Part 52: Before the Storm

                                               "If a respectable suitor comes and asks for her hand in marriage, I will give her to him. " (The Robber Bridegroom, Brothers Grimm)

                                                 -Zenobia-

           Morgana and I walk down the hall in silence, trailing behind a group of knights whose expressions are hidden due to their silver helmets. They don't bother to talk to Morgana and I. Morgana and I don't talk to one another.

          The hallway remains silent besides the clinking of armor and padding of slippers.

          Weak, ashen fingers grip tirelessly at the strap  of the satchel hanging over my shoulder, where both Jhyn's paintbrush and my drawings reside. I hurriedly stuffed them in there before Morgana and I were escorted out of the throne room after the second round ended. Three girls besides ourselves were chosen to go to the next round. Amongst them were the brunette with the pleasant smile and the suspiciously twitching behavior along with two other girls. Strangely enough, only Morgana and I are heading to the courtyard where the next and final round are to be held.

           A small smile stays fixed to my lips despite the pain that still wracks my body. Although the second round hadn't gone exactly as planned, Jhyn did make good on his promise—I'm in the next round. The Queen seemed delighted that both Morgana and I were to proceed, which bodes well for us both.

           I must admit I was a bit worried, but I'm feeling confident again. I'm closer now than ever to claiming my place in this world and forever severing my tie to the Underworld. A few bruises caused by the knights must be worth it.

         I glance over at Morgana, who hasn't lifted her eyes from her feet since we've began walking. Her eyes stay transfixed on the two white slippers that play hide and seek beneath the rosy skirt of her gown.

        I feel the urge to say something to her. I want to thank her for standing up for me and for helping me when I was in need, but I do not trust myself. I can't face that terrible emotion called anger again. Even though I feel nothing but amity towards her now, I don't want to take the chance of having that simmering, consuming blackness take over again. I don't know if I'll be able to stop myself from hurting her this time.

       So, in my heart, I say the words I can't say aloud: Thank you for helping me, Morgana. I'm sorry if I hurt you. You are indeed my friend.

        Judging by the way she chews lightly on her bottom lip and continually casts forlorn glances in my direction, I can tell that there are things that she wishes to say aloud as well.

       It takes a while, but the words she holds back finally break free.

      "Are you hurt?"

        Her words are timid and meek, like a bird hopping from the shadows to greet a stranger. For some reason, I can't look in her direction when I try to answer. Guilt still rests in my heart from what occurred between us in the prep room.

       "I am fine," I tell her, although my body still throbs.

        I see Morgana's throat jump. She nods and tries to smile. "That is good," she murmurs. Silence follows her words. Her twiddling thumbs tell me there is more she wishes to say.

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