Bit 8 Keep your friends close...

People of fire dancing on the moon; a blood red rose growing from a still beating heart; a merciless smile of iron; a soul chained to a throne of thorns; a body on a stone pedestal of pure blood. An endless number of images. Millions of impossible visions of pain and suffering, of hysterical laughing. A century or a minute could have passed. There was no difference as they kept coming, each more bizarre and painful than the one before. Yet perhaps the most peculiar moment was the moment she opened her eyes. There was no warning or a slow grogginess, a weight that remains after sleeping. She awoke in her bed with a cool wind hitting her face and the smell of rain in the air. The day was grey and monochrome. As mundane and orthodox as usual. Except...the events of the previous day did happen. Or was it all part of the dream? The dream. That was something out of the ordinary. She didn't dream. And it definitely felt more real than a dream. Could it be that she imagined it all? Even the attack on the castle? It would make the most sense, of course. Rebels couldn't possibly break through the walls and defeat so many guards with their ever decreasing numbers. Ready to look at the time and figure out what truly happened, she sat up in her bed. Or she would have if it didn't feel as if every bone in her body was broken the moment she tried to move. That was also out of the ordinary. She tried again, slower this time. Surprisingly, the pain was much weaker this time, bearable even. She dealt with worse pain monthly. The things didn't seem to add up. Her head was clear and she most definitely didn't just wake up from a normal night's sleep. Her hair brushed and nails cut shortly - not her own doing. The clock across her room read 11.37 am...What? She quite literally never woke up this late. None of this made sense, yet it was so new and ordinary simultaneously. Her door was not fully closed and she heard footsteps somewhere on the staircase. She stood up - she was wearing her nightgown which she didn't remember putting on again - and walked over to the balcony. The floor felt much colder against her feet as she quickly observed the city. It was silent. Deathly silent. The streets were empty and the houses barred. Yet the buildings, the spires from the night and belltowers, were destroyed. It did happen then.

The doors opened soundlessly, yet she knew someone entered the room behind her; she heard them coming after all. A quick intake of breath as the person, a woman, stopped in her tracks. Surprise? She turned around looking at the visitor. A better description would be a girl - 17, maybe 18. She was wearing the handmaiden outfit, meaning her old one was dead. Tragic. You could see the fear and shock in the girls face like words in a book. Her mouth opened and shut, like a fish, trying to form words, while her hands fidgeted with the hem of her white apron. This wasn't going to lead anywhere with this mess of nerves in front of her. "Well spit it out". She was getting quite used to her voice again, even if she only spoke three times in... She'll have to figure out the date soon. She didn't try to hide her annoyance and impatience in her voice which seems to have made the girl even more terrified.

"I...I.." Ugh.

"Yes. That is exactly what I need right now - a stammering mess that's barely literate.". It appears saying phrases like that, in an extremely monotonous tone, won't help her either. She couldn't stop herself from saying it even if she wanted to, though.

"A thousand apologies my lady. I didn't mean to waste your time. I only just started last week and we weren't expecting you to wake so early, so they assigned to me to your quarters in hopes of -"

"How long?". A pause. No response. "Do you simply not understand or are you completely dull, girl? I asked you 'how long?'" She made sure to empathise the last two words. Another pause but the girl started speaking before she had the chance to ask again.

"You must understand my lady, it was the Queen's wishes that you-"

"I must do absolutely nothing so watch your tongue girl before I have it cut out." And more silence. Seems cutting the girls tongue out isn't necessary if she's incompetent of speech either way. "Answer. The. Question."

"The Queen said th-"

"I do not care what the Queen said. I asked you a question and I want an answer." A pause. She was getting tired of those. The girl probably won't even miss her tongue.

"Three weeks." Oh. She expected as much yet it still surprised her. She missed the last three weeks. It's not that she cares how much time has passed. However, usually, it all feels like one endless dream where time has no purpose. This time she wasn't even awake. But if she was asleep for three weeks, does that not mean she has the plague? There is no way she doesn't. She was in direct contact with the... She almost forgot about the man. The infected fool that made it into the castle. With any luck, he already died of the plague. Luck hasn't been on her side throughout her life though so it seems unlikely.

"Very well. Go tell the Queen and the King that I am awake and I demand they speak with me within the next 20 minutes. I shall get ready in the meantime." She could actually see the poor girl's soul die in her eyes. Not that she cared, it's her job, is it not?

"Yes, my lady" was the girl's quiet response as she curtsied and turned around. She started making her way over to the dresser but stopped as the girl reached the door.

"By the way," she said without looking at the girl. "Don't take no for an answer. I do not care what you have to do. Tell them to be ready." And with that, she finished plotting her way to finding out the truth.

204 days left

Bit 7 Bit 9

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