that brightened Logan day. Logan is truthfully my favorite part of the day, even if he has become extremely busy lately. Logan is, besides Mother of course, one of the only people in my life that has given me his undivided attention. No matter what he is doing, whether talking to nobles or filling out paperwork, he will always stop what he is doing, give me a rare smile, and listen to me until I'm done. Logan is, to me, like my road that will never crumble.
My feet screech to a halt, and my head snaps to the right to see none other than Sir Walter Beck with his trademark beer mug at his side, walking down the long stair case's purple rug.
"I was just heading to the kitchen, where your sister's going to make a speech. Do you want to come?"
"Of course; what kind of monster would miss their darling sister's speech?" I say; an innocent smile is on my face.
"You're going to torment her, aren't you?"
"Oh viciously," I say, an evil plot formulating in my mind.
Walter gave a deep chuckle as we both walked into the kitchen, ready to listen to my sister's speech. The kitchen was large, and the servant's were in larger numbers still.
Surprisingly, the speech was good very good. She stated the facts and offered a pleasant solution.
"Raven…. Your sister Rose…she will be…she will be a…"
"Be a…? Be what mommy, what will she be?"
"A hero Raven, your sister will be a hero."
Maybe mother was right after all. "You call that a royal speech? You didn't shout, you didn't threaten, and you were far too reasonable. It was bloody marvelous!" Walter grins wildly, his walrus mustache creeping towards his nose.
"I don't know…that bit about protecting their families was very despicable don't you think?" I say; an artificial scowl is on my face.
"You're just jealous, sister," Rose says, laughing.
"Oh yes, you've seen right through me, how could I possible go on with an older sister as talented as you?"
"Love you too."
"Right then, ready for today's training?" Walter bellows, resting his hand on his sheath.
"Take good care of her, Walter," Elliot calls out, flipping his dark brown hair out of his twinkling hazel eyes, a kind smile on his face. He holds his medium-sized build loosely, his stance trusting and open. He is naïve but a good person and has always strived to do the right thing.
"Sister, you're not coming to watch?"
"As much as I would love to watch you and Walter hit each other with sharp objects, Logan and I are going horseback riding."
"I'm not sure what is more impressive, you getting him out of the castle, or you letting him yell at you all the time and you not hitting him."
"Logan yells at you? Why haven't you told me? What scratch that does Logan even yell at all? Brother always seems so…cold," Rose states, biting her lip.
"Yes, Logan does have the ability to yell, quite loudly in fact, and the only reason he does that is because I antagonize him."
"You antagonize him? Why on earth would you do that?"
We were all quiet for a second or two, until I said, "No matter what anybody says, Logan is still human and even kings need to defuse."
Walter coughs awkwardly and says, "Alright, enough of that its time for today's training!"
"Alright sister, you go doll up for our dear king."
This time it was my turn to cough awkwardly, only this one had a blush added to it. It became even more awkward when I realized that she was simply teasing me. Sister looking slightly disturbed, but thankfully said nothing. Walter and Elliot exchange knowing glances, and the faint but persistent flush glows on my cheeks.
After they leave, Elliot comes behind me a teasing smile on his lips and says, "So Raven how's your 'forbidden' relationship with Logan going," he finished, using quotations on "forbidden."
The fact that I'm not really a princess is widely known with the older maids, and the new workers had at least a suspicion of it, and really it's not hard to see why. Out of my two siblings, I look most like Logan, and that was only because we were both tall, or in my case freakishly tall and still growing. I suppose you could say our hair is similar, but his isn't black, it's dark brown.
"I'm not in any forbidden relationship, sorry if that disappoints you boy toy." Yeah, there's no forbidden relationship of any kind.
He just gives a good natured laugh, far too used to the nickname to be upset by it.
"I'm going to go change. Are you going to watch Rose?"
"In a bit, but right now I'm staying here."
"Alright, see you later, boy toy," I say, waving, and trot up the kitchen stairs.
The halls are eerily quiet; servants dash to and fro, never looking anyone in the eyes. Finally I arrive at my room, the tension of the halls disappearing like smoke when someone opens a window.
My room is larger than most; in fact, the closet is about the size of a small bedroom. However, it was rare that I spend any time in it at all. The only sign of personalization is the large, sleeping hawk, Xander, resting peacefully on his window perch.
In a dash I remove my clothes, bathe, and place on my riding garments, most importantly a hair tie. There were a few times where I'd entertain the idea of cutting it short, but then I remembered why it was long, blush, and forgot the notion.
My hand is on the cold door handle when an idea comes to mind that is simply too good to pass up. Practically skipping over to my bed, I got on my hands and knees and pulled out a wooden box; in it was a pistol. It's a beauty, my pistol, silver and sleek, with what looked like silver ivy wrapping around it.
Every year since I was seven, some unknown person had given me a single present, and every time it was as if he or she had read my mind. Most people assumed it was Logan trying to sneak me an extra present; however his little "competition" with said person said otherwise. He would buy me something extra ordinary, and truly I would love it, (as I told him ever year) then that person's gift came and he felt it blew his out of the water.
It was great at first getting two amazing presents, but at 10 I'd realized that preserving Logan sanity was more important; however that doesn't stop him from still trying to beat said person.
The important thing right now however, is deciding if I should bring this or not. On one hand I need protection…no you don't; Logan will be bringing his guards just for you. Well, he might need extra protection himself…you know he's more than strong enough himself. Oh, sod it; I just want to bring that gun.
Snatching it out of its pretty box, I place it in my belt's holster and go on my way. My excitement is at its peak right now. Maybe Logan will bring a lute. Probably…he did like to hear me play. That's when I heard it, a loud commotion coming from the throne room.
"That can't be right," I whisper, a wrinkle forming in-between my brow, "Logan isn't holding court today."
So, curiously, I tiptoe my way over to the cracked door to see Rose and Elliot, standing stiffly as Logan slouches on his throne.
"Here come the saviors of the people. Come closer, sister."
Hesitantly my sister walks forward, slowly letting go of Elliot's hand.
"Today you have disappointed me beyond measure," Logan says, shifting back and forth on his throne, "I have been betrayed by my own blood, and a filthy spy," he adds, venom lacing his every word.
"We did nothing wrong," Elliot shot back.
Ignoring Elliot, Logan shoots up and says, "Punishment must be apportioned where it belongs."
"Punish me then," Rose says bravely, pointing to herself.
"You are no longer a child, and it's time I stopped treating you as one," step, step, step, until he is right in front of her; odd to think not even a year ago they were as close as siblings could be.
"You wished to save the traitors who had gathered outside the castle this morning. Very well, you shall have you chance to save them."
That's what this is about, protesters yapping outside the front door? Oh, for the love of-either put them in jail or give them a strict warning, there's no need to kill the poor souls!
"Here stands the leaders of the violent mob," Logan said gesturing with his hand to a group of people, huddled up and frightened.
"I will give you a choice. Who will be punished: these strangers or the boy? The sentence will be death."
Everything went into a panic after that, Rose grasping Elliot hand, the strangers crying out, and me slamming both doors open.
"Logan, please think about what you're doing!"
Logan has never ignored me a day of my life, but today, today is different. "You are the princess; decide."
Crack! "Your majesty, Logan, please," Walter calls out, taking a step forward.
"Logan, listen to me! There must be another way!" I say, gripping his shoulder.
"I am giving you power over life and death."
Crack, my stone road is crumbling, bits and pieces already lost.
"No! I won't do this!"
"Logan," I reply weakly, barely holding his shoulder anymore.
"If you don't choose I will. They will all be executed."
Crash! My road, my invincible stone road, came crumbling down: with me on it.
Things are hectic after that: Elliot pleading Rose not to let those people die, said people crying louder than ever; but I just stand there shocked, hurt and trying to hold onto what little is left. With a sob Rose makes her decision. "Elliot," she says, her voice breaking.
The crowd is relieved, shouting their thanks as they are escorted from the throne room; but for me and my sister, what is left of our life—that small little peace—is shattered.
"You did the right thing." Sister just shakes her head, a single tear streaming down her cheek. "And whatever happens, know that I love you."
Guards roughly grab Elliot, dragging him out of the room to await his death. Furiously Rose spins around to Logan and screams, "I will never forgive you!"
"Good; that means you'll never forget it. Escort my sister to her chambers. Now."
After Rose leaves, kicking and screaming, Logan sighs and turns to me; but I am still staring, staring at the spot where Elliot and Rose had been. Was that real? No, that was impossible. Elliot is still alive; this has to be a joke…some sick, twisted joke.
"Raven," Logan says, practically slapping me with realization.
I storm out of there, my hands tightening into fists. How dare him! How…? "Raven come back, let me explain!"
Explain what? That he's insane, that he broke my trust, that he killed Elliot?
"Raven," Logan grabs my shoulder, pulling me back. I do the first thing that pops in my head: I slap him.
The smack echoes in the halls and Logan stares, shocked, his cheek already a bright red.
Tears stream down my face, then it occurs to me; I just slapped the king.
"Don't talk to me," I hiss. He nods numbly as he watches me leave. I use my sleeves to wipe the tears.
I take ten fragile steps, as if the earth is crumbling beneath me, then I take off, pushing past the servants, and burst through the doors; the rain is soaking my clothes in an instant. When did it start raining? Why did such a happy day become this?
The rain is beating down on the concrete, like the pounding of drums, but the sobs from sister's room were louder still. What I should do is go to her door, let myself inside, and tell her it will be alright; instead, I climbed the ivy leading up to her tower's roof, curl myself in a ball, and let her cry it out, because lying wouldn't change a thing.
What do we do now? Sister and I can't stay here, it would drive her insane, and I'd be put in jail.
As if to answer my thoughts a large figure emerges from the rain. It is none other than Walter. Stealthily I climb down the ivy until all of his words became clear.
"This kingdom needs nothing less than a revolution...it needs a Hero."
So the time has come. "Well sister, if you're planning some big, life-changing plan, I do hope you include me."
Walter, who stands at the threshold, only has a second to look around in confusion before I drop directly in front of him. "After all, you would be helpless without me."
"Balls!" he exclaims, startled. "Bloody hell…can't even give us a warning before you do something like that, can you?" he mutters. Beside him, Jasper sighs, once again puzzled at my irrational behavior.
"I started talking; that was your warning. Anyway, enough of that; let's go and rally some citizens, kill some guards, and lead one of the most interesting revolution's Albion has ever seen."
"Sister, you can't just jump into something like this!" Rose cries. "At least think about this for a second."
"So agreeing to something as soon as you hear it isn't 'jumping into to it,' as it were." Sister blushes, and coughs awkwardly, trying to avoid eye contact. "Besides, I already knew this day to come would come. I just wasn't aware of the date yet."
"You knew that this would happen?" she asks, bewildered.
"Not the rebellion, no, but I did know you are a hero, so if the mighty hero of Albion decides a revolution is necessary, who am I to judge?" I garble quickly, "Besides it would be hard to stay after slapping the king." Then, I say in my prior timbre, "Onward then!"
"Wait, you did what!" They all cry in unison.
Walter groans and mumbles something that sounds like "not good."
Jasper says, "Madam, if I may, what implored you to slap Logan?"
"It's a situation where the hand is faster than the brain," I say nonchalantly, as Rose and Walter slap their palms on their faces, exasperated.
"Do you even have a…oh, I suppose you do," Walter says as I brandish my gleaming pistol.
"Now that that's settled, let's go…wait!" I cry. "I almost forgot something…and no, Walter we do not have to go in the castle."
Walter nods gratefully as I put two of my fingers in my mouth and blow, the whistle piercing the air sharply.
Where is she? Why didn't she let me explain?
A cold, bitter laugh to escapes my scarred lips. Yes, like anyone, even Raven would stop and listen to what I say, and if she did stop to listen, what would I say? The truth…sometimes not even I believe in the truth.
Her room is dark as I gather my thoughts, not even one candle is lit, nor is one book left open; no yellowed pages flap in the gale blowing in through her window, smelling of her. The only glimmer of light is from her hawk's bright amber eyes, my last hope. She would never leave him, which means as long as he remains, so does she. It is a selfish intent, I know, wishing she would stay. Raven should go, not only for herself, but for Sister as well. Rose has never been outside the castle, and Walter is a soldier with an unbreakable code. Raven, however could not only fit in with the down and dirty people, she liked it.
However this part of me, the logical part, was being greatly overpowered by the selfish part of me; why did Raven have to go? Why do I have to lose those kind eyes, those sweet lips that never stopped laughing, but most importantly, the voice that could rival an angel in its beauty?
Suddenly Xander stops glaring at me and turns his head to the window. His wings expand, and he flies out of the room, taking my hope with him.