The Prophesy Tower. Chapter 53. Write a Novel Challenge.
Bewildered and baffled, Neina knew that she had to act – but her body was petrified. She questioned how Archie could be here. Was she delusional again? Neina and Isla were both cornered with no place to run. This had been their only chance. She had now to trust her instincts. The alternative was stark and certain: the Queen would have them both executed. Escape now rested only in Neina’s hands, but she need to understand how Archie could be here.
“A-Archie, is that really you” she stuttered, struggling to keep her emotions in check. Neina felt paralysed; her mouth clenched shut and she could not find the right words to say to him. Words that would convey the depth of feeling she felt run through her. Neina had assumed that she would never see Archie again, but here he was — here to save her.
Archie repeated: “… yes, yes, it is. No one else can hear me. I have a plan – all you have to do is cause a distraction….. and quick.”
Several moments later, Neina finally focused on his words and what he required from her. She hesitated, but agreed. This felt right. It was Archie ….
But she was at a loss of any ideas on how she could initiate a reasonable distraction. Neina did not fear death anymore; she had been through so much. But she did fear losing her loved ones again, and again.
She could not lose Archie, not after everyone she has already lost.
Neina pushed her thinking to its limits and began to go through the possibilities. Her palms sweaty and her heart racing, the only idea that sparked was …… could it work ……. if she pretended that they had information on The Tower. But surely that was just too perilous; one wrong move could get them all killed.
There was no more time for thinking left. Just as the Queen asked the guards to take Isla for execution, Neina bolted in front of the Queen.
Staring deeply into the Queen’s menacing eyes and selfish soul, she launched into a story about why she shouldn’t kill neither Isla nor herself as they could both give her details about The Prophecy Tower. They had details that could, possibly, help the Queen conquer it. Neina found herself blurting out that they had found a key which could lead them into the Tower’s most sacred chamber.
Neina clenched her fists and took a deep breath praying that the Queen would not suspect that this was all fiction. But it seemed it had worked – at the very least she had caught Orla’s attention. The Queen seemed satisfied enough to keep them alive for a few days longer: “Alright, I will not execute you so soon. Guards lock them up.”
Isla glanced at Neina looking confused and disapproving. It was clear she did not support Neina’s plan. But Neina had no alternative; what else could she have said, or done, to secure their escape?
Neina held onto one thing. Blind trust. Blind trust in Archie.
In that instant they were shaken by a rumble in the council chamber. Something scraped along the tiled floor. For some unfathomable reason, it seemed to alert the Queen and her Guards that something did not add up in Neina’s story. Neina would never find out why. How the noise had broken the spell of her spellbinding story of secrets in the Prophesy Tower. All she knew was that the Queen immediately knew she had been betrayed.
The guards though did not worry about Isla and Neina. Instead they were drawn to the threat that the noise of scraping represented. It was clear, as they searched, that they were trying to establish who had managed to lurk inside the palace. Who could have broken into the council chamber, one of the most private and guarded rooms in the palace?
Moments later, Neina realised that her breathing had become so quiet that it merged with the silence now surrounding them. You could have heard a pin drop, the silence so loud, it deafened her.
Neina prayed that whatever plan Archie was hatching would work. As she began to fret, quite suddenly, the air turned frigid, fierce and fatal. Her breath shortened and she struggled to breathe. She started to cough, each spasm of her stomach muscles suffocating her. Her vision started to blur as she felt her body robbed of oxygen. Clouds of dark smoke possessed the room. It felt as if she was inhaling hazardous chemicals – but the physical feeling they produced was of gradually drowning from within.
It would be a slow, cruel death as their lungs ebbed and flowed; expanding with smoke then crushing inwards without air. The walls felt as if they were closing in.
The thick grey smoke billowed. The once cobalt blue flooring was now shielded by a veil of darkness, slowly swallowing the air they needed to breathe. Needed to live.
Why can’t I breathe? Can this really be Archie’s plan? To kill us?
Neina’s eyes began to close and faint memories washed over her. She saw her beautiful Mother, The Prophesy Tower, Ryder, Isla and Archie fragment and disintegrate before her. Unsteady, Neina crashed, hard, onto the stone-cold floor, her bones cracking against its unforgiving and brutal granite. It took Neina’s last strength to pray that she would fall into the arms of Archie; that Archie would come through to save them from Queen Orla.
It was them all hope gone, that Archie rushed towards Neina. He picked Isla up, throwing her over his shoulders as if she was made of cotton wool and wrapped his arms around Neina. They were, finally, safe.
Archie gently dropped Isla near the door in a spot where the smoke and told Neina to wait. Within seconds he tackled the two guards guarding the main door. They were now, surely, so close to freedom — just one step closer. Feeling safer, Neina looked at Archie’s face. His kindness and gentle features shone through the blackness, even as his eyes burned with the fearlessness that comes to us all when we are fighting for those we love. Archie was fighting for Neina.
Streaks of sunlight flickered through the walls of the cave, its sparkle over Neina’s face slowly waking her up. As she blinked, the sunlight illuminated her eyes making them glisten and sparkle. She had not felt sunlight for days. The dungeon had, almost, burned its beauty from her memory. Its warmth overwhelmed, driving out the bitter cold of imprisonment and hopelessness.
Daylight pushed back at the darkened edges of dawn, reclaiming the life-filled colours that the moonlit night could only wash into the sombre hues of grey. Neina’s world came back to her. Perhaps, for the first time, she truly understood what freedom meant. The sunrise brought hope and a sense of serenity; Neina was with Archie, away from the Queen and her evil.
Archie stroked her shiny hair. As Neina’s eyes opened she saw her perfect fiancé. Here was the man who had fought for her. A man who had come close to giving up his life to save her. For Archie was hurt and bloody. She felt her heart aching and her organs crushing as she witnessed the pain and scarring he carried from battle. Blood ran freely in thick maroon rivers along his rosy cheeks. But Archie was alive. He would survive. He was handsome. Nothing could take that from him. His smile had the capacity, as it always had, to make her heart jump. His tousled, dark brown hair retained its lustre as it flopped down over his eyes. Archie’s eyes were the softest brown – but also flecked with green. Large and dreamy, they pulled her in as they always had.
“Hey, you’re up. We did it Neina. We are safe ….. away from the Queen.” Archie’s voice carried itself with the timbre of birdsong as he smiled. It lit his eyes and joy radiated from him.
Just for this moment Neina needed to forget. Needed to stay here, in this moment where the world was right again. This moment of …. hope. For deep down Neina knew that this would be fleeting. Sooner or later she had to return to the Queen — for the sake of her family, for her loved ones.
Bruised all over her arms and legs, Isla lay in the corner cleaning herself with water from a fountain. But they were … alive. The Queen was ruthless, Isla now knew this. The Queen perceives nothing past herself. Isla has always been resilient and determined; she would never let a few scars weaken her resolve. The battle was coming. Would come.
Then, as Neina adjusted herself to sit up again, she caught sight of the guards rushing. They were surrounded. She, Archie and Isla were trapped. Again. Terrified, Neina screamed: “No, no, Archie you said you had a plan, you said we were safe.”
“I knew he would play you! You liar.” Isla did not hold back as she exploded “Run Neina. We have to run. Neina. Now.”
But Archie looked across at her.This was Archie. He would not do this. He could not.
“Wait. Both of you. It is not what you are thinking,” Archie whispered.
The guards began moving closer and Neina’s heart thundered. As their shadows fell on Isla and Nina, plunging them into gloom once again, the guards paused, removing their helmets, letting the rays of sunlight play on their faces.
Neina and Isla gasped.
Charlotte, Ryder and Frankie stood before them smiling.
This time, just perhaps, she and Isla had found safety – and home.
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The Prophesy Tower – A Novel.
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