I am

"She was made out of pure spirit and life. A star on earth. Yet a hurricane in space. Cassiopeia Turow was different."
I am a girl who dared to dream. I am someone who sought adventure. I am a person who will learn and thrive and satisfy curiosity. These are all qualities most people share. But most people can't say that they overthrew a monarchy or helped burn down the world.


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32. "She finally found her anchor, something to fight for."

 

TWENTY NINE

“She finally found her anchor, something to fight for.”

“She found a source of victory, one all her own.”

Two weeks ago.

The Golden Compass.

 

Word had quickly circulated about Marianne. The day after her banishment it was on the front page of the newspaper and under Marianne’s request, Cassiopeia had been named her lawyer, the one who had done all to save her.

Cassiopeia was the new found hero it seemed and she never thought that it would make her job even harder than it was.

Dear Tommen,

The last two weeks or so have been more than I could ever imagine. Attached are the pages of the newspaper which features a story about yours truly. Ever since that came out, I’ve had women coming round to the tavern to congratulate me or praise me on my achievement. Each time I am humble and say that it was all I could do in that position, and yet they dismiss those words and treat me like the next goddess or something.

I can’t even sneak into the palace as quietly anymore because I will be recognised. Even Nox has had to pull an extra leg and do more work than he has ever before. The pages that myself and Nox collected two weeks ago revealed the contract to repeal the armies on other countries borders and therefore Lucian knew about it all along, Hadrian is waiting until the right time to dig the book back up and take the contract out. He is so angry with the whole ideal and he just wants it to be over with. There was also revelations that the SIE drugs have been in Irille for a lot longer than thought of, there were allusions of it in the book. Also there was even a deal to get rid of the Cracks by deporting them from the country, if you can believe it.

Some parts of me want to hate the previous King for his ideas, but he must have been influenced by something. No one is inherently evil, at least I want to believe that.

Back to the main point, to today. Today I attended a women’s march, not in my honour, but for the collective honour of women. This was to gain more rights within marriages, and to allow more laws against abuse. There was a bunch of women from all ages and places within Irille, coming together to fight for one another. I have never been more included in my life. I felt like we were actually fighting for something. Something grand and big and worthwhile. We marched on to the palace where Hadrian received our crowd with a smile and a shake of a hand. We will finally be getting somewhere, hopefully.

With all my love,

Cassiopeia.

She didn’t know how to word the fact that she found who she was fighting for within the Sect. She found that she wanted to fight for women. Women’s rights specifically. Ever since she had realised this her fighting had been fuelled with more vigour than ever before. Her training was progressing at a faster pace than she could put her hands on.

In the last two weeks she had seen women being hurt on street corners and verbally abused. Every time she had saw it she had moved forward to intercept it and she had most likely punched the man to allow the woman to get away. It was never enough, because that man wouldn’t have been sentenced for his crime, but it was something. She was preventing something and that was an achievement. 

It was an annual holiday, Founders Day, the day that the founders came to Irille and started their life there. There would be a parade and a crowd filled with thousands of people. It was an easy target for the drug dealers to make some money. It was also a target for the Sect to work and find those drug dealers.

Nox came with his aunt under the guise of ‘following the flowers’ as his aunt put it. The festival would have a wide array of colours and plants and his aunt wanted nothing more than to see it and gaze at it.

Cassiopeia came with Lisa and Bruce, closing up the tavern because most of their customers would be at the festival. She would leave them in order to look around the festival and survey any suspicious activity.

Samantha came because she wanted to. It would also be harder to identify her within a crowd and the Brickell’s were no longer in Irille. If they hadn’t told anyone else about her identity than she should be safe.

The festival was always a place of unrestrained joy. The costumes lit up the summer's day, a riot of colour to rival any gardener's paradise, like the famous Brickell gardens which now belonged to Nox’s aunt. Music filled the air, festive beats lifted the spirits and made the people want to move, jump and sing. It was jazz and classical, redone to fit the atmosphere and a steady sway of the crowd was easy to see. It was a time to celebrate being alive, celebrate the wonders of creation and be one with the community. The air tasted so heavenly with the chefs alongside the parade, every delicious thing ready to be shared with friends. Lisa and Bruce weren’t making things tonight, no that was up to the Royal chef’s and they were glad of it.

This was a night to escape and have fun.

The festival lasted all day and well into the night, nobody minded in the slightest. There were seats and blankets for people who wanted to rest their feet from all the dancing they would undoubtedly do.

Everywhere there were folks in lighter clothing, dresses and long skirts, billowy loose shifts and leather pants. It was finally warm in Irille and the people knew that the weather wouldn’t last, they may as well enjoy it while they could. To add to the gaiety most children carried a lamp of their own making, their gentle laughter made visible by the glow, only to disappear into the darkness. It was turning dark now and the festival had never looked more beautiful. At the stroke of eight on the old town clock would come the first wave of heavier songs, songs of thanks to echo into every home it could touch. These beats were more calm, the things to dance to with a partner. This was the best medicine anyone could provide.

Hadrian and Lucian were enjoying the festivities, Hadrian trying to find Nox, and Lucian off with his tongue down some woman’s throat. He had been doing that a lot, disappearing to lose his wits in a woman. 

Hadrian was in the most lavish of the outfits, his crown had even been decked out with feathers and fairy lights. He looked like a creature out of a play and when Nox saw him for the first time that day he was took aghast. He forgot what he was there for. That was only for a minute though.

“You having fun?” Hadrian shouted over the din of the music, Nox just nodded and came closer. They were close and the dark leather of Nox’s pants was making him sweat.

“I still have a job to do,” Nox shouted back, making sure that his voice only travelled far enough for Hadrian to hear.

“The drug dealers will still be here if you take your eyes of them for a moment,” Hadrian chuckled and Nox smirked with a tilted head.

“The point of this job is that they won’t be there when I leave,” Nox replied.

Hadrian waved his hand passively, “Want to dance?”

For a moment Nox panicked about being saw with the King, especially since in today’s society a woman would have been pushed on the King so that a future marriage was on the cards. A knot formed in the pit of his stomach and then he heard the phantom, distant voice of his Aunt; “Life is what you make it, don’t throw it away like mouldy flowers.” He never knew what she meant especially since flowers couldn’t get mouldy. On that odd advice he decided to throw away the knot in his stomach and take Hadrian up on his deal.

It was strange being in another man’s arms but Hadrian felt safe and comfortable. He didn’t care about the people around him, he just cared about quietly conversing with the man in front of him and swaying in a square in a mob of people.

United, they danced and they wished the night away.

Cassiopeia loved how Irille could come together to celebrate. In a time when the country was divided it didn’t see many colourful and fun things in its future. Drug dealers were however hard to spot and it was the only dampener of the day.

She and the other members of the Sect had agreed that they would meet at a certain place – the only empty spot amongst the vendors and dancers – and if they couldn’t meet they would leave a note. She hadn’t seen Samantha or Nox for quite some time and the only evidence that they had once been there was the note left in its place.

Meet me at the Jut, it looks like somethings going on. This could finally be something. 8.34, Nox.

It was timestamped like they had agreed and Nox’s alternating joined and unjoined letters were familiar to her. The Jut was a part of the main plaza, a dead end nook where an old bookshop was tucked away from everything. It was part of Nox’s sector to survey and so it made sense that a) a drug dealer would be there and b) Nox would find it and therefore need backup to make sure.

She waded her way through the sea of people, passing people dressed up as an array of animals. Come night fall insanity would take over and an almost tribal dance of animal costumed people would commence. This would transform to people dressed up prim and proper in old world clothes to show how the Founders rid Irille of disease and took back the city. It was all metaphorical and grand.

Around the Jut it was quieter and there were a few people dancing or drinking cool beverages. They never paid her any attention as she passed and she slipped simply into the nook. There were a pair of men at the very end, milling about the bookshop and pretending to make conversation. Cassiopeia stuck near the entrance, hugging one wall to keep herself hidden. Where was Nox?  

She hissed out his name, hoping that he would be somewhere in the growing darkness, away from the light of the lanterns.

“Yes?” A voice uttered, quiet and abrupt. It was near her, in a doorway, to the left of her.

She turned to look, her head subtly twisting and her eyes nearly straining to see through the darkness.

A hand came to press against her lips, the skin slightly rough. “Keep quiet, that’s all I ask,” the voice hissed and it was right in her ear, so quiet she couldn’t make out who was saying it. “Otherwise those two are going to knock you out and we don’t want your pretty little face being ruined now do we?”

Now that Cassiopeia looked, the pair at the end of the Jut was looking at them with wide open smiles. The person holding her was behind her, fitting themselves into the wall against her body. Her captor was tall and built, the clothes they wore were fine and almost silky.

Her captor picked her up, lifting her off the ground a little so that she could be carried. The pair of men moved to open the door of the bookstore and her captor carried her in. The bookstore smelled of dust and paper and ink. The door was locked behind them. Cassiopeia tried to scream but it was muffled by her captor’s hand.

“I told you not to make a sound,” her captor hissed once more, kicking her lightly in the ribs before hauling her back up and thrusting a blind fold on her eyes. Cassiopeia screamed once more, trying with all her might for someone outside to notice that she was in there. She flailed, kicked, aimed for the delicate places of the body that she knew would inflict pain to her captor, but her captor was strong, hauling her up and tying her limbs in easy, simple motions.

She knew that no one else was in the Jut and the note was probably a fake in order to lure her there.

What she had gotten herself into?

Cassiopeia couldn’t see and she hated it. But she felt herself being carried across the bookstore floor, down a set of stairs, through a door and along. There was a shift in smells, from the dust and paper to stale air and even more dust. It was an earthy dust, something kicked up from a road or a grassy hill.

Cassiopeia guessed she was in a tunnel somewhere.

She was carried for some time. She didn’t want to pass out in fear and so she listen with sensitive ears for minute movements. All she could hear was the echo of footsteps, three pairs going on and on and on.

She didn’t know how long she had been down there. She couldn’t comprehend distance or time. Then there was the sound of a door opening, a quiet noise of a nearly restrained cry, metal scraping on metal. Her back met a cold slab of a table as she was lifted onto it.

“Here’s how this is going to work,” her captor spoke, his voice like slick oil, changed in order for her to not be able to make out who it was. Did she know this person? Had she met them, talked to them before? “You’re going to go to sleep for a while, we’re going to test something and then we’ll have a little chat, get you up to speed with everything, is that okay?”

It wasn’t okay, they both knew that. Cassiopeia tried to shake her head violently, bashing it lightly on the cold metal of the table. Her head was strapped down, a thick metal band setting her head into place. One went around each flailing hand looping her hands to the sides, and one went around each leg. She was constrained. She couldn’t move and that terrified her.

A scratch, a needle sliding into skin. The sound of breathing, soft and settled unlike her own. A plaster being placed over the needle. The impotent anger and frustration in her bones, her inability to escape. Her captor’s motions were like they knew what she was going to do. Had they been watching her? Waiting to make their move? Paranoia froze her insides.

God help me, she thought despite not being religious. Any God out there had to listen to her, she had to get out of there. She couldn’t stay there.

She waited, felt as a plunger was inserted into the tubing attached to the needle, an IV it was. She could hear the drip, drip of something, a rusty wheel of the IV being set up near the table. She felt the air escape through the tube as the plunger pushed down. The drips came louder as the liquid rushed down the tube. She wiggled, moved, tried to escape the liquid coming into her bloodstream. One strap came off a hand, she flailed, knocking an arm of someone and then the table.

There was a muffled curse. A hand punching down on her arm to keep it still.

So this was it, something was going into her blood and she couldn’t stop it, even with the training she had learned from the Sect. She could hear someone count down from thirty, the voice high and dainty, a female. As she reached ten the world started to feel fuzzy, her ears ringing, the sounds quieting. Her arm felt thick, like rubber or wet clay. Odd. Cassiopeia thought as her head slipped unintentionally to the side. The blindfold slipped, white invaded a small space. She forced her eyes to stay open to see more of the white, more of the room. Her eyes failed her, becoming like cement. It hurt to try and keep them open.

She allowed herself to fall, her head spinning in circles during the descent into unconsciousness. 

 

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