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Fatefall - 45

Fatefall - 45

A Chapter by A.L.



Chapter 45 - Nakoa

Hopefully you will be a better king than I am.

With no inner clock to tell her how much time had passed since she’d woken up, Nakoa occupied her time by counting. She counted the stones that made up the walls of her prison cells. She counted how many paces it took to get from one side of the room to the other. She counted how many hand-lengths the threadbare blanket was and determined it was far too short for her liking.

She hoped the numbers would fill the gaping hole in her chest where her Grace should’ve been.

For a while, the counting helped. When her mind was busy with mental math, she didn’t stop to think about anything else, like why she was imprisoned, where her friends were, and, as always, if Ansel was okay.

Thinking meant considering the implications of her new Graceless state, too. Her only purpose in her village had been devotion to Basar, as she was one of the few with the Grace of Time. Now, Graceless and a traitor, she knew she would find no welcome if she chose to return again. She hoped Moose would be okay. Maybe she could write to her parents and ask for him to be brought into the city--

No. She needed to count again.

She counted the stitches on the pillow on the bed. She counted how many seconds it took for the sink in the bathroom to fill to the brim. She counted the screws that fastened the bedframe to the floor.

When the numbers began to blur in her head, she took to mindless tasks to keep her hands busy. She unwrapped and rewrapped the bandage around her wrist. She unbraided and rebraided her hair. She tied and untied the laces on her boots.

Boredom, it seemed, would be her biggest enemy.

Her cell had no windows and so she had no way of telling how much time passed. She slept twice and ate six times, so she assumed two days had passed since the final trial, but she had no way of knowing how long she’d spent unconscious.

When the guards delivered her meals, she tried asking them questions but soon discovered that they seemed to be under orders not to converse with her. Eventually, she gave up trying. She had to assume that no one would be coming to free her and that she’d been actually imprisoned, though for what crimes she couldn’t be sure.

They’ll have to give me a trial eventually, she reasoned. It might not be a fair trial, but it would be a trial nonetheless. If she was lucky, she’d be able to defend herself well enough that the public could protest on her account.

Nakoa was midway through counting how many strands of hair made up one of her tiny braids when the whole prison trembled.

For a second, she wondered if the loneliness was finally catching up with her.

But then the walls shook again and she could hear shouts echoing down the corridors. 

Nakoa climbed to her feet, intrigued. Her mind raced with possibilities. An earthquake? No, Xegalla hadn’t seen an earthquake in over a decade. A Graced prisoner trying to escape? Unlikely, because none of the Graces could really cause an entire structure to shake, except maybe the Grace of Deceit. A prison break?

She stifled the hope blossoming in her chest. There was no evidence to indicate that the shaking was a prison break. But what if--

No. Nakoa would not allow wistfulness to make a fool of her.

She returned to the edge of her bed and began counting the threads of her bandage.

Then came a soft sizzle.

She dismissed the sound as a figment of her imagination at first, but it only grew louder.

A soft, orange glow caught her attention in the opposite corner of her cell. She stood abruptly, her curiosity piqued. An acrid smell kept her several feet away from a slowly growing hole in the wall.

It looked like liquid fire was consuming the stones from the inside out. Within seconds, the hole in the wall was big enough for Nakoa to slip through. And on the other side of it?

The only people foolish enough to break into prison: her friends.

Adrian grinned triumphantly as he nudged Evangeline with his elbow. “I told you so.”

Evangeline sighed. “Fine, I’ll admit it. You were right.”

“Right about what?” Nakoa asked, feeling as though she’d been left out of a joke.

“Evangeline bet that you’d be a sobbing mess, but I knew you’d be fine when we rescued you,” Adrian explained, still smiling. “Speaking of rescues, hurry up and get out here, will you? We still have to free Poppy and Jett.”

Nakoa obliged, taking a step closer to the hole in the wall. It still glowed, though the light grew dimmer by the second. She climbed through the gap, careful not to touch the edges.

Outside of the prison walls, the night air was frigid. Nakoa shivered, wishing that Adrian or Evangeline had thought to bring a spare cloak. Her gray, standard issue prison outfit did nothing against the sharp wind. Both Evangeline and Adrian wore dark jackets that looked much warmer, but she couldn’t work up the courage to ask one of them to share. Besides, what if Poppy or Jett needed it more?

“Where’s Sage?” Nakoa asked, realizing that their group was short one person.

“Staging a break-in on the other side of the prison,” Evangeline explained, tugging Nakoa flush against the prison wall as a searchlight flared overhead, scanning the ground. Nakoa’s breath caught in her throat. “I’m assuming you heard the explosion?”

So that’s what the shaking had been. Nakoa nodded.

“Koda had some fun little concoctions lying around,” Adrian added. “We decided to put them to good use. Sage said he knew which parts of the prison were just offices and laundry rooms, and Evangeline double checked and also scouted out the locations of you guys.”

“And after we’re free?”

Adrian shrugged as they continued hurrying along the side of the wall.. “That’s the weird part. I won’t get into too much detail because I don’t want to repeat the story more than once, but Sage believes he can bring back your Graces.”

Doubt hovered at the back of her mind like an ominous storm cloud, but Nakoa ignored the feeling. She knew Sage well enough to assume he’d put thought into this decision. He was rationally minded like her. If he didn’t believe there was an actual chance of success, he wouldn’t attempt it.

Before she had a chance to respond, though, Evangeline stopped walking abruptly. She pulled a glass bottle from a satchel at her hip, uncorked it, and poured the concoction on the stones. Just as it had done in Nakoa’s cell, the potion began eating away at the walls.

Nakoa and Adrian hung back against the wall as Evangeline waited for the hole to grow. 

Moments later, a haggard looking Jett stepped out of the prison, his eyes wide with shock. He looked…different, almost more normal in a way. While he hadn’t exactly been a head-turning beauty before, Nakoa felt that if she were searching for him in a crowd now, he’d be nearly impossible to find.

Unsurprisingly, his first question was, “Where’s Sage?”

Adrian gave the same answer he’d given Nakoa, as well as the brief explanation of how Sage somehow had a plan to bring everyone’s Graces back. Jett took it all in silence, something that would’ve surprised Nakoa if not for his trembling hands and uncertain steps.

Nakoa guessed he probably felt the same aches and pains she’d grown used to in the past day---if not worse. She’d rarely used her Grace as anything other than a timepiece, but Jett? Jett wore his Grace like a spare coat, donning it easily and frequently. Not to mention his lie-detecting capabilities--

“I’m not entirely sure where Poppy’s room is,” Evangeline whispered as they crept along the wall, nearing the far corner. “When I visited Jett the other day, she was in the medical center receiving treatment for a severe reaction to her Grace removal. We’ll check there first, but if I’m wrong…” She trailed off, shooting a look at Adrian over her shoulder.

“We’re not leaving anyone behind,” Adrian growled.

Nakoa repressed a sigh. She didn’t want to leave Poppy either, but if her rescue put the rest of the mission in danger, was it really worth it?

Poppy saved your life from the scorpions, Nakoa reminded herself. The least she could do to repay that debt was to help break her out of prison.

Once again, Evangeline withdrew a glass vial from her satchel and poured its contents on the stones. The liquid fire ate away at the stones, revealing a cell nearly twice the size of Nakoa’s. Locked cabinets---presumably filled with all sorts of potions---lined one wall and a small cot sat in the opposite corner. Familiar red hair tumbled over the side of the bed.

“Poppy,” Adrian hissed into the cell. No response.

He stepped into the cell and gently shook Poppy. She gave a soft groan, blinking blearily at him. Adrian heaved a sigh and hoisted Poppy into his arms. 

“They must have her drugged up on all sorts of painkillers,” Adrian grumbled as he climbed out of the cell. “I can carry her, but the sooner we get to the meeting point, the better.”

At Nakoa’s confused look, Evangeline clarified, “Sage told us to meet him in front of the library so he can explain the rest of his plan to us. He said that nightfall should cover your identities, so you don’t have to worry about being spotted.” She paused, glancing at Nakoa, Jett, and Poppy’s gray uniforms. “You’re not exactly inconspicuous though.”

“Which is why I came prepared,” Adrian said, tugging a bag out from under his cloak. From it he withdrew three more dark jackets and distributed them to Nakoa and Jett. With Evangeline’s help, he bundled Poppy in the remaining jacket.

Grateful for any protection against the bitter air, Nakoa tugged on the jacket and zipped it the whole way up. She was surprised to find that it fit her relatively well, despite her height.

“I’m also afraid to ask, but where in the world did you find a bunch of matching, black coats?” Jett asked, inspecting his own jacket.

“They’re Koda’s,” Adrian said. “His wardrobe is pretty…uninspired, if you couldn’t tell.”

Nakoa stifled a chuckle at that. She’d hadn’t realized how much she’d relied on her friends until she’d been sure she would never see them again.

Evangeline cleared her throat. “We should head to the library,” she reminded them, tapping her watch. “Sage will be waiting for us.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice,” Jett remarked with a grin.

“Well, hurry up, then,” Evangeline said. “Or you can deal with a grumpy Sage when we all show up late.”

© 2023 A.L.

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Added on March 13, 2023
Last Updated on March 13, 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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