The Girl in the Cage – Dark Fantasy Short Story – 4/4

They had her cornered. Robior was bleeding, but pain was a distant and foreign sensation. He stood up merely by the rush of victory. The damn hag did finally bite more than she could chew. Her armor lay in pieces, showing her battered, blackened body underneath, where fire and iron and salt had eaten through her flesh quicker than she could regenerate it. Arrows pelted her forehead like a strange crown. A huge gash cut through her torso. She hung from the wall, stuck there by a huge arbalester dart – smoke coming out of her wound where iron was busy coursing through her Fae flesh. 

This would be the day they killed her. If they got rid of her, the rest of the Summer Court would follow. Without their greatest champion, they would be open to an actual pushback.

No House of Summer, no protection for the others. 

They would burn down the accursed forest to a crisp.

Walk back amidst the tall wheat.

Take back their island. 

A new dawn for mankind.

And it all started here because one of them overplayed their hand.

He chuckled, all thoughts of the girl in the dungeons gone.

“It starts here,” he said, raising his mace high. He spat a dop of blood. Half his ribs crushed. He probably would not live to see the dawn, but others would. And they would know his name. There would be songs.

Captain Robior and the Battle of the Tooth.

It had a nice ring to it. 

“We are going to take back what’s ours. We will burn your fucking forest and all of you monsters with it.”

The Fae did not reply.

Not at once.

Only when her green eyes focused on something behind them.

“It starts here indeed,” she grinned. 

From behind more screams came.

And snapping sound, like crumpled bones.

And splashed blood.

And a soft smell.

Like freshly-picked peaches. 

Robior turned.

The entrance to the dungeon had been eaten out by a grey moss. From it spread branches and roots, white as bone and stained red. They crushed through iron, they broke protections, they slithered down throats and they pierced through chests.

From the aperture walked out the very same girl he thought dead.

And with a flash he understood the amount of his folly.

For he had always been right.

The Tooth was an unmatched fortress.

No Fae, no matter how powerful, would be able to take it.

From the outside.

The entire tower fell upon itself as Vehrona slashed through his neck. 

His last sight was an upside-down ruined face, a broken smile curled into a grin. 

“… en ruin.

Twist and tumble

Forgot the smell of home

No soil beneath our footsteps

No marrow in our bones.”

Princess Vehrona limped on one leg. Her ichor glistened gold all over her stained armor as she bowed at her Lady. She was finishing her incantation, crouched over the body of the Captain. A small flower that looked like a handful of teeth drank her Lady’s crimson blood, in which golden sparks flew like lost stars.

     “Listen at us, will you?

Share with us your head

Do hide behind the iris

As all of our friends are dead.”

Her Lady stood up, her spell completed. The moss of bone and blood and skin twisted and trembled, crumbling upon itself, turning into something else.

Old stones, weathering sea and centuries, powdered to grey snow.

Chains snapped like twigs.

The Tooth ruined like a too-ripe fruit, falling all around them.

“You are hurt,” her Lady said, turning towards her.

“It’s nothing,” Vehrona replied, bowing lower. “All in a day’s work at my Lady’s service.”

“Nonsense,” she snapped, putting her hands over her neck. “I’ll take care of you.”

Warmth spread all over her body – the accursed dart that had pierced through her skin clipped in two and fell into the sea of brambles slowly rising in the air. The two of them and the few bodies that were still halfway-consumed lifted towards the coming dawn. 

Vehrona lay her head against the brambles, which accepted her with a welcoming touch.

Little by little, pain receded. Memories of hurt fell into nothingness.

Her Lady withdrew her hands and stumbled amidst the still-growing brambles, curling onto her skin cape where the smeared features of her sister kept pleading for her life.

“My Lady. Are you hurt?”

“It’s nothing,” she replied using her own words. But she couldn’t exactly wave them off as nonsense. Still, she held her hand. Just the touch of her Lady was enough. Her blue eyes scanned the dawn. The Tooth lay spilled at their feet. The sea was rushing in, but the Old Country held fast. Spurred by the blood of her Lady, it rose and rose, taller than the tower that had stood there only a few minutes before.

It fanned out into a tree, a tree made of thick white brambles and black thorns, glistening under the coming sun. 

“You conquered the Tooth,” Vehrona said, amazed. “You accomplished what not even the Winter Court could…”

“This part is done at last,” her Lady whispered. The brambles flattened out into a pavilion – a tall throne at its center, pointed at the city of Zug. “One out of four.” She passed her hand over her scars. “I have skin – need bone and blood, long way to go yet. And then…”

“But my Lady,” Vehrona inquired, “Isn’t Zug the place where your father’s wife is hiding? I thought she was supposed to be the last one.”

“The easiest way to crack an egg is to let the chicken do it for you,” she replied. Then slapped her cheek. “I’m talking just like him now…”

Vehrona smiled. Her Lady got sentimental sometimes, thinking back to her old lie of a life.

“Or to use a more down-to-earth expression… let them come to us. This is a declaration of war, Vehrona.”

“War,” she nodded, licking her lips. She liked it. Even more so if at her Lady’s service.

“Not just against them, mind you.” She seemed to have regained part of strength, walking towards the throne of brambles. Her hand caressed the thorns. “Good enough for now… but I am thinking red would be far better. At any rate: the remaining Houses will do their damn best to stop us, hanging onto their notions of ruinous isolation. Are you ready for that? Your sister…”

“My sister has chosen the cracked path, my Lady. She is a fool and a craven. Summer does not bend.”

Her Lady huffed.

“I would prefer all this talk of Houses to disappear.” She sat on the throne and the entire structure settled, as if falling at last onto place. Standing firm and unmoving. “It has done us little good. I dream of a united wood, Vehrona. One Country.” Her eyes flashed. “Under one Queen.”

“Surely the Autumn Court will not take kindly to that, my Lady.” She stood at her side, marveling at the way the sun played with her golden hair, with the skin patching over the horrid wounds. Little by little she was coming into her own. “What are we to do?”

“I do not know yet. I think the best on the fly, under pressure.”

“That’s so unlike the Winter Court!” Vehrona laughed. She liked it. It reminded her of her own ichor pumping – the chase of battle, the dance, the rush… it sparkled like the midday sun. 

“I am not born merely of Winter. And I have been thinking of a new name for myself, Vehrona.”

“Not the new Winter Queen, then?”

“Not at all.” She played with the thorns that made up her throne. “I wanted something… more.” She chuckled, laying on her high seat, looking down onto the city that would soon be yet another stepping stone to her final ascension. “I am sure it must be quite the sight, seen from the shore. A castle and a throne of thorns. The Captain wanted to know who I am, but I now believe everyone will soon find out.”

Author’s Notes: I kinda cut this short in the end. I think a new chapter would dilute the story too much. At any rate, bonus points to whoever guesses the girl in the cage’s identity. Thanks for reading!


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