Chapter 9

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Waking up in the morning is difficult, as my head feels like it weighs a hundred pounds and everything aches. But I force myself to pull back the covers. I'm in a small guest room, decorated simply in calming shades of blue. The heavy curtains are closed so I have no idea what time it is, the thought strangely disorienting.

Everything from the night before rushes over me, making my head spin even while lying down. I remember the green eyed boy taking me to Captain DeGray, who lectured me to no end while I was too exhausted and in pain to even really listen. Getting the claw marks on my shoulders hastily patched up, the scrape of linen burning against the open wounds. Being escorted to this room, Captain DeGray saying something lowly but all I could focus on was reaching the bed before I collapsed.

I struggle to sit up, my ribs aching in protest and the pain in my head throbbing behind my eyes like a drum, thumping to the beat of my heart. Thump thump, thump thump. I wince, pressing my palms into my eyes, trying to push away the pressure.

I killed last night, for the first time in my life. Father always did all of the butchering and cooking of animals, to spare me from having to. Until last night, I didn't know how to felt to take a life. I have the blood of another creature crusted around my nails. I never realized that old blood only intensifies the metallic smell. 

Yet somehow, the smell is familiar, stirring something in me that feels like a faint memory. A quick vision of a rock clutched in a shaking, blood covered hand flashes before my eyes, right before pain explodes in my head.

I cry out, feeling blood drip over my lips as it suddenly pours out of my nose. I lift the hem of my filthy tunic to staunch the flow. The pain clears in a second, as if it had never been there, leaving me dazed and confused. What had I been thinking about? I wrack my brain but can't remember. I feel ill though, chills shaking my body and an intense urge to vomit rising in my throat.

I don't regret killing those creatures at all, their deaths actually bringing me satisfaction to think about. But it must have affected me more than I realized, I think, swallowing down bile.

The nausea slowly passes as I force myself to look around the room, breathing slowly. A bundle in front of my door catches my eye and I slide out of bed gingerly, stumbling over to find a new tunic and pair of pants folded under a note.

Ask a servant to bring you to me when you wake up. We need to talk. Captain DeGray.

____________

 After changing and rinsing my face quickly in the connected bathing room, then re-braiding my hair back tightly, my body aches more than ever, but I look slightly more presentable. Blood had seeped through my bandages in the night but I have nothing to replace them with so I leave it. Whoever comes to tidy the room is in for a surprise when they find my pile of reeking, bloody clothes on the floor. All I keep are my boots and Mother's book, which was thankfully undamaged in my pocket.  

A few minutes later, a maid leads me down twisting hallways. To her credit, she doesn't even raise an eyebrow when I ask if she could please take me to see Captain DeGray because I have no idea where I am or how to get anywhere.

She leads me outside, once again behind the castle, cutting our way through the gardens to the edge of the forest. It looks considerably less frightening during the day. We walk down a wide dirt path into the trees, the fresh scent of pine and dirt clearing my head. I recognize it as the one the recruits took yesterday after running by the stairs.

Sure enough, the maid says not a minute later, "Captain DeGray is usually training with the recruits this time of day, my lady." She bustles down the path with me right behind her.

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