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I stood stiffly in the middle of the big hall, my eyes darting to my left and right. I tapped my foot impatiently as our big, burly king glowered down at me.
“Anaphasia Tulleyn!” he roared.
My eyes snapped back to his face and I stopped my tapping.
“My deepest apologies dear. Are we-“, he looked around the hall at the guards and royal court as he held his hands out, “boring you?” he asked incredulously.
“No, Sire” I said, lowering my head.
“Good. Now, I believe I asked you a question.”
I looked up at him realizing that I probably should’ve worried less on my escape route and paid more attention to the questions he had been drilling at me.
“Pardon?” I said squeakily. I think his eye twitched before he spoke so quietly it was scarier than when he yelled.
“I said, why did you feel the need to bring such a dangerous object into your home, Anaphasia?”
“Oh, um, I didn’t really think about it, Sire, I just…acted.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Just. Acted?”
I bit the inside of my lip. “Yes, Sire.”
“And you honestly believe that that is what I shall tell my kingdom when they ask why one of our best Fixers brought back the most dangerous object known to our kind?!” he fumed.
I looked at him desperately as he sat back in his chair breathing heavily. I stared at his big nostrils flaring. He looked like he thought if he breathed hard enough, he could blow me out of the room and never have to see me again.
“Leave me.” He said, standing up from his chair. “I shall decide what to do with you and the pen and give you your sentence by sundown.” He continued.
He then exited the room with a flourish of his cloak with the Royal Court scurrying after him. The door shut behind him with a slam and I felt myself flinch a little, against my will. I turned and strode out the hall and pushed on the big oak doors. I felt the door slam against something and heard someone let out a cry. My best friend was revealed from behind the door as it slowly swung closed. He was rubbing his cheek where he got whacked by the door, muttering. I put my hand on my hip and raised an eyebrow. He stopped rubbing and looked up at me.
“What?” he asked defensively, giving me his most innocent face.
“Care to explain?” I shot. He pursed his lips.
“Well seeing there’s no point in trying to make up a lie… You caught me. I was listening in on your lashing, waiting for my time to heroically burst into the room and save the fair maiden.” He said with a flourish of an imaginary sword.
“Oh please Hale! You’re about as heroic as the King’s joker.” I replied laughing.
“Oohh, ouch! I felt that one!”
Jonathan Hale was annoying… all 5’8 of him. He was in good shape too, which added something else to his long list of things to constantly talk about. I’d known him since before either of us even started training for an expedition. No one under the age of fifteen is allowed to go and you begin your training at ten. We’re both Fixers but we do our jobs differently. I help humans through education, strategies, statistics and the sorts. Hale helps physically. Like during times of war using “man power” as he calls it.
“Aw poor thing, your strong, manly heart couldn’t take it?” I teased. He laughed and then looked at me curiously. I looked back at him expectantly.
“So you’re not gonna tell me?” he blurted.
“Ugh! There’s nothing to tell! You know how I am with those things! It’s my everything! Just because you guys can’t take it, doesn’t mean I have to suffer. I mean come on, it’s not like I’m going to go write a bunch of books with it and read it to young children or something.”
Hale smirked. “You couldn’t even if you wanted to Ana. Now that King Mortiff has it.”
“Yeah, I know.” I muttered.
My eyebrows scrunched up as I thought back to how I got into this mess.
It was my last night with the family before I hid again. They were so kind and loving. And they’re library! It was extraordinary! Bookshelf after bookshelf filled with books. A beautiful mahogany writing desk with pens and paper and a desk lamp. I thought about how lovely it would be to visit it one last time, as I lay in the bed of their guest room. I quietly ran up the stairs, two at a time, and went into the beautiful room. I walked over to the desk and picked up one of the father’s gold business pens. He used them to sign his signature at the bottom of some of the papers he had from work.
I rolled it across my fingertips, awed by its beauty. I slipped it into my pocket thinking he probably wouldn’t even notice it was missing. He had many more anyways. I got a slip of paper from one of the drawers and carried it downstairs to the bedroom. I wrote ‘Thank You’ in my nicest handwriting and left in on the dresser for the mother to see in the morning. I walked to the middle of the room and stood still as I let the veil that separated my world and this one fall over me, feeling the shape of the pen inside my pocket.
Hale walked with me back to the hall at sundown so he could be there with me when I got my punishment. We pushed the doors open together and entered the hall side by side. The king was already there. Sitting silent and still as a statue as the sound of the door closing echoed across the empty space. All you could hear after that was the sound of me and Hale’s shoes against the marble floor.
“Jonathan Hale,” the King stated, “what is your business here?”
We stopped in the center of the hall, and stood before the King. “Anaphasia Tulleyn.” Hale replied with a strong proud voice. I wished I could give him a quick smile in thanks, but that would be an insult to our King sitting just feet before us. The King grunted and waved towards the side of the hall, saying that he could stay but to keep out of the way. Hale understood. I felt exposed and vulnerable when Hale left my side to stand next to the Royal Court’s table. I tried not to show just how nervous I was in front of them all. The King looked down at me.
“My ruling concerning Anaphasia Tulleyn is,” he began in a clear loud voice, “that she will be suspended from any and all expeditions for the next month. She will also stand and face her people tomorrow evening and have a speech prepared for them explaining her injustice and expressing her shame. As for the object of danger,” he paused, “it will be returned to the family it was stolen from immediately and never to be brought back into my kingdom again.”
I was mad, to put it simply, and I looked at him in a way that would kill if looks could. “Is that understood Anaphasia?” he said eyeing me.
I took a deep breath before I said, “Yes…Sire.”
“Good. The weapon will be returned to you for you to return to the humans and your suspension begins immediately. You are dismissed.”
I spun around and snatched the pen from the messenger boy on my way out. I stormed through the doors and Hale only caught up with me when I was halfway down the corridor. “Ana! Ana! Wait up!” I spun around so fast, he almost ran smack into me. He stopped inches from me and backed up a few steps to get a good look at my balled up fists, my pursed lips and my heaving chest.
“So, that went well…don’t you think?” he chirped, smiling. I glared at him and his smile dropped. I began walking again and he was jogging to keep up. “Okay so it didn’t go wonderfully, but honestly, what were you expecting? For him to just let you off the hook because you’re an Original Stelia?” he rambled.
“Of course not Hale but he didn’t have to make me humiliate myself in front of the whole kingdom! You know I would’ve hated special treatment more than what I’ve got so don’t even get me started.” I fumed. Hale opened his mouth to reply but I cut him off before he even started.
“And I don’t even know why you people call me that! An Original? Seriously? How pathetic can you get! I may do what we were originally ordained to do but that doesn’t mean I’m someone big and special.” I heaved. Hale didn’t try to keep up with me after that. I opened a random door alongside the corridor and my room was on the inside.
“So what’re you gonna do?” Hale asked as he closed the door behind us. I sighed.
“I’ll do everything he wants. Except for bring this back.” I held my palm out so Hale could examine the pen. He leaned back a bit and stared at it warily.
“Oh, give me a break!” I gasped. “The worst this thing could do to you is poke you in the eye! And that’s only if you have some seriously bad motor skills!”
Hale straightened himself up and looked at me with that look he got when he got worried about me.
“I know it’s to keep us safe but… I’m not like you guys.” I said pleadingly. “And he knows that!”
“Ana. Breath.” He said holding my shoulders. I stared at him for a few seconds and then breathed out heavily.
“He won’t stop me Hale, not this time.”