Chapter Fifteen: Captain

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Titus stood to the right of me, his knees slightly bent as his feet sank into the snow. His hands flexed, and  his breath escaped from his mouth in waves of white air. When he tilted his head in my direction, I noticed his smile.

It was the smile of a man who felt victorious.


Titus was smooth as he sprinted toward the red flag. I thrusted my hands forward, sending a surge of white fire in his direction. The fire made impact, causing him to stumble and slow down.

I then began running toward him, sending another blast while watching as it collided with his ankle, causing him to fall over. As he fell, he quickly spun into his back and located my position a few feet behind him. He growled and smashed his hand into the ground.

Anticipating his attack, I jumped into the air, narrowly missing a small hill of ice that came up from the ground. As I landed, I formed a shield of ice that would separate me from his next attack.

Unfortunately, white fire melted my shield of ice within seconds, leaving me exposed. I was just three steps shy of the red flag. I looked up and found Lady Esmeralda's haunting eyes. I could make it!

Two steps.

I was inches away. I would t risk looking behind me to see what Titus was doing. I could almost feel the satin fabric as my hand reached out.

One step.

I froze.

My entire body became an ice statue an eight of a second before the flag was mine. I watched as Titus came to a halt next to me, quickly pulling the flag from Lady Esmeralda's hand while shouting in victory. I heard the applause behind me, confirming he'd won.

Titus was the new captain.

My body quickly unthawed, leaving me soaking wet and upset. I was so close; the victory was within reach and I'd lost. I shunned myself as I turned to face Titus. His hand was outstretched and I slowly took it.

"Good game." He shook my hand and then turned around, just in time to catch Cora, who'd flung herself at him.

"Congratulations, Captain," she beamed. Her eyes then found mine and she smiled weakly. "Perhaps you'll win the next game."

"Perhaps." I began walking away, avoiding eye contact from everyone else. I didn't mean to be a terrible loser, but I felt defeated.

Before I knew it, I was halfway back to the castle unaccounted for. I still had conditioning to do, and yet I'd just walked away.

If I couldn't beat Titus at a simple game, how would I be able to defeat the evil that I'd dreamed about? How would I be able to heal a man? Losing was so discouraging that it set me back, mentally.

I felt drained again.

I'd killed a man, I'd almost died, I was almost raped, I was hiding the fact that the King took the necklace, and I had once again proved that I wasn't strong enough to handle any of it.

I felt static.

"Please, your majesty," I began before he could say a word. "I'd just like to return to my room."

"Giving up that easily? Retreating to your rooms because you lost one game?" The Prince laughed, which caused me to grind my teeth in irritation. He now walked along the side of me, and I could see his sarcastic smile from the corner of my eye. "That doesn't sound like the Anya that I know."

"That's because you don't know me." I quickened my paced, but he matched it easily.

"I know more than you think," he reminded me. I'd almost forgotten that he'd spied on me. Fuming, I walked even faster. "Lady Anya, please slow down."

He grabbed my arm, bringing me to a stop.

"As your Prince, I should not have to beg you."

"Forgive me, your majesty," I lowered my head in obedience. As angry as I was, he was right. I had to listen to him before I ended up in trouble. "I'm currently overwhelmed and could use some space."

"Is this because you've lost?" he asked, and for the first time, he truly looked concerned. I'd never seen that side of him, and stepped away, not wanting to be too near. When people showed concern, it made me even more emotional.

"It's everything!" I snapped. "It's the game, it's you, it's the King, it's the winter stone, it's-"

"Winter stone?" Prince Sebastian asked, his silver brows lowering. I stopped breathing, realizing my error. I'd mentioned the stone, something I had promised to keep between me and the other trainees.

"It's nothing," I said.

"Don't lie to me." His icy eyes darkened as he closed the distant between us. The air around us grew colder, as did he. "Tell me."

I opened my mouth to speak.

"Is everything alright?" Lady Esmeralda's voice cut through the air, causing Prince Sebastian to step away from me. She stood afar, but the rising sun highlighted her concerned face.

"Everything is fine, Lady Esmeralda," I spoke up. "I was feeling faint and needed to go rest. Prince Sebastian was making sure that I was well." I turned to the Prince. "Thank you for your kindness, your majesty. I'm sure your future betrothed will be delighted in your caring heart." I watched him frown at my words, but he didn't not interject or correct me. "I'll take to my room now."

I turned around and began walking away, hoping the Prince would go along with my explanation and not bother me. Thankfully, he did. When I turned around to look, Prince Sebastian was walking beside Lady Esmeralda, and she had one arm tucked within his. I sighed in relief and continued walking back to my room.

Mandy's smile did nothing to cheer me up as I walked into my room. She had been bent over cleaning when her head popped up at the sound of my arrival.

"You're early," she chimed and quickly walked to where I stood, examining me. "You don't look well."

"I'm not feeling well." I moved past her to plop down on my bed and scream.

"Would you like me to run your bath water?"
"Later," I mumbled from the pillow. "Right now, I'd like to be alone."

"As you wish, my lady."

I heard my bedroom door close, signaling that she'd left. With a sigh, I sank even further into my bed and closed my eyes.

I'm not sure how much time had passed before the sound of my opening door awoke me. I moaned and shifted into a my back while keeping my eyes closed.

"Is it time for my bath already?" I groaned.
The feeling of static made it's way to me and I quickly sat up, staring into his beautiful, intense eyes. He watched me calmly, but I knew his anger lay a surface under his quiet disposition.

"You're not going to let this rest, are you?" I asked.

"No, Lady Anya, I will not." He took a step toward my bed. "Now, tell me how you know about the winter stone?"

I sighed, and opened my mouth to tell him everything that had happened, and I hoped that he wouldn't become angrier from all the secrets.

I hoped.


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