The Tale of Edgar and Essa
“Fifer, listen to me,” Beatrix says, chasing her down a corridor. “I need to get a message to the School.”
“Just get paper and pens from the drawer in the main room. You can send it with a pigeon or with the normal postman, but the pigeon is easier and more secure.”
“Okay.” She hurries towards the main room, where Kiko and Reena are waiting, and writes the letter, with them watching and sometimes chiming in with corrections. They tie the letter to the pigeon’s leg, watching it fly away.
None of them see it falling to the ground, an arrow through its neck.
And none of them see the archer pick it up and take the letter.
Rhian has a policy – every letter going in or coming out of the city must be read. He has all postmen bring the letters to him, and all pigeons shot out of the sky.
Most of the time, it is just harmless correspondence, and he sends it on its way. But sometimes, it has an undercurrent of rebellion, and so he keeps it.
Edgar strides in, holding yet another letter. “You’re going to want to read this.”
“What does it say?”
“You should read it as well, Rowan.” Rowan walks forward, frowning.
Rhian takes the letter and starts reading it out loud. “Dear Dean Dovey,” he reads. “We have been rescued from the castle and are under the protection of people serving…” He stops, and Rowan walks over.
“Rafaela,” he says quietly. “Rhian, are you…”
Rhian cuts him off. “I’m fine.” He starts pacing back and forth. “What do we do?”
“I say we extend an invite to her. Tell her that she will be safe.”
“Yes. That’s what we’ll do.”
Edgar steps forward cautiously. “Is that a good idea, Rhian?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
Sophie smiles. “You’re not exactly the model of familial love, are you? Your brother is guarded round-the-clock unless he’s with you. You killed your mother. You tried to kill your other brother.”
She swans out of the room, another three guards following her. Rhian stares after her. “Why don’t we go see our special guest?” he asks Edgar and Rowan. They follow, but Rowan wonders – who is this guest?
Ruby is woken by three people entering her room. She stands up, ignoring the pain, and walks in front of them. “What are you doing?”
Rhian nods to the door leading to the stone room with the coffin. “While you were asleep, someone was brought to us and taken into that room. Lead the way, why don’t you? I believe you know him.”
She opens the door. A man lies in the corner, his back to her. Something about him reminds her of someone – the floppy brown hair, the lean body. He turns around as he hears them enter, his face twisting in a scowl. “What are you doing here, Ruby?”
She stares at her stepfather in horror. “Why is he here, Rhian?”
“I thought you would like to catch up.” He walks out, smirking, and locks the door.
Miles sinks back to the floor, anger transforming his face. “We thought you were dead.”
“I wish I was.”
“Your mother thought you were dead. Your sisters. While you were living the high life at the castle, in the company of the man who you’re supposed to be fighting against -”
“High life?” she asks, her voice rising. “Look at me, Miles. Properly.”
He studies her, taking in the dark bruises on her face, her clouded eye, her unnatural thinness. “What happened to you?”
“What do you think happened to me?” She turns, revealing the brutal scars criss-crossing her back. “I was found after the fire. I antagonised him and refused to talk, and I paid the price.”
“I didn’t do it for you.” They sink into silence for a few minutes. “Do you believe in karma, Miles?”
“No. Do you?”
“I believe that if it exists, then you won’t escape it. You will pay for what you did to me.”
“I’m sorry.” She believes that he is sincere, but that doesn’t change anything.
“Who needs karma when I have people like you and Rhian?”
Speak of the devil. Rhian walks in, a knife in his hand. “Tell me how you escaped or he dies.”
Ruby shakes her head. “No.”
“I thought that might be the case.” He holds the knife out to her. “Kill him.”
Miles was – is – a terrible person. Dead, he can never hurt Ruby again.
That’s why she takes the knife.
It is heavy, and in her weakened state she can barely lift it. Miles whimpers, and Rhian kicks him in the side. “Pathetic.” He almost doesn’t see the knife coming at him.
Her aim is off, and it lands on the floor next to him. “That was uncalled for.”
Edgar twists her arms behind her back and throws her to the floor. She cries out as she falls. Edgar pins her to the floor, ignoring her scream. Rowan runs forward and pulls him off, and she gasps with relief as she lifts herself off her injured back.
“I see that I will have to do the honours.” Rhian stalks towards Miles, knife out. Miles screams as the knife cuts into his hand. “Pathetic,” Rhian repeats. “Your stepdaughter has better restraint than you.” Miles shakes as the knife comes closer to his throat.
“There’s an underwater tunnel from the dungeons.” The voice is so quiet, and so unexpected, that for a moment both men think that they have imagined it. “It’s how Alison got Tedros out, and how I got out.”
There is a long pause, broken by someone knocking at the door. “Frances!” Rhian curses as he recognises Anastacia’s voice.
“Ruby,” he says. “Go out there. Don’t tell anyone about this.”
Ruby walks into the main bedroom, the men staying silent in the coffin room. “Hello, Anastacia,” she says.
Anastacia’s eyes widen as they fix on a part of her sleeve. “Oh my, Frances. Is that blood?”
“No – no.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Frances. I’m not stupid. How did it happen?”
“I slipped and fell.”
Anastacia narrows her eyes, but doesn’t push it. “Would you like to take a walk with me?”
“I’m sorry. I have to stay in my room today. I’m not feeling well.”
“Some other day, perhaps?”
Ruby makes a little noise of assent and walks back into her bedroom. Anastacia stays outside, listening. “Well done.” Rhian?
“Please, just leave.” Ruby’s voice is tired.
“I’ll see you later.”
“No. You won’t.”
Anastacia slips into a doorway as three people come out – Rhian, Rowan and their bodyguard. “Do what you have to do, Edgar,” Rhian says. “Do what you have to do to make her talk.”
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