Fatefall - 42

Fatefall - 42

A Chapter by A.L.



Chapter 42 - Jett

Every year on the anniversary of the Fatefall, I reflect upon my choices and wonder if I made the wrong one.

Jett felt as though he was about to be executed. 

He woke to a pounding headache and two of the Golden Guard pulling his arms behind his back, forcing him to his knees. 

Confusion made his thoughts slow and thick. He struggled to remember how he’d been knocked out in the first place. There’d been the announcement that there could only be one victory and then the look on Poppy’s face that had chilled Jett deep to the bone…

Sage. Jett’s mind cleared almost immediately. Had Sage won? Or had Poppy claimed the victory as her own? Bitter fear swirled in Jett’s gut. Would he be able to forgive Poppy if she’d chosen her own family over Sage?

But then he caught a glimpse of the person kneeling beside him. Nakoa. She wasn’t unconscious, but she didn’t struggle either. Her eyes were closed as though she couldn’t be bothered to face this moment. 

And on the other side of Nakoa? Poppy.

She held her head high despite the tears rolling down her pale cheeks. Jett wondered what had conspired between her and Sage. Had they actually fought? 

Both Nakoa and Poppy still wore their masks, meaning the Unmasking had yet to begin. 

On the far side of Poppy and Nakoa knelt the other competitors---the members of Hunter’s team. The ones who should have been suffering this punishment while Jett and his teammates celebrated their victory. 

King Hector paced in front of the line of competitors, flanked by a handful of Golden Guard members. Beside him stood a young woman garbed in royal finery---Koda’s replacement, no doubt---and none other than Sage, who looked like he’d rather be anywhere else in the world than at the king’s side. 

Jett barely registered as the king shouted something to the crowd about the unmasking and how it would end in revealing the victor and how this was an honor for all the participants. He probably should’ve listened closer to the king offering his condolences that two competitors had to be removed from the field because of their critical conditions. His gaze locked on the tiny box and vial of oil in the woman’s arms. 

He forced himself to remain still despite the panic coursing through him. 

His rising worry made it incredibly challenging to focus on the king’s words. He heard the king introduce the young woman and watched as the woman made her way to the competitor at the opposite end of the line. 

The screams were what finally woke him up. 

Suddenly, Jett was back at the Elimination, watching the little girl keel over in pain as her Grace was ripped savagely from her body. Bile rose in his throat. 

He recalled the promise he’d made to himself. If I ever become Graceless, I’m going to find someone to put me out of my misery. He didn’t miss the irony of that statement. He’d managed to free his parents, but at the cost of his Grace. 

The very Grace that had led his parents into this situation in the first place. In a way, giving up his Grace felt like letting Aecheral win. They’d succeeded in punishing his parents, and now Jett would be Graceless, just as they’d intended all along. Fleeing the country had not spared him after all. 

When the next set of screams began, blackness crept into the edges of his vision. He could practically feel the burn of Sage’s concerned stare against his skin, but he couldn’t make eye contact or all of his false bravado would collapse. 

Each set of screams seemed to last a little longer than the one before it. He noticed Hunter and Adrian were missing---most likely they were the two competitors the king had been referring to. By the time the woman reached Poppy, sweat dripped down Jetts spine and his breaths came in short, rapid bursts. His head spun. Maybe if he fainted he wouldn’t have to deal with the ceremony and they’d take his Grace while he was unconscious.

Poppy’s whimpers drove blades into Jett’s stomach. To her credit, she never screamed. Her whole body shook with silent sobs, but she didn’t cry out. When the ceremony finished, her eyes rolled back in her head and she slumped over, the Golden Guard not even bothering to support her.

Nakoa was silent too, for that matter. She didn’t open her eyes once, though a singular tear trickled her cheek. 

Jett held his breath as the woman approached him. Her gloved touch was cool as she removed his mask for the arena to see. Like anyone would recognize him under his illusion. An illusion that would soon fall away permanently.

At least Sage liked his face this way. He’d have to get used to it…if Jett ever saw him again. 

Her attention moved to his wrist as smeared the weird oil on his wrist.

Immediately, fire roared in his veins and he had to grit his teeth to keep from crying out. It felt like wrenching his skin off inch by paralyzing inch as his illusions were peeled away. His mouth tasted of copper as the ability to taste lies slid away from him. 

When the woman brought the knife to his wrist, the agony increased tenfold. His Grace poured out of him and if he hadn’t watched the same thing just occur to Poppy and Nakoa, he would’ve thought his soul was being ripped from him. He clung to it with all of his strength but to no avail. Golden light oozed from his wrist into the bottle and when it at last turned to familiar crimson blood, the woman removed the vial and strode away nonchalantly.

Jett expected the pain to lessen at that point. He thought that once his Grace was gone, it’d be like a bruise or a phantom limb. Instead, its absence flared inside of him, burning hotter with each moment. 

Finally, just when it seemed like he might explode from the sheer agony of it, he sank into oblivion. 

When Jett woke again, he found himself in a prison cell.

In all the years he’d visited his parents in the prison, he’d never expected to find himself on the opposite side of the glass. It smelled odd to him, a combination of mint and mildew that left him nauseous.

Or maybe that was the effects of losing his Grace.

He groaned, pressing a hand to his aching hand. His whole body felt bruised and battered. 

“You look terrible.”

The voice startled him until he realized it belonged to Evangeline.

She sat outside the glass on a wooden stool not dissimilar to the one Jett had used when visiting his parents. Come to think of it, his whole room seemed oddly reminiscent of his parents’ cell, although his had a singular bed. A wooden desk occupied one corner of the room, as well as a chair bolted to the floor so it couldn’t be picked up and thrown.

Jett grabbed the thin blanket off his bed and made his way over to the window so he could sit in front of Evangeline. She joined him on the floor and for a moment it felt like the glass separating them had disappeared. 

“I feel terrible,” he grumbled, aware of the ache in every one of his bones.

Concern filled Evangeline’s eyes as they raked over Jett’s rumpled form. She knew what he truly looked like, of course, but still felt odd to be so vulnerable in front of her. His hair was probably a mess and he had no doubt that there were dark circles under his eyes.

Evangeline, on the other hand, seemed to be enjoying the life of a noblewoman. Her cheeks seemed fuller than normal and her skin was beginning to show a healthy tan.

“So,” Jett began, wondering where to begin. “You’ve just been watching me sleep?”

Evangeline gave a small chuckle. “Sorry, but no. I’ve only been here for about an hour or so. The guards who escorted me here told me not to expect for you to wake up anytime soon. The medics that checked you out said you were reacting worse than they’d anticipated to…everything.” 

She glazed over the whole Ungracing thing, which Jett greatly appreciated.

“Are the others faring better than me?” he pressed, grasping for any semblance of news he could get. “Actually, before you answer that, can you tell me why in the world they felt it necessary to throw me in a prison cell?”

Evangeline paled. “King Hector---as well of the panel of judges---have decided that to punish the final two teams for their actions by removing their Graces was not enough. All of you---excluding Sage and Adrian---will be tried for your crimes within the week.” Her voice broke. “I’m sorry, Jett. I tried to convince them that losing your Grace would be bad enough and that you’d acted in self-defense during the trial, but I was told to save my arguments for the trial. As of right now, I think they’re planning executions for all of you.”

Jett froze. His heart lurched with fear but his stomach twisted in anger. How could they? Jett and his team hadn’t tried to murder the False Fate---they would have died if they hadn’t. And now, in addition to losing their Graces, they might hang for it?

“I haven’t spoken to Nakoa or Poppy yet,” Evangeline continued, answering Jett’s first question. “The last I heard, Poppy is in rough shape too. I don’t think the medics have authorized her to be moved to a cell yet. There’s been talk that she put another competitor into a coma, and the judges are debating pressing charges for that too.”

Jett buried his face in his hands. Of course Poppy had chosen to take revenge on Hunter, and now she’d probably die for it.

“As for Adrian, King Hector is claiming that he suffered a serious injury and that his identity will be revealed and his punishment will be issued at a later date, but we all know that won’t happen.” She paused. “And Sage…when the king handed him his prize money, he punched him right in the face. Claimed the Tournament was unfair and he was ashamed to be the winner. He ran out of the arena right then and there and I think he returned to his house.”

Fates, Sage had gone home? To his parents?

“Has he…been to visit me?” Jett asked, almost wishing he hadn’t worked up the courage to say it. If Sage hadn’t visited, Jett couldn’t blame him. He probably had a million more pressing matters to attend to.

“I don’t think so, Jett,” Evangeline said with a sigh. 

He tried not to be crestfallen. “How long has it been since the Tournament ended?”
“About two days,” Evangeline answered. “Now, I don’t spend my time stalking Sage or anything, but I don’t believe that he’s even left his house yet, so I wouldn’t be too hurt.”

No, Jett was more worried. 

He couldn’t even begin to fathom what horrors Sage might be enduring at the hands of his parents. Would they praise him for winning and try to apologize for treating him like trash? Would they punish him for going against their word? Jett wished he could be at Sage’s side. 

He needed to change the subject. “And my parents?”

Evangeline smiled. “I checked on them before I came to visit you. They’re worried about you, of course, but your mother has entirely redecorated our apartment and your father is working to secure a job at the archives. As far as I know, they’re planning on visiting you later today, but I told them I’d check and make sure you were awake first. And…I also wasn’t sure if you’d want them to visit you anyway.”

Jett knew what Evangeline was hinting at. She’d lie to his parents if he wanted her to. He considered how worried his parents must be---how furious they probably were with the king. He didn’t want them doing anything rash.

“As much as I’d love to see them, right now might not be the best time…” Jett decided.

“I’ll pass the message along---you’re not up to visitors right now,” Evangeline assured him. “But even if your parents and Sage can’t be here, Jett, I’ll stay with you if you’d like.”

Jett placed his hand on the glass and Evangeline held up her palm.

“I’d like that a lot.”

© 2023 A.L.

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Added on February 9, 2023
Last Updated on February 9, 2023
Tags: adventure, Grace, Fates, Fate, teen, ya, fantasy, fiction, magic, tournament, game, competition, enemies to lovers, young adult, assassin, thief, royalty, prince, priestess, death, survival, noble



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