The Prophesy Tower. Chapter 56. “All about Love.” Write a Novel Challenge.
A desolate loneliness began to fill Isla’s thoughts and consciousness, threatening to break the control she had mastered over the last decade. Her mother and her daughter, her reason for both ebullience and despondence, had abandoned her to the mercy of the Mors World, where she was alone and a target. She knew she shouldn’t blame Lola, but anger and resentment haunted every memory of her youthful face, and the feelings of guilt and loss were etched into her very existence.
The house faded around her and she felt her emotions encumber upon her fragile shoulder, piling on her like a tower, brick after brick, until it rose miles above the ground. Neina’s pitying face and Charlotte’s venomous gaze came into view, along with a searing pain across her left cheek. But Isla felt numb to the hatred that Charlotte showed and even number to the expression of care that Neina gave her; all love seemed futile and short-lived.
Isla realised, then, the incredible talent that Queen Orla possessed, as power lies not within force, but in her ability to understand and exploit the weaknesses of those she attacks. Isla had been remarkably resilient, always able to keep a barrier between herself and The Queen, distancing herself from memories of pain and love whilst throwing herself into missions and quests. But The Prophecy and stress she had endured over the past day had left her vulnerable, and confusion surrounding her past forced her to look back.
With a racked sob, Isla felt the crushing weight upon her shoulders conquer her, and her knees buckled under the pressure of the tower. She crumpled to the floor and felt her head swell in a consuming sweat of defeat. Powerful and conflicting emotions smothered her like a blanket, and she reached forwards to a deep darkness inside her mind. All that she saw was tenebrous, but somehow comforting, and so she allowed the inky black thoughts to take over. Finally, she succumbed to her exhaustion.
Isla collapsed to the floor in a fluid movement. Neina reached forward in surprise, attempting to comfort her former enemy, whilst Charlotte let out an irritated groan and faced Archie.
“Typical,” she moaned. “We can’t move with her passed out like that. Maybe we should leave her here and head on; it would definitely give us a distraction and it would only take a second to put her out of her m-”
“No!” shouted Neina, piping up from Isla’s side. “We need her. I can’t explain why right now, but I know she is vital to The Prophecy.”
“Neina’s right”, said Ryder, “and plus we need to rest. This cottage should be safe for a short while, so let her sleep.”
“But the guards could be on us at any moment with all the wailing and screaming she was doing”, Charlotte protested. “We need to keep moving.”
“Somehow, I think the gunshot would have provoked more of a reaction, and as far as I can tell we seem alright right now. Let it go Charlotte.” Frankie’s voice dripped with derision and authority, and, reluctantly, Charlotte sat down next to Isla, leaning nonchalantly against the wall.
Neina let out a sigh of relief and moved from Isla’s side to sit next to Archie. She watched, waited and observed the others. Seeing that Frankie and Ryder had opened a pack of food and were talking in a hushed tone and Charlotte busied herself by meticulously polishing her gun with the hem of her coat, Neina decided to seize the opportunity to recuperate. Although she still felt an underlying sense of unease about the cottage, it did seem to be protecting them, and she marvelled at her new bravery and patience borne from the chaos that the Mors World inspired. The old Neina would have been whimpering in fear at the possibility of attack from dragons; she knew that beyond a shadow of a doubt. But the old Neina would also not have reached to help someone she had hated so profoundly, or took pity on the girl who stole her life away.
It bewildered her how the Mors World had forced her to grow, and as she looked around at her companions, she saw her sentiments echoed: Charlotte’s decisiveness, Frankie’s commanding manner and even Ryder’s willingness to help, had all developed because of this world. And then there was Archie. Her fiancé. She had almost forgotten – what in the world was he doing here?
Neina whipped her head around and met Archie’s comforting face. His eyes were half closed and the ghost of a smile played at his lips. He had always had handsome features, but they looked particularly perfect after having just saved her life. His tousled hair fell softly onto his forehead and framed his sharp cheekbones and strong chin. The scruff of a few unshaven days was caked in blood, but his cheeks were still rosy with life, and his lips were big and soft. Not only did he look the part of a prince, but he played one too, coming into this dangerous world…for her. But now was not the time for romantic thoughts. Neina hauled herself from her momentary enrapture and pinched Archie sternly on the arm, waking him from his peaceful reverie.
Before she could compose something more dignified, she erupted with questions, eager to understand and angry at the lack of clarity. “You owe me an explanation, Archie. What are you doing here? How are you here? How did you know I was in trouble? If this world exists only in my head, then how are you breathing next to me? I have so many questions, I-”
“Hey, hey I know. I get it.” Archie uttered in hushed tones, running a calloused hand through her hair and cupping her face. “This is probably the weirdest day of my life, and I can’t imagine how confused you must be. But trust me, it only gets weirder. I guess the only place to start would be… the day I proposed…”
Archie and Neina had met in a café three years before the proposal. Neina had ordered a pedantically specific coffee: 3 pumps of vanilla syrup, 2 pumps of skinny mocha, 50ml of ginger ale, a dash of soymilk and only Colombian coffee beans, and had turned in surprise to the counter next to her to see that Archie had in fact ordered the very same thing. They struck it off immediately, partly due to their similar tastes in coffee and ease of conversation and partly due to the fact that they both found each other exceptionally attractive. The discovery that they both loved architecture only furthered this magnetism, and, after seeing her designs, Archie did two things without even having to consider it; he first offered Neina a job at his company and then he asked her out.
Their relationship flourished, aided by a foundation of trust that Neina had tapped into only moments before, and they soon fell in love. Archie loved Neina for her ambition, drive and strength, all of which he admired and desired himself. She was a perfect reflection of his future, or at least how he wanted it to look, and thus, after three years of passionate adoration, he decided to make her his future.
On the day of the proposal, he had planned to meet her at the entrance to the elevator with a bouquet of flowers in hand, take her to the roof of the office, and propose. She would be surrounded with the beautiful architecture that she loved to create. It was fool-proof, and exactly what she would have liked, something subtle but still inspiring.
When he arrived at the elevator that day, he found himself being stampeded inside by a seemingly frantic group of people. Upon reflection, this did seem odd, as the office was never usually busy on a Friday evening. Frustrated by the fact that he had been bustled into a corner of the elevator and nervous at the prospect of Neina’s reaction, he attempted to regain composure. He looked across at himself in the elevator mirror, re-set his tousled hair and reached down to pick up the bouquet that had been unceremoniously knocked to his feet. When he rose, his eyes seemed to deceive him, as the frenzy of people that had minutes earlier forced him into the elevator had disappeared, leaving only himself and two others occupying the space. Disorientated, Archie examined his new companions: a frail, slouching man sporting a musty burlap hat and leaving a mess of straw beneath him, and an angular woman with a shock of pale hair who exuded iciness. Bewildered, Archie had pinched himself and looked around in anxious awe, before fixating on the man in front of him – a man so logical it was almost to his own detriment. With a will that did not seem to be his own, Archie reached forward, and tapped the man on the shoulder.
The man turned slowly, deliberately, carefully. A sly smile appeared on parched, straw lips, and the figure held out a hand towards Archie.
“You can call me Janus.”
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The Prophesy Tower – A Novel.
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