Chapter 10 - Rosethorne Hall

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I awoke that morning with a refreshing jolt of energy. This was (hopefully) my last night sharing a room with Sabine. Though she was still in the competition, she would at least not be my roommate anymore.

I scrambled to pack my things. Sabine was sprawled on her bed, eyes closed, headphones on. She had packed the night before, which annoyed me for some reason. It's like she had to be first at everything. I briefly wondered what she was listening to before deciding the less I knew, the better.

An hour later, we were escorted downstairs and told to wait for our ride. A bellhop graciously took our luggage and wheeled it away to someplace unknown. Four other girls occupied the lobby with us. I didn't know their names but I was starting to recognize faces now.

Our ride to the palace finally arrived. It was one of the white limousines that drove us to the hotel from the airport that first night. I was startled by how long ago that seemed now, even though it had only been a week. It was as if time slowed to a crawl when I arrived in this place.

Inside the limo, I sat as far away from Sabine as possible. I wasn't the only one. The other girls clustered together in the cabin, giving her a wide berth. If she cared, she didn't show it. She leaned across the seat casually, gazing lazily out the window. A strange feeling of kinship came over me, quickly followed by horror. We may have been outcasts in some ways but we were nothing alike.

An hour later we arrived at our destination. The limousine pulled up to the grand, marble columned entrance of a an enormous, sprawling building. Ornate stone carvings decorated every surface, inlaid with gold. Facing the entrance was a garden with a fountain that seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. A marble statue of a man with a trident stood in the center, shooting jets of water in all directions. The garden was edged with symmetrical, perfectly trimmed hedges.

A beleaguered grunt startled me. I turned away from the beautiful view and saw another one of the king's tall, gray suited guards standing by the doors. Though it was a cloudy day, it was only the afternoon, which led me to believe this guard was not a vampire. I guess it makes sense for the king to have humans in his employ for daylight hours.

"I am here to uh, escort you ladies to your rooms," he said, with an uncomfortable awkwardness that was hard to ignore. I suppose leading a bunch of young women around wasn't a part of his regular duties.

We followed him inside the palace. I fought the instinct to gasp at the sight of the entrance hall. The floors were tiled with marble and gold. Giant columns stretched far above our heads, culminating in a stained glass dome. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Gold framed paintings lined the walls. I resisted the curiosity to stop and marvel at the detail in them.

Two giant doorways stood on either side, leading to different wings of the building. Two grand staircases swept through the center. In between them was a door that led to what I presumed was a courtyard.

Another guard appeared silently behind our group and trailed after us. I wondered if he was here to prevent us from getting lost, or stop us from sneaking off. Probably both.

The first guard took us up the sprawling staircase and into the west wing of the palace. We passed many gilded mahogany doors before turning a corner. The guard stopped at the end of the hall.

"This is where you will be staying. Your roommates have been assigned and your luggage has already been delivered. In a few minutes all of you will be called upon for a tour of the grounds," he said shakily.

I glanced around and spotted a name plate with "A. Crawford" on one of the doors. The plate below it read "S. Wallace." Oh no. What was Sabine's last name? I searched my memories of last night's elimination but came up short.

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