60: Duel of Fate

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            Part 60: Duel of Fate


"There is no trusting any one now, said he." (The Good Bargain, The Brothers Grimm)



          Mask gone and a face hidden for so long now bared to the purple, inked sky, kissed tenderly by the rising flames; there is no place left for me to skulk about in its shadows.

          Hair the color of blood and fire spins and whips in a torrent around my face, reminding me of the color of the water this man tossed me into, water that boiled and melted me alive. Suddenly, the sickening taste of rusty blood and Death is back fresh on my tongue and my lungs are filled with nothing but scalding water.  My shoulders heave, my hands shake, and my eyes see nothing but red when I look out at the Knight who murdered me and stole my kingdom right out from under the noses of the royal family.

        I'm suddenly filled with so much rage that it takes everything in me to not simply swing my sword at his neck and end it all. No, it won't happen like that. I want him to know exactly who it is who killed him, who finally bested him, and who he can blame for his sudden trip to the Underworld.

          I stand to my full height as my hand releases my mask to the wind. The white face flips and twirls across the castle and is blown out into the burning city until neither of us can see it anymore. I face the Knight, still breathing heavily, wanting to see his full reaction. The ground quakes beneath us, a warning to the oncoming attack, but he has my full attention right now.

        And what a beautiful reaction he gives. His face has gone completely white.  His hands dangle like lifeless puppets beside his still body, unsure of what to do with themselves anymore. I watch his lips pull themselves apart, thinking that they had something worthwhile to see, but they almost instantly come back together.

        He blinks. Blinks again. Finally, his blue eyes turn wide and he speaks and finally calls me by my real, true name:


          I can't help it. I smile. It's such a beautiful, beautiful feeling to know that this man now knows who I truly am. There will be no more hiding for the Princess of Livor.

        "Princess Ruta," I correct him. "Yes, it's me."

        I can see it in his eyes; behind all of that icy blue, he's trying to piece together what I've just told him. He's trying his hardest to make all of this seem logical. I can see him going back to all of the times he spoke with "Rose" to see if he could find any sort of clue. Finally, his eyes widen. The boy speaks.

         "Y-You can't be Ruta. I.... You died."

         "You killed me." I step closer to him and feel a tingle of glee when he stumbles back. I continue towards him.

           "You killed me and my father. You sliced his head off with your bloody sword, you stole me away from the castle, and your hands were the ones to put me into that cauldron."

        He's backed into the railing now. I slap my hands down on either side of him and lean closer, close enough so that, while standing on my toes, my nose is right next to his.

         "You...murdered...me." I shoot the words out, one by one, like poison-dipped arrows. "Are you going to deny it?" My fingers itch for the hilt of my sword.

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