Pair of hair swings over Alicia's face. She's only able to get glimpses of what's coming next. A golden gate gets opened by the guards standing nearby. The floor appears to be shinier and more decorated than the hallway. A circle with a golden sword in between appears to be in the center of the room.
This must be the king's room, she thinks. But she can't say for sure cause she can only see the floor. She has no intention of lifting her aching head to see more. Her headache from the blow of guards an hour ago is still fresh. And the pain is only increasing with every footstep of guards.
Half a mile, she thinks she's been in this position from counting the footsteps of guards. She can't count her footsteps because her feet only touched the floor sometimes. She had tried to get on her feet several times but the guards dragging her were way taller than her.
Her hair seems to be wet. Is it from the sweat or the blood? She can't differentiate. She's not able to analyze anything as her vision gets blurry. Dizziness darkens her vision completely and her body weighs down. The guards throw her at someone's feet.
A splash of water jolts her up.
She lifts her head upwards to see whose feet she's been at. A familiar face but his clothes hold the strangeness. A tunic with gold threads underneath a surcoat having the red lion's face only outlined, the symbol of the Armen kingdom.
She takes her eyes off royal clothes she's seeing so close for the first time and gazes at the familiar face. It's the boy she kissed in the woods.
Sharp chins and dark black hair are the features she adored are the same as before, but his still eyes and tightened cheeks are the ones she's concerned about now.
"Oh my god, Reza? You're the Prince of Armen." She gazes at him in shock. "I am sorry for what I did… I kis,"
"That's not why you are here," prince Reza cut her off in a cold voice that can even freeze a strong soul.
"Pardon me, your highness," she says, getting up from his feet.
"You already know The King of Armen, my father was killed a few days ago," he sighs to wave off the pain, but it doesn't.
Standing up, he continues, "A herd of men killed him here, in his palace. The mystery of how they knew all the secret passages is still unsolved. The only possible explanation is that one of you people is a traitor." He looks her in the eye, instigating fear.
"But I'm just a flower gardener," she says, trembling.
"Yes and you had the opportunity to explore the whole palace when putting flowers for celebration the night before it happened," he says with conviction.
"Your highness, I'd never," her voice gets suppressed by another one.
"That's not for you to decide," comes a deep voice from behind her. She turns towards it and her face becomes colorless at the sight.
"Justice will be served and I happen to have got the right path to it," continues Yuri, dead king's brother. Dark beards are covering his half-face while a golden turban is covering the upper part. His flat forehead is spotless but it's his dead eyes that can keep kids from sleeping at night.
But she's not afraid of this royal man but she is from the sight of the boy from her neighborhood. The boy she had played with when they were kids. The boy who used to get caught by her in every hide and seek game.
Who knew he would become a guard one day and catch her?
Chills continue in her spine at the gaze of the boy, James. Physical pain is what she has been experiencing since she got a blow from guards in her home. But the pain waking now goes to a deeper level. The pain of betrayal.
Yuri smirks at her and makes James stand in the center of the circle with a sword in between. She can see her heart placed on the floor in place of the circle while the sword stays at its same place, in between, piercing the heart.
"He is the guard who saw her going into a secret passage," says Yuri only once, but it keeps echoing in her head.
The whole assembly of royal men and guards stares at her. But she is concerned about only one gaze. Prince's.
Prince Reza's eyes are clinging to the guard's. She had never been the center of attention for anyone. How could she? Being an orphan.
Being this her first time was overwhelming with a tint of fear. But she keeps begging God to break Reza's unflinching attention to guard and instead look at her.
Where were you all the time I've been praying to you? She whimpers to God, fulfilling her wish for the first time.
Reza looks at her but not the way he has been since the past few days. His blue eyes are now darker, almost black. This might be because the light is coming from behind him as he is turned towards her.
But she can't say for sure as the only thing she can see in his eyes are the black pupils, not even the white sclera binding it.
"Is it true, Alicia?"
Thunders, his voice are thunders she had tried to survive alone as a kid. Saved by James's parents who took her in. But at the age of sixteen, she had decided to lighten their burden by separating and settling in her small hut.
But four years from then she's alone again and thunder is striking and no one seems to be a savior.
"Yes, your highness," words rarely escape her mouth as tears well up in her eyes.
A fire starts underneath his chest. The heat is scalding enough to boil his blood. Every breath he's taking is fanning the fire to make it deadlier. Fumes building up underneath are preparing to burst it all out any minute. And it bursts!
The sword flies from the scabbard attached to him on the side. The sharp point of it gets placed on her chin. A dot reveals her red blood underneath the milky white skin.
The sight of blood jolts him back to his senses and his gaze travels from blood dot to the double-edged blade to the hands holding it. "It's mine?" he ponders.
He pulls it instantly, two inches away from her chin. The blood dot gets bigger and his concerns too.
The wait is over for him. The traitor he had resolved to kill by just having sight is standing just next to him. That is too unarmed.
It's not that the results will be any different if dice rolls and he becomes unarmed and she gets the sword. He is skilled enough to kill dozens of strong men surrounding him in the blink of an eye.
But this feeling is different. The fire being fanned by his breaths is meeting the ocean. The ocean in her eyes.
Fire smothers under the deep ocean water. The sword swings back to his sides with his hand.
But giant flames of fire like this have a way to spark back again.
"GUARDS!" roars Reza loud enough to send a tremble to her chest.
Tears fell out of her eyes. But he is not going to see it as he turned backward. She glances at James who lowers his head on meeting her eyes.
"Take this traitor to the dungeon." He walks towards his throne with his back turned towards her.
Two guards with deep red helmets revealing only their eyes walk towards her. Their footsteps are heavy, getting louder with each thud to the floor. Points of metal spears in their hands shine under the sun rays coming from the window.
A guard's gloved metal-like hand clasps her squashy one. She let it guide her as resisting would've peeled her skin off, undoubtedly. The lights get dimmer in her way as she walks with the guards towards her end.
Reza advances his hand holding sword towards the scabbard. The sword goes screeching the metal into the sides. "Leave me alone," he growls.
Everyone scatters except one. "All of you," he glares at his uncle who leaves the room walking sluggishly.
Reza continues his walk to the throne. His weakened knees refuse to support him any longer and succumb to the weight of his heavy heart.
He almost falls trying to sit on his father's throne. The one which is now rightfully his but every part of his body refuses to accept the truth that he is gone.
And some parts are protesting even harder against the fact that she did it.
He puts his turmoiled head in his right hand. The supporting elbow presses the cushion underneath it to its other end.
His face is lit only up to the eyes from the top. His eyes gazed at the floor but vision blurs.
Could she really do it? In the last few days, I've been to places, looking for the traitor, I've only seen her acts of kindness, affection & love. Could she be a killer too?