The dust settles to reveal the scene, the bandit lay unharmed, the ax blade is inches from Alex’s face, and his strong hands grip the ax handle tightly; “Death is not a punishment for his social disobedience!” Alex screams, the executioner pulls his ax away and Alex turns to the face the Keeper “Death is not acceptable!”
“What did you call him?” Alex pauses, not recalling what he had called the bandit.
“He called me Al.” Throne manages to grit out, struggling to sit up. “Alex, help me, please.” The knight turns slowly and pulls the man up right before heaving him to his feet.
“Al?” The Keeper whispers, Alex cuts the bindings and the bandit brushes dust off of his clothing before facing the keeper.
“Forgive me, perhaps you do not recognize me. I am Alphonso Marion Defries, rightful king of Braydora, orphan since nine when your men murdered my family and left me for dead!” a deathly silence falls over the confused crowd, the Keeper looks around in a panic. Maggie stands up.
“What is going on here?” She asks, torn between the two sides.
“Lady Foretold, do not pay the madman any mind.” The Keeper speaks thinking fast. “To think he has stolen the prince’s identity and fooled his dearest friend into believing it. Alex, please, open your eyes. This impostor has used your grief against you.” Alex bites his bottom lip and looks down.
“I… I….” He lets out a breath and looks to the bandit, only seeing his friend. “I’m sorry… I cannot choose a side in this matter…. I… I must meditate… Forgive me, Your Grace.” Both men nod to him as the knight turns and runs from before the both of them, tears threatening to spill over. Maggie looks between the men.
“Throne, what is going on?” She asks, uneasily.
“The man you are so interested in is a cold blooded killer, he is-” The Keeper covers her ears, his rapid heartbeat drowning out the bandit’s words.
“Guards, take him away!” Maggie looks up at king, his eyes are wide and wild, she struggles out of his hands and looks at him, squaring her shoulders and ready to demand answers but before she can speak the Keeper looks out to the crowd. “On this day a full investigation into the death of the royals will be relaunched, to ensure justice is protected the bandit known as Throne will reside in the North Tower till a council can be convened; as for the Good Sir Knight of Cypress, Alexander will not be punished for being taken in by the con-artist, I leave him to meditate and pray on this matter.” The crowd hesitantly claps “And now, forgive us but I’m afraid it is time for the Lady Foretold and I to retire.” Maggie allows herself to be escorted out of the box and into a carriage, they rush from the tournament toward Cypress’s high walls in silence.
“Jacob,” Maggie finally breaks the silence “Is what he said true?”
“Not at all, my dear. The only truth he spoke was the prince’s name and fate.” She nods and looks out the window “Don’t think on it, dearest, leave the affairs or state to me.”
“Excuse me?” The Keeper does not relent.
“You have so much to worry about, let me handle this, yes?” Maggie nods silently, eyes drifting to the sky full of foreign stars. The silence returns as they enter the city but it does not last. “My dear,” Maggie looks at the man “I’m afraid my plan was ruined tonight, but allow me to ask you anyway.”
“Ask me what?” Maggie eyes him with suspicion.
“To be my wife.” Maggie giggles and shakes her head.
“I am much to young for that! No, I’m sorry Jacob, I can’t be your wife.” The Keeper smiles.
“Well, you seem to think you get the choice, but here you do not. You are here without guardian so I cannot ask them, and you are but a woman so your choice means little. With you beside me I will cement my power.”
“I’m not going to marry you.” Maggie does her best to sound firm.
“Its already being planned, my dear. I’m afraid you don’t have any choice really.” Maggie stares, shocked. “Do not worry, dearest, I will keep you in perfect comfort.” As though that will make her feel better, the Keeper looks out the window, when they pull up to the castle door he steps out and pulls a guard aside, as Maggie steps out he is there, escorting her to a new room far from Alex, the Brothers, and any escape she can easily make. The heavy door locks behind her as Maggie struggles to understand what is happening, with the realization slow to come to her she throws herself onto the bed and begins to cry softly.
“What have I done… Why didn’t I just listen when I had the chance…” She sniffles “I want to go home… I want my mom….” But it is too late for that.