“I’m sorry, Canary. I promise, your death will not have been in vain.”
She opened her mouth, breathless, unable to talk, as he flicked his hand and a spear shot out from the cavern ceiling above, straight at her heart.
Jasmine came awake with a desperate cry, the approaching spear still fresh in her mind.
At first, she had no idea what was going on. She was somewhere dark and pleasantly warm, lying on a comfortable (but not quite luxurious) bed with fresh bedsheets (quite the luxury compared to how she’d lived the last seven months of her life).
Thinking of those last seven months finally brought her fully awake, and it all came rushing back in – the gathering, the fight, the attempt at escaping, people dying and then… the betrayal.
Closing her eyes – not that she could see anything in the first place – the girl known to some as Canary, and to others as Jasmine Hellen, firmly pushed that last memory into the deepest, darkest recesses of her memory, to be dealt with later.
Right now, she needed as clear a head as she could get. Since lying in the horizontal position did not usually help with that, she also sat up.
So, roll call. She’d passed out after Pale had tried to… well, and then Totemic had saved her. Logically, that meant she was in the hands of the Tyrant already, or at least very close.
That thought alone was enough to crush her into her bed again, draining the blood from her face. Canary was pretty powerful, but Jasmine had no delusions regarding her ability (or lack thereof) to stand up to the Tyrant in person.
Yet she did not feel controlled, or enslaved or however it was supposed to be called. That might mean that she had not yet been turned, or that it was so subtle she had no chance of detecting it herself.
I should proceed under the assumption that I am still of free will, otherwise I might as well give up right here and now, she thought resolutely, her hands slowly curling into fists, drawing her nails over the sheets.
So, she had most likely been captured. That meant she was being held somewhere, but where? She’d be screwed if it was the royal palace. She wouldn’t be able to get out of it… not that her prospects for breaking out of any place were all that good. Canary’s power was strong and had some extremely dangerous effects, but unfortunately little in the way of direct combat ability and even less as far as stealth was concerned.
Stop running off on tangents, silly. Take it one step at a time for now!
She’d best listen to herself. Which meant that first, she had to get a sense of her surroundings. And for that, she had to use her power.
By clicking her tongue, she produced a sharp sound that bounced off of her surroundings, returned to and gave her a rough estimate of the size of the room she was in – a one-person bedroom, too big to be a mere prison cell but not big enough to be a proper bedroom. She was lying on an average one-person bed that stood along the long left wall of the room, with its head against the short wall.
Two more clicks revealed details. She could make out a door at other end of the room, a small bedside table with a lamp on top of it, a small vanity and a rack with a few changes of clothes (she couldn’t make out the exact number with her echolocation), as well as a window opposite of the door, above and to the right of her bed. It appeared that she was all alone.
That suited her quite well. Sitting up again, she threw the blanket off her body and ran her hands over her clothes. Someone had put her into a soft, full-length nightgown. If someone had asked her how she expected to be treated by the Tyrant’s men, she would have said ‘waking up bound, gagged and naked’ – though in retrospect, she’d never heard anyone actually claiming to have been abused that way by the Queensguard. Only second- and third-hand accounts.
Exploring further, she found that she had no bruises that hurt or cracked bones – and she was sure that being clipped by Totemic had at least cracked her ribs. Someone must have treated her, most likely with superpowers. That, or she’d been asleep for a long time. Not a very comforting thought.
So, she was alone in a small room, was dressed, unbound and apparently unharmed. Next, she needed light, and to check whether or not she could actually leave the room.
Clicking her tongue, she reached out for the lamp on her bedside table and turned it on. Then she blinked as her eyes got used to the warm light (how they adjusted, she had no idea – or how she was able to see anything in the first place. Her eyes were completely yellow all the way through and yet, her sight was completely normal).
The walls were painted in a neutral white and she could see a brown wooden door that led, presumably, outside. Where- or whatever that may be.
Next, she located the light switch and turned on the proper room lamp. A second look around didn’t reveal anything new, only clarified some things. There was some make up on the vanity, and three knee-length dresses on the rack in three different colours – blue, red and yellow. The makeup turned out to be a yellow that matched both her eyes and her hair.
This was… weird. Why would they pick out her favourite makeup? Nevermind the dresses, which were all in colours that suited her quite well?
Perhaps I’m not with the Tyrant’s people after all! she thought, elated. Perhaps she’d been saved after passing out, by reinforcements from her people or some third party!
Then she came down again. She hoped it had been a third party – if it was from their own group, then she was likely to see Pale again, and soon. And she didn’t think she’d be able to stand being near him yet.
It may still be the Tyrant’s men. They might be trying to put me off balance. Though why they would want to do that was beyond her. The Tyrant’s ability to control the minds of her victims was well-known to anyone who didn’t buy into her propaganda.
Either way, it would be better for her if she was properly dressed and made up. No shower in sight, but then again, her body was rather forgiving regarding that – her hair was very easy to work with, even when unwashed for a week or more, and it took a good long while before she’d even start to smell unpleasantly.
Which might be a good way to determine whether or not she’d been asleep for a long time, actually. But then again, they would probably have washed her if they went through the trouble of treating her and keeping her sedated for long enough to heal completely.
Quickly getting out of the nightgown, she checked her body over in the mirror – not even the slightest discoloration, even from fading bruises.
Next, she opened the drawers beneath the vanity and found a few changes of underwear in one of them (and socks in the other). She put on both and then brushed her hair into order, before putting on the makeup. She liked the effect that had on her monochromatic eyes, making them look huge and just a tad intimidating – something she could not pull off on her own at all.
Of course, the rather cute dresses would ruin that effect. In the interest of not being completely monochromatic, she decided not to put on the yellow one. The blue one, she dismissed because she preferred warmer colours. Leaving her with the red one, which fit quite well, if not perfectly – a little too wide around her waist.
Somehow, the fact that not everything here was perfect did a lot towards making her feel more at ease.
She was just finishing checking herself over in the mirror when she heard running footsteps coming closer. Before she could even react, her door flew open and someone ran inside.
Squealing in surprise – and more fright than she wanted to admit – she looked at the sudden intruder as he closed the door, pressing his back against it, his face looking both tired and on edge.
He was tall. Not unnaturally so, but definitely on the tall side of things, almost two meters, which made him a giant compared to Jasmine’s one meter and seventy centimeters (and change). He was thin, again not unnaturally so, nor in a starved way, but in the lean way of someone born to be thin. His sharp, thin-lipped face, framed by rather big ears and messy brown hair, was not exactly attractive but not unpleasant to look at, either. He looked like he could use some sleep, yet she also saw a lot of laugh lines around his mouth and blue eyes. His clothing consisted of a pair of jeans pants, brown shoes and a dark purple robe that split at the height of his crotch to allow for easier movement.
The robe was covered in shifting patterns of changing colours, a dizzying yet pleasant effect that never held still. If she hadn’t already known his face from the television, that robe would have been all it took to recognise him – and make her heart drop down into the base of her belly.
Prospero, the Grand Conjurer. The Tyrant’s most powerful (though not the most scary) henchman. She could no longer delude herself that she might have been saved.
While he was catching his breath, Jasmine retreated to press her back against the opposite corner, next to the window. Trying to look small, not that there was much of a chance of being overlooked.
After a few moments, the man seemed to finally notice her. “Oh, sorry about this,” he said in a thick voice – not thick like that of a drunk, but just a naturally thick voice – “But could I ask you to maybe pretend that I am not here and neither have you seen me today?” He slid over to stand in the corner next to the door, so that it’d open towards him and keep him hidden. Then he raised his hands, palm to palm, and begged, “Please? I can’t take it anymore!”
Jasmine thought furiously. What was going on here!? Was he a fugitive? If he’d gotten fed up with the Tyrant and was intending to flee… working together with the Grand Conjurer himself would certainly improve her chances. But who was he running away from!? If the Tyrant herself was coming, then…
Then it was finally time for her to stand up for her convictions. Canary looked at Prospero and nodded, trying to simultaneously look more confident and less threatening as she heard another set of footsteps approaching at a fast clip. She swallowed her own spit, preparing herself…
And someone knocked on the door. “Hello? Is anyone there?” asked a female voice with a light British accent.
“N-no!” Jasmine squealed, and immediately hated herself for it.
“That statement makes no sense. Could you open the door, please?” the voice continued, sounding amused.
Jasmine looked at Prospero, and he nodded, though he also put a finger to his lips, begging her not to reveal him, probably.
What kind of monster was that woman, that she scared this man so much?
She approached the door, trying to look more confident than she felt. Why couldn’t she be more Canary and less Jasmine right now?
When she actually opened the door, what she saw was nothing like what she expected – looking at her was a young woman – younger even than herself – in a nicely fitting dark blue power suit that went well with her slender, sharp body. Her face was nothing special by metahuman standards, but just a year ago, Jasmine would have been very envious of her nonetheless – she had rather pouty lips, currently twisted along with the rest of her face into a frown, sharp dark brown eyes and messy brown hair in an untidy ponytail. She was a tad taller than Jasmine, but only because she was wearing medium heels.
As the girl quickly looked her up and down, her frown gave way for a rather mischievous smirk. “So, you’re that girl they dragged in? Canary, right?” she asked, putting her fists on her hips while looking her up and down.
“Y-yes, that’s me,” Jasmine said, not sure how to react to this girl. Everything here kept throwing her off-balance, every time she got close to pulling herself together, something happened to unmake her again. What was a teenager doing here, and why was Prospero afraid of her? “What can I do for you?”
“I’m looking for my father. You don’t happen to have seen him, have you?” the girl asked.
“F-father!?” This was Prospero‘s daughter!?
Fortunately, the girl misunderstood her outburst. “Yeah, my dad. Tall guy who looks like he ain’t eating right – because he isn’t – and wearing a silly robe. You probably know him as Prospero,” she explained, waving one hand in a ‘let’s get this over with’ gesture.
This is his daughter?, she thought. Prospero has a daughter!? And he was afraid of her? What the hell were her powers?
“P-prospero? Seriously?” she asked, trying to buy some time.
The girl rolled her eyes. “Yes, seriously. My name’s Minerva, by the way. Nice to meet you. Now, did you see my dad or not? He’s still got paperwork to do, and he has to take his vitamins and he’s going to be late for his appointment with Maddie if he doesn’t hurry up with his work already!”
Who’s Maddie? This was all so surreal.
“I-I haven’t got the foggiest idea of what’s going on,” she replied honestly.
Apparently, that was the right thing to say, because Minerva broke out into laughter for a straight minute.
Her confusion only growing, Jasmine watched as the girl bent over, holding her belly as she laughed. There were tears involved, and spittle flying. All in all, it was the messiest, most carefree laugh Jasmine had heard in… in a long time.
“I-I’m sorry,” Minerva gasped as she slowly regained control. “I guess this has all got to look quite insane for you, huh?”
Understatement of the year. “Very.” Now she floundered, not sure how to proceed.
“Well, I’d like to stay a bit and put you at ease, but I really have to track down my dad. If you see him, remind him to move his ass back to work.”
“W-what am I supposed to do here, anyway? And where am I!?” Jasmine shouted, finally fed up. “Am I a prisoner? Am I free? What is going on!?”
Minerva immediately turned serious, fiddling with her clothing to straighten it out. “I’m sorry about that, really. Here’s what I can tell you – you’re at the royal palace. You’re a prisoner, and you’re not allowed to leave. I don’t know why exactly they want you, but I’m sure there’ll be someone around soon to tell you the whole deal.”
The royal palace. So now she knew that she was lost. In fact, she was not just lost, she was reeling.
The strange girl either didn’t notice or didn’t care about her distress and reached out to squeeze her shoulder. “Don’t worry. I’m sure everything’s going to be alright.” She let go and turned away. “Have a nice day! Don’t let the situation get you down!”
And then she ran off, to hunt her father. Jasmine closed the door to see Prospero let go of his breath.
“Thank God. I swear that girl is part bloodhound,” he whispered. Then he straightened himself up, smiling at her. “Thanks for the save, Miss Hellen.”