My head throbbed from the tension I felt while being escorted through the cheering crowd. The blinding lights only added to my misery, and so I kept my head low and shielded from the onlookers.
Their hands grabbed at me as I passed, and their shouting did nothing to ease my headache. "Champions!" they yelled. "The Chosen Four! Heroes!"
We weren't heroes; we were the King's pawns but they didn't know that. They only knew how to falsely trust in a King who misled them.
Once out of the chaotic courtyard, the four of us went to the only place we knew we could talk in quiet: our private dining room. I walked into the room first, compiling my list of thoughts while trying to fight through my headache. I then turned around and found Cora, Luca, and Titus watching me, waiting to hear what I had to say.
"Tell us what you know?" Cora demanded, her lightly freckled face full of worry. I nodded in response and began pacing back and forth.
"Do you remember how you couldn't touch the winter stone? You either, Luca. It's because it's too powerful, too cold...colder than white fire. The King is right by saying that it could make us stronger, but my guess is that it could also kill us in the process. Are we willing to take that chance tomorrow?" I stopped walking and studied their faces...faces that looked devastated, knowing that tragedy was possibly right around the corner. I hated being the bearer of bad news.
"Well, it's simple," Cora stated. "We get that damned stone back!"
"Nothing is simple when it comes to the King," Titus said, eying Cora. "There's no way we will get the stone in enough time!"
"I'm afraid Titus is right," Luca concurred, which caused Cora to grow noticeably colder. Her hands frosted as they dangled on either side of her. "We are hopeless."
"I bet you want us to be hopeless," Cora growled, and the tone of her voice sat me on edge. "You are a traitor!"
"That makes no sense," Luca scoffed. "If I was the traitor, I'd stop at nothing to get that stone. Maybe you're the traitor!"
Cora gasped and then lashed out at Luca, trying to claw his face wither her icy fingertips. Thankfully, Titus pulled her away in time but she fought against his grip, trying to free herself so that she could attack Luca.
"How dare you call me a traitor!" she screamed as she thrashed about, causing my headache to worsen. I sighed and moved in between the two of them, facing Cora. I reached out and grabbed her hands to steady her.
"Don't you see? We are doing exactly what the King wants!" I told her. "He wants us to focus so much on ourselves that we loose sight of him! He is a mastermind, and he has us exactly where he wants us! What if there really isn't a traitor? What if the King is simply distracting us with false leads? If we turn against each other, we are weak! If we band together, we could overpower him."
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