The Grey Room

Poltan forces are invading Malizan allies and declaring war against the most powerful country in the world. Yet as they start to suffer, the pressure on Maliz is straining in their fight for freedom and Justice.

At sixteen, Ida dreams of fighting and escaping from her life of royalty and expectation. When her brother leaves with his wondrous discovery left at the palace, she jumps at the chance to prove herself. So begins the journey that will change her and show Ida the truths that will reveal her heritage as she experiences things beyond her imagination: Sirens, Phoenix's and the thief of her heart

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1. Ida

It felt cold. Though, to be honest it had always felt cold, like an echoing emptiness that swallowed your beating heart. There was never a warm bit left, only the miserable memories that lied inside of you; the gaping pathway that had been massacred behind you, as if they wanted to be forgotten and lost behind the rubble of tangled thorns and poison ivory.  However, I always felt myself tear away at the branches that clouded my mind, leaving scars as I desperately tried to remember those faces that had left me so bitter.

             Those faces. It was if I constantly had a bind spot, always forgetting faces. A black hole that chose what it wanted most, what it needed to take away from me so I didn’t go mad. I felt mad though, crazy, like a lion that would rip you to pieces if you contradicted it. Stubbornness didn’t help me, didn’t save me from the power that I felt when I fought.  Not only did I fight with others, but I was damaged with the bruises I had inflicted onto myself.

            One thing I could clearly remember was fighting. That, my brother guessed, was the reason I was so intent on doing it.  I trained with the knights, the soldiers, beating many of them, being one of them. I felt different there than I did in my place, freer outside than in the palace and its walls.  Never had I been a fan of protocol, I didn’t believe that someone in a certain position –just because of birth- should be told what it was that they could  or couldn’t do.  At times I was forced to remember who I was, I needed to be respected and looked up to, because one day I could become queen.

            Secretly I hoped that would never happen, I thought my older brother was doing a grand job of ruling Maliz and I had other things on my mind.

My excitement had been bubbling for a while now and I felt that familiar surge of hope as I ducked away from the incoming swing of my opponent’s sword. Without a second thought I used my right leg to kick his vulnerable arm. He knew what I was doing and used his muscular frame to block me. I twisted on my single leg and swung my sword to his opposite side, where, rather awkwardly, he just about stopped my sword with the side of his shield. On the other hand, to my advantage, it dug into his side causing him to double over. That’s where I finished the fight, bringing the hilt of my sword on to his unprotected back.

Borameth fell to the wet mud; the dirt soaked his clothes, as I stood panting over his fallen body.

“I win.” My hoarse voice said. I heard his groan of defeat as he started to push himself from the ground. “Better luck next time Ram.”

“Whatever Ead.” He was on his feet, looking rather angry and dirty. Borameth didn’t like the word defeat- or at least when he was the one on the floor. He walked away trying not to limp, but my eagle eyes caught that unstable walk he took as he strode off.

I had known Borameth, or Ram as I called him, since I was five. He was the son of the stable manager, yet held no interest in horses or reigns like his father; Ram was more into making trouble and thrusting a sword at someone. As it turned out, he was very good at both, but many people, like his father, didn’t encourage or even like the former. We had been good friends for a long time but differed immensely when it came to what we believed to be important.  Yet, we both understood each other’s need to fight, to breathe and to survive, we both understood what death sounded like.

Ram’s brother came running out of the small cottage that they lived in. Romar’s floppy blond hair waved just above his smiling, care free eyes that knew nothing but love. Small hands gripped a square piece of paper and naked feet ran alongside the earth’s tired surface.  He wore a smile that made me think of the endless sky that could never be touched, never be torn or broken. I felt my own mouth twitch upwards as he came towards me, but it could never be so free, as easy as this small boy in front of me managed it.

“Eed!” His excited voice called to me. “Eed! Pilet asked me to give you this!” he stopped in front of me, eagerly holding out the note he grasped between his grubby fingers. “He says he’s been lookin’ everywhere for you. So I told him I’ll pass a note on for him, so I did. Here it is. Well aren’t you gon’ta take it?”  His words jumbled over each other as he told me about his important mission in which the king had sent him on.

Laughing I took the note. “Thanks Romar. Have you been practising shooting?” He nodded his little head as his light blue eyes lit up. “How many bull’s-eye?”

“Eight, I got eight of em’ Eed! Two more than Monday. I still got to keep practising Eed. I ain’t gon’ta stop till I get twenty bull’s-eyes.” His eyebrows furrowed, causing light wrinkles in his forehead.

“Eight is brilliant Romar, you are an amazing shot, soon you will be beating me.” A sly smile creped across his pale red lips. “Is there something you want to tell me?” I asked, almost certain that smile had something to do with my terrible aim.

“Ram said a blind pig with both his ‘ands cut off could get a better shot than you.”  His mischievous eyes laughed as he spoke the words I knew were too true.  I looked at Romar through narrowed eyes, pretending to size up, then turned him round and gave him a light kick on the bottom to send him running off. It did the trick, and in my few moments of peace, I opened the note.

‘Get dressed for dinner at five thirty. Try to look pleasant we have important people joining us.’ I made a raspberry at my brother’s insult and stuffed the simple note in to my pocket and strolled towards my rooms, knowing I would not be alone for a long time and I enjoyed the feeling of solitude.

A zephyr blew across the chilled grass that I crunched beneath my feet. I could feel it push against the thin material of my practise wear and escape through, cooling my hot legs. I let my hair full to my waist, untangling it from the braid I had stuffed it in this morning, haven been desperate to be outside. It clung to my sweaty neck, making an auburn waterfall that twisted along my back. The wind lifted the loose ends of hair into the breeze. Tilting my face up towards the sky, I stopped for a second, flinging my arms up slightly, my palms facing outwards. It was a moment of complete silence. No birds sung, no child screamed, no woman laughed, no men fought. A moment that softened a part inside of my soul.

Then it was gone.

I carried on walking, passing the great stone walls of the Malizen palace. I hit the door to my room, making it groan open to reveal lush silk curtains and grand oak furniture that adorned the round space.  Yellow light filtered in and rested upon the ball gown which hung on one of the posts of my bed. It was a pretty old thing that had silver and gold jewels illuminating its black surface.  With a V neck and fishtail design, I slipped into it knowing it would fit me perfectly like it had my mother. She had given me most of her dresses before she died and they were mainly what I wore when my brother wanted me somewhere. I couldn’t bear to touch any of the other frocks which lay in the dusty end of my wardrobe.

“Your highness” a knock came at my door. “It’s Dyre, His majesty has requested me to take you to diner.”

Bless him, I thought. Drye was loyal to my brother, desperate to impress him and would bend to his every word. Pilet had grown up with him and taken him on as his personal servant.  They used to spend hours together playing or fishing in one of the great lakes around the palace grounds. I used to be stuck on my own those days and not wanting to play dolls with the other girls, so instead I read or learnt something. That was before I met Ram, he was the one who got me into fighting with swords. I had never looked back since, he helped me in so many ways and when my parents died, he stood by me at their funeral and held me as I cried. He would make me laugh or take me in his arms to wrestle and help me forget the pitying world around me.

I quickly brushed my hair not wanting Dyre to wait too long for me. I glanced in the mirror to see the still mess of the ginger flame that surrounded my pale face and sighed at the time it would take to tame it. I didn’t bother and went to the Hall of Shadows were the banquet would be taken. I was rather curious to find out why the celebration had been called we hadn’t had any good news for a while, not since we lost the battle of Gramm and many of our young men and women were lost to the Poltan forces. It was truly devastating; Maliz was in morning for two weeks.

“They’ve come from all over” Drye’s voice cut into my thoughts. “The king and Queen from Byer and their son Prince Dyami, then you’ve got the Queen off.....” I tuned off, I didn’t really care who was there and I could hear my stomach growling, I hadn’t eaten since that morning.

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