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“Your Grace,” they all heard Grace say, “Your wonderful sister has returned.”
Aria could almost hear the smile in her voice.
“I see that,” the young man at the front of the room said. His voice was deep and gravely. Aria found it a little scary, if she was honest.
“And why is it that my sister returns days later than expected,” he asked. Aria could hear him getting up, his chair scraping the floor.
“Unforeseen complications, Your Grace,” Grace said. Aria was sure that she was smiling now. She could hear him coming down the steps towards them.
She decided to look up.
He walked towards Grace. When he was standing in front of her, he reached down and offered her his hand. She grasped it, and he pulled her up. And to Aria’s surprise, he hugged her.
Grace wrapped her hands around his neck while he placed one hand on her back and the other on her head. He kissed her cheek before letting her go.
“Are you okay? Did everything go smoothly,” he asked in a quiet voice.
“Yeah, it was fine,” Grace said.
He nodded and finally looked past her to the group of people kneeling in the center of the room.
His eyes landed on Aria’s first. She dropped hers to the ground a second later.
She heard him take a few steps towards her. He stopped right in front of her. She decided not to look up.
He stood there for a few moments before moving on, walking around the group in a circle. When he was in front of Aria again, he spoke up.
“What the hell is this,” he asked.
Still, Aria didn’t look up. She was pretty sure no one else did, either.
“I said the exact same thing,” Grace said, joining the king at the front of the group.
“They’re a bunch of children,” he said, with a little edge to his voice. “Look at them. Not a single one of them can be over the age of twenty. These are the people that the Terra just had to get rid of? As if they’re some great threat,” he said.
“Apparently,” Grace said.
“How have they survived? They’re practically skin and bones,” he said like this was some sort of trick. Aria could feel anger replacing her fear. “And you couldn’t have soaked them in some water before bringing them here? They’re absolutely filthy,” he said.
Aria could feel herself getting tense. Her knee was starting to ache, but she didn’t dare look up. Not just yet.
“This is their leader,” Grace said.
The king took a step towards Aria. He put a hand on her chin and pushed her head up, making her finally lift her eyes from the ground.
“Aria…” he said, sounding her name out. “Aria from under the ground. Rise,” he said.
She stood up; she wasn’t sure how. Her legs felt like jelly. Being closed off in this room, with nowhere to run, made her feel like she was back in that tiny dirt room, trapped.
He studied her face for a few minutes.
She felt her cheeks flame under his scrutinizing gaze, aware of how dirty she was.
“Tell me, Aria, from under the ground, how has such a little girl managed to survive all this time? How has a child convinced brutal warriors not to kill her and her friends? How have you caused so much trouble for the Terra that they would be desperate to be rid of you?”
Something about his tone and the mockery in his eye made Aria angrier than she’d ever been.
“I don’t know…but perhaps you will find out,” she said before she could stop herself.
But the king only smirked.
“Perhaps I will,” he said.
About The Author:
Adrianna is a 28-year-old wife and stay-at-home mom to her 1-year-old baby boy. She comes from a large Mexican American family and was born with Cerebral Palsy.
She also holds an MLIS degree and greatly enjoys getting to tell people she’s a librarian.
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