Chapter 20

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I make it to the castle but the guard has other ideas about letting me through. 

"I'm sorry miss, we simply can't let you in. We've received no notice and seeing as you have no letter, we can't just let you walk in." The guard is unbearably stony faced, standing right in front of the door that I'm currently trying to barge through.

"You can and will let me in. I'm one of the recruits, I'm not here to assassinate someone." I try going around him but he sidesteps smoothly, blocking me.

"This is your last warning; leave or I'll escort you to the dungeon."

"You listen to me." I jab a finger at his shiny breastplate. "I demand- ow!"

The guard grabs the hand I'm poking him with and twists it, spinning me around and yanking my arm up. My shoulder screams in protest.

"Stop it, you big oaf!" I stomp on his foot and struggle but he just twists my arm harder, pulling me up on my toes.

"You can calm down in the dungeon," he mutters in my ear, trying to force me away from the door despite my protests.

"Stop!" An unfamiliar voice calls out, and the guard spins around, turning me with him. A tall woman who appears to be a few years old than me is striding towards us. I blink, making sure my mouth isn't hanging open. 

Her simple pants and tunic emblazoned with the royal seal show off curves I can only dream of having. Huge golden curls bounce as she walks. She has strong features and once she's close enough, I can see tawny colored eyes and a small smattering of freckles on the bridge of her nose.

 She is absolutely stunning. 

"You must be Talia." It isn't a question. She turns to the guard. "Let her go, she's with me." 

To my complete surprise, he does as she says. 

"Come on, I'll take you to Willow," she tells me, walking through the doors without waiting to see if I follow.

Hurrying after her, my brain finally catches up. Since I haven't heard of any other female guards, this is probably the infamous Kassia. Suddenly I understand why Sebastian is so happy to use her as his informant.

I catch up to her. "Can you tell me anything about what happened? With Willow last night?"

She glances at me as we start up the huge staircase. I discover that the carpet is as plush as it looks, my feet sinking. 

"Out of respect for Willow, I feel like I should leave it up to her to decide what she wants you to know." I opened my mouth to argue but she cuts me off. "But I also know what it's like to be an older sister. So out of respect for you, I'll tell you that something serious is going on. Don't let her downplay it or reassure you that everything is okay. What I saw-"

She stops and grabs my arm, tawny eyes serious. "I've seen lots of horrible things in my life but what I saw last night chilled me. Something evil is at work here."

I can see fear in her eyes. What she says immediately makes me think of the necromancer and it terrifies me to consider that he has somehow managed to reach Willow in the supposed safety of the castle.

We keep walking down the halls and Kassia doesn't bother speaking again.

She leads me to a hallway with a large set of double doors at the end. As we draw to a stop in front of them, I realize that I have no idea what to expect from Willow's room. Judging by the crystal doorknobs and swirled engraving on the doors that look like they're lined with gold, I imagine her room is fit for a queen. Which is, I suppose, only to be expected.

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