The Prophesy Tower. Chapter 49. Write a Novel Challenge.
Struggling to contain her equanimity and inscrutable countenance, Isla slowly turned around to find herself quivering under Queen Orla’s untrusting and interrogating glare.
Her mind hazed with panic, Isla strained against it to recall the rules – answer with respect and speak for no longer than necessary – and finally spoke:
“Yes, Queen Orla, your majesty. Anything you need?”
“I assumed that despite succeeding at achieving one of your tasks, you would promptly find a way to make yourself as much as remotely useful, which is why I’m hoping you’ll be able to recognize my concern after seeing you lounging around, doing – what exactly are you doing, Isla?” the Queen stretched her neck to glance over Isla’s shoulder.
Gulping down a lump of utter awe, Isla stretched her arms in a vain attempt to cover the blueprints, but the Queen narrowed her eyes and after a brief pause of tension that made Isla wince silently with apprehension for what might come next, Queen Orla inquired in a firm interrogating tone:
“Those aren’t my blueprints, are they?”
“They are, your majesty,” Isla uttered hastily, seeing there’s no point to lie, “I was… just making sure they are where they’re supposed to be by your arrival. I didn’t want you to –”
The Queen raised her hand to silence her, and Isla’s explicating ceased.
“Go, Isla. And do me a favor, contribute to being of service to the world I so generously let you reside in, will you?”
As Isla made her away around the towering bookshelves and out the ebony doors of the Library, she could descry a shadow of a smile pass the Queen’s lips as she traced her finger along the backside of the blueprint sheets.
Isla’s feet sunk into the thick dirt of the path. If the prophecy was true, it was only a matter of time before the Queen carries out her plan to kill them all. The thought made Isla’s mind desperately scramble for a solution, for any straw to grasp; as many people as Isla hated, she loved humanity. Sinking deeper and deeper into hopeless despondency, a sudden call for her name made her jump.
“You’re late. What could possibly delay you from attending an inner circle meeting?”
“Only the end of the world.”
Soon, Janus and Isla were racking their brains for something that would as much as delay the doomed “fate of all of man”, as it was scripted on the back of the scroll in Neina’s elegant handwriting. Neina. Gradually, Isla started to decipher the intentions behind the Queen’s orders, which she never dared to question before.
The moment Neina was born, her fate was predetermined.
“The only purpose of her shallow existence,” Isla thought, “was purely for the dirty work of creating the Prophecy Tower for the Queen.”
The Prophecy Tower – a building the blueprints of which Queen Orla wanted to be in possession of so badly. And now that she was, there was nothing standing between her and holding the foreordained destiny of humanity in her hands. But there must have been a reason the Queen wanted Neina dead…
Swiftly, Isla shot up to her feet, fueled by a sudden realization. Neina was the key.
Thinking back to the many times she heard of the simple Earth girl destined to fulfill the prophecy, Isla reminisced about the night she was meant to kill Neina but chose to mess with her instead, skeptical of the rumors. Then unaware of how strong Neina actually was, now Isla could trace the outlines of Neina’s boldness to understand her inner power – Neina was able to fight the illusions of the Mors World, travel between the two realms and stay alive. Neina’s willingness to take risks and act innovatively could be enough to rebel against the Queen.
Except there was a slight problem: Neina was dead.
Charlotte’s heels echoed against the tile floor of the hospital. The weathered scent of her best friend’s gift brought back memories every time she inhaled the pleasant fragrance. She cast her mind back to over a decade ago, to the memory of when their friendship was nothing more than Queen Orla’s caprice and Neina meant as much to Charlotte as a run-of-the-mill job to get out of the way.
Charlotte pulled the handle of a hospital ward and hurriedly scurried inside. She thought she was ready for what she was going to see, but nonetheless gasped at the harrowing sight of her best friend – her face drained of blood down to the last drop, Neina’s skin appeared ash-grey and her face, bereft of any expression, looked bleak and desolate of life – in fact, just as Isla has promised. Determined to save her best friend, Charlotte paid no notice to doubting her abilities in reviving magic.
Neina woke up to soft sobs and someone’s hot breath against her face. She lifted her heavy eyelids, but her vision blurred. Panic settling in, Neina tried to prep herself up on her elbows, but a vain attempt at moving caused her to grimace at the agonizing pain searing through her limbs and abdomen.
Slowly, consciousness came back to Neina. She recalled hearing the last of her heartbeats and her vision sinking into a darkness so deep that for a moment, with her every atom, she experienced death. Now, she was aware of the movement in her body, the air filling her lungs; feeling pain has never made her happier. She was alive again.
“Shh,” she heard a hushed, oddly familiar voice.
Charlotte. Following a sudden rush of adrenaline and the impetuous instincts of self-preservation, Neina’s body surged upward, but someone’s hand firmly held her down.
“Neina, please let me help you… please, before- just stay still!”
“Charlotte? W-what are you doing here?”
“You… were dead, and it’s a long story; Isla asked me to help, she will explain…”
Charlotte’s voice was weak and brittle, “I’m sorry, I have to go… I don’t make the rules; the Queen is controlling me, and she’s stronger but I- I didn’t want any of this!”
As if overpowering herself, Charlotte continued, in between short, wheezing breaths,
“I’ll get you home. And… Neina, thank you, too.”
Neina was shattered and worn to a frazzle, but the moment she closed her eyes, she was transported into the eerily real illusions (or were they uncannily illusionary realities?) of the Mors World; whenever she managed to sink into a restless slumber it was only to get jerked back into wakefulness by whatever sounds or visions. The verge between illusion and reality has been blurred and Neina couldn’t distinguish asleep from awake, death from life.
Overwhelmed by a wave of despair, she tossed and turned in her double bed.
She let hot tears roll down her cheeks as she thought of Charlotte, the Mors World, Archie, Janus, the Prophecy tower; she felt deeply nostalgic for her old life, the biggest problem of which was the fear of being replaced with a younger and brighter college graduate.
Suddenly, Neina sat up, propelled by a sweeping and unexpected thought. Was reversing the consequences of events following the night of her almost assassination really what she wanted? As much as she wished it didn’t happen, she couldn’t deny the growth it brought her. Now, however, it was time for her to take control. Just as Neina planted the seed of determination inside her mind, a now familiar portal tore through the air in the middle of the room, radiating an alien shade of green that made Neina tense up and observe it with attentive suspicion as Isla emerged.
“I know what you must be thinking, but we need your help.”
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The Prophesy Tower – A Novel.
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