The door swings open to the tavern. A man staggers out, almost falling to the ground. He catches himself and grabs onto the reigns of his horse; his eyes meet mine. A faint smirk appears on his lips as he climbs on his horse. “ Why princess, been a long time.” My hand balls into a fist at my side, anger boiling underneath my skin. “ Don’t call me that.” I spat, disgusted at the man before me. “ I seem to recall a certain someone calling you that quite often, don’t you ?”. My heart begins to race. I had been gone two years, searching for what was mine. Nobody had called me Princess in what felt like a long time. “ Yes, but your filthy boss killed him, without a second thought.”
My hand slowly reaches down to my thigh, feeling to make sure the blood stone dagger was still strapped tight. He laughs, turning his horse toward the cobblestone street. “ You’re more a fool than we thought if you think we don’t still have him chained up, years in that dark cellar will really change a man”. The second those cursed words leave his mouth, I grab the dagger and throw it, aiming for his throat. My aim is true; he begins coughing blood as his hands quickly grab at the dagger and he falls off the horse. My eyes darted toward the saddle bag. Something in it grabs my attention. I walk over and take it off the horse, grabbing my dagger from the now blood soaked stone street, and walk inside the bustling tavern.
I drop the bag on to the old wood table in the corner, we used to sit here; my friends and I. They were all older than me, able to drink and gamble while I sat and just enjoyed being able to belong somewhere. I was eighteen then, although it feels like a lifetime ago. Sitting down in the rickety old chair, I pulled the saddle bag closer to me and reached inside. A red ruby, as big as my hand appears in my hand. My jaw drops open in disbelief, rubies were very rare in Cavnia. Reaching my hand in again , I grab a bottle. The bottle, a shade of dark crimson, with a label white as snow glistening in my hand under the tavern lights. I haven’t seen a bottle like this since I was a young girl. My father had only seven made, for my mother being born in July. I examine the bottle , turning it around in the light. In bold, beautiful letters written on the label, is my name, Poppy.
“ Bottle as red as her lips, bittersweet and smooth. To my Poppy, until we meet again ”. In shock, I set the bottle down and reach into the saddle bag once more. My fingers wrap around a small leather pouch; I pull it out and pour the contents out onto the wood table. Small gold coins emerge from the pouch along with a small wrinkled piece of paper. My voice rough and raw, I read the letter quietly aloud, “ Find her. Bring her back, Alive. “
So many questions entered my mind. I had been given a mission. Told to leave and not come back until I took care of the threats to the kingdom. Those who my uncle felt were scum and rotten pirates. Any gold and jewels I came across were to be sent back immediately. None of which would ever truly be mine, not with my uncle on the throne. His distaste for me has always been known. My father, his older brother, was meant to rule. His murder clouded in mystery, only I was set out to find the real truth. My uncle, King Nikoli sent me on a fools quest to get me out of the castle while he did, who knows what. Now he wants me back? And what did he do to Jensen?
A cup of apple cider slides across the table; a familiar face smiles at me. Wearing a tattered white dress and a blue apron. Her hair black as night, in a bun neatly on her head. “ my sweet child, drink up.” Her voice sweet as honey; Motioning to the cup in front of me, she sits across from me. “Seems his Highness has summoned me again , Amelia. It never ends. Do you know what happened to Jensen?” I grab the cup, taking a sip as I wait for her answer. She looks around the room , she sighs, her eyes glisten. Tears start to form, but she quickly wipes them away. “That uncle if yours is no king, something isn’t right. I haven’t seen Jensen in over a year .”
My stomach sinks, I shake my head in denial. “ I have to see him, I have to. He can’t be gone. He Can’t . “ I begin to stand and push away from the table. Amelia matches my movements and stands in front of me, blocking my exit. “ Poppy, he isn’t dead. I heard Maximus bragging with the night guardsmen that they had a prisoner. I know it in bones that it’s your Jensen.”
Maximus was the man whom my uncle wanted me to marry. I couldn’t stand him. He was nothing but a bully, and had a rivalry with Jensen. It made things worse when Maximus saw Jensen and I kiss under the willow tree. After that night, he set out to make our lives miserable and marry me anyways , just for spite, and to feel like he had won.
I went up the stairs of tavern, into the spare room that Amelia allowed me to stay in when I wanted to get away from everything. Grabbing my cloak and boots, I got dressed quickly. Making sure my two lucky daggers were in their place on my leg and in a secret pocket in my cloak. Making my way down the staircase and out the back door into the dark alleyway. My heart pounding as I climbed upon my horse Stargaze, and rode toward the castle.
I began to remember the secret entrance on the north side of the castle that my father told me stories about. Uncle Nikoli and my father would sneak out and get into any trouble they could conjure up. Tying my horse to the metal bar along the stone wall. I slip inside, quiet as a mouse. I make my way into a long passageway close to my fathers old bedchamber. Only I didn't make it there; my hood is pulled back and big arms wrap around me. Kicking and squirming to get free. The figure behind me begins to laugh, “ Really, my dear Poppy, you think I’m that stupid?”
Maximus. My vision begins to come hazy as his hand holds a cloth to my mouth. When I begin to regain consciousness , I look around, seeing that I wasn't alone. Maximus was standing next to a large wooden desk, gold and jewels scattered all over it. King Nikoli sat in his Gold chair; a smirk made it’s way across his face. " Poppy, glad you could finally join us” he boasted, taking a sip of red wine. " I was begging to worry”.
Anger flowed through me, and I started to shake. " Where is Jensen? " I shouted, surprising everyone in the room with how loud I was, including myself. " Now Poppy, is that how we speak to family ?” He teases, rising from his chair and walking around the desk. I tried to stand, a guard pushes down on my shoulder, stopping me and keeping me on my knees. "He is regretting his actions I presume, in the dungeon or cellar, maybe even some abandoned shack. I don’t care wherever my men decided to put him. I don’t feel much concern for him after he decided to get in the way of my plans.”
My hands strained against the ropes holding them together behind my back. The feeling I had to hurt everyone in this room was growing by the minute. Nikoli grabbed my chin, raising it so that I would look at him.“This is what is going to happen. You will marry Sir Maximus, and do as I tell you. Jensen is no longer your concern.”
My eyes searched his, empty cold darkness was all that stared back at me. " Regardless of what you think of me, this is for your own good” he hissed. I cleared my throat. It became more dry and rough with the pacing seconds. " Know this, I will never stop looking for Jensen. I promise you that I will hunt down and kill everyone involved that laid even a finger on him. I swear on my life that I will make you pay and I will take my place on the throne that is mine” I vowed with everything in me.
His laugh filled the room, such an evil, awful laugh that made me cringe. “Tell me Poppy, did you find the crimson red bottle in Henry’s saddle bag?” King Nikoli questioned. " Yes , it was my fathers bottle but the label wasn’t his doing” I muttered, confused as to why it was in that bag in the first place. " I imagined it would make you think of your dear Jensen and you would rush back to the castle right into my clutches yet again.” He sneered. " I was right of course . That label was copied from a letter he was caught writing to you. I see you never received it.” If my hands weren’t behind my back, tied together so incredibly tight, I would have punched him right in the jaw just like my father taught me. " I admired your father for making such a beautiful bottle, I was always jealous of his” King Nikoli paused, grinding his teeth together, “talents.”
The guard holding me down jerked me up by the arm, forcing me to stand. His knife was digging at my back, pushing me forward. “Take her to her room Charles, see to it the ladies maid brings her her dress and slippers. She is to be married in ten days.” Charles nods, pushing me towards the door. I screamed, not believing this was happening. I couldn’t let him do this. Charles led me through the castle, making me walk faster and faster, not caring that he was causing me to trip over my own feet. We reached my old bed chambers. He opened the door and shoved me inside. “You will only leave when you are summoned. Don’t try anything stupid. Your Highness. " his smirk irked me. Disgusted, I turned away from him, facing the window.
Walking over to the large bed, I reached under the mattress grabbing my notebook I had placed there for safe keeping. A plan, that's what I needed. Wheels turned in my head, this would take time, time I don’t have much of. I vowed in my diary to avenge my father, save Jensen, and make King Nikoli pay. No matter what I had to do, my plan had to work. Nobody messes with those I love, not now and not ever.