Chapter Fourteen: Red Flag

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The Queen was as sophisticated as ever as she waltzed down the passageway in the morning hours. I wanted to be the one to ruin her false sense of happiness as she passed by; I wanted to be the one to tell her how her husband had plans to make me his mistress. But then his warning ate away at my newfound courage. So when the Queen passed by, all I did was bow.

My chest was heavy as the memories of last night resurfaced. The disgusting feeling of the King's hands on my hips...the lustful stare in his eyes as he grinned at me...the moment he snatched the stone from my neck, leaving me with a feeling of emptiness.

And then there were the millions of questions I had about the Winter Stone. What was it? What was the extent of the powers? What would the King do with it now that it was in his possession? I had no idea, and my ignorance frustrated me.

I mentally placed the thoughts of last night into a chest inside of my brain and closed it. I would deal with the necklace issue later.

The guards led me out to the training grounds and I was happy that they no longer felt the need to keep me tied up. I appreciated the freedom as I gazed up at the dark sky. At any minute, the sun would kiss the horizon and illuminate the earth. It meant that I'd survived another day.

As I approached, I saw the others standing in formation as Prince Sebastian stared off, looking to be in a daze. Next to him stood a woman I'd never seen before, wearing a magnificent midnight blue gown and a sparkling necklace that complimented her chest. She was breathtaking, possibly the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen, and she stood next to Prince Sebastian, making him look good.

She was royal. Possibly a duchess. They sure looked lovely together. I wondered why she was even here. When she looked up and saw me approaching, she frowned. What did I do? I asked myself.

I looked at Prince Sebastian as his eyes absentmindedly found mine. His mouth twitched and then he looked away. The morning wind blew his long hair away from his face in the most artistic way as he moved away from the woman next to him and began walking past each of us.

"Today will be different than the last few days. In fact, for the next four days, you will be competing in a competition against each other, and whoever wins will be granted the title of Captain. This title is able to be taken away very easily, so don't get too excited. At the end of each week, you will battle each other for the title. Whoever has this title at the end of training will stand next to me during battle as a leader.

"Lady Cora and Lady Anya will be paired against each other and whoever wins will then play the other victor in the final round. Understood?" he waited for us to nod. "We shall begin with Sir Luca and Sir Titus. Come forth and stand behind the line in the snow."

Luca and Titus nodded at each other and quietly moved into position. Luca was tall and lean and Titus was of average height and was very muscular. I had no idea what the object of the game was to even guess who'd win. Physical fighting was one thing, and so was an actual battle with gifts being used.

The Prince stopped next to the strikingly beautiful woman who'd accompanied him and pulled a piece of red cloth from his pocket. He handed it to her and whispered in her ear. She then nodded and began walking fifty feet away. One positioned, she turned to face Luca and Titus and held up a red flag.

"The goal of this competition is the be the first to grab the red flag from Lady Esmeralda's hand. You must stop your opponent from reaching me before you do at whatever cost, but please, do not kill each other. Whoever gets the flag first, wins this battle. Understood?" He signaled to Lady Esmeralda, and she violently waved the flag in the air. "Begin!"

Lucas took off running, and it was obvious that he'd be the fastest of the two. But when Titus stomped the ground and ice rose from the snow, freezing Luca's legs to the ground, I gasped. There were two types of Ice wielders: those who wielded ice from their hands, and then those who also had the ability to wield ice from existing water (such as puddles, snow, or rain). Titus was clearly the latter, and was exceptional at it. I couldn't even do what he'd just done.

It only took a few seconds for Luca to break out of the ice, but it was long enough to give Titus the advantage. Luca tried shooting blast after blast, but Titus easily dodged them, and before a minute had even passed, Titus had the red flag in his hands.

Prince Sebastian and his guards clapped as Titus and Luca made their way back to were we stood.

"Astounding job, Titus. You showed us all a great way to wield ice without even having to use white fire! Exceptional." Prince Sebastian congratulated. "Now, Lady Cora and Lady Anya, please take your places."

Begrudgingly, I followed orders and went to stand behind the starting line formed in the snow.

I glanced at Cora and found that her expression was alarming. She stared ahead at Lady Esmeralda with a determined look that said she'd do whatever it took to win. I was no longer her peer, I was her obstacle.

Cora once said that I was the strongest, but I didn't think so. I thought that she was tough and more determined than I, and the way she positioned herself to take off showed that she would do anything to win.

"Begin!"

I anticipated that Cora would take Luca's approach and make a run for it and had my own plan laid out. The Prince said we needed to win at all cost, and that's what I planned to do.

I couldn't wield as much snow as Titus had to freeze all of Cora's feet, so I wielded just enough to freeze the ground beneath her feet.
As soon as she stepped on the ice she began to slip and fell in the most unlady-like way.

I began to run, watching from the corner of my eye as Cora became preoccupied with getting to her feet. Each time she stood, she slipped and fell. By the time she looked up to see where I was, I'd already snatched the flag from Lady Esmeralda's hand.

I smiled at Lady Esmeralda in victory but she only lowered her eyes into slits.

"Lady Anya wins!" Prince Sebastian shouted, and I heard clapping behind me as I continued to stare into ominous eyes.

"Lady Anya," Esmeralda said as if she'd heard my name before. "So you're the one seeing the Prince."

"Excuse me?" I asked, taken back by her words.
"The other night when I made love to my future betrothed, I heard him shout your name in his sleep. It sounded like a nightmare to me, and so I thought nothing of it, until now." Lady Esmeralda glanced down at my body and examined my features. "You're pretty enough. I sensed that when I first saw you walking up. The Prince likes pretty things so it's no surprise. He especially likes the pretty things that he can throw away. You see, you are disposable, whereas I am not. You'd do yourself some good to remember that among the sea of about ten other women." She smiled sweetly and lifted her eyes to something behind me. "Prince Sebastian, how kind of you to join."

I turned to see Prince Sebastian frown down at the both of us. "Now is not the time to become acquainted, please join us."

He didn't wait for us as he turned to join the rest of the group.

"I'm not warning you to keep you from his bed. You may have his bed, or heart, whichever you prefer, doesn't matter to me. But you may not have the throne. That is mine. Is that understood?" Lady Esmeralda smiled. "Besides, you'll look lovely as the royal whore. I heard it's envied even more than being the Queen."

I didn't respond to her indecency in any way. I simply turned and walked away. I wasn't interested in being in the Prince's bed or sitting next to him on the ice throne. I only wanted to save a people from an evil that was to come.

There was one thing that bothered me more than anything else as I walked back to the group. What nightmare had the Prince had that involved me?

The thought chilled me worse than the morning Northern air.

The thought chilled me worse than the morning Northern air

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