As Emiliano straightened up, Odette giggled involuntarily.
“Is that funny to you?” Emiliano asked with an obvious edge to his voice.
Odette shook her head. “Funny? No. Unbelievable, yes.”
“Casimir never mentioned me, then? Fitting, considering he tried to kill me.”
Odette froze. “Kill you?”
“Aww, don’t think your precious Casimir is capable of hurting someone? The scars say otherwise.”
Odette squinted at Elric, finally seeing the white lines of skin on his neck bubbling up against the rest of the smooth flesh. Much of it was covered by the elaborate makeup Elric had applied, but no one can ever cover scars completely.
“Now, would you like to head back to the castle?”
Odette tried to suppress her shock. What kind of game was Emil – Elric – playing?
As if he could see the gears in her head working, Elric spoke up. “Honestly, Miss Champagne. I’m going to the castle no matter what anyways. Unfinished business, you know. So you either come with me or rot in my lousy excuse for a cabin.”
Odette inhaled deeply and weighed her options. Even if Elric was lying, being outside would give her a better advantage at escape.
“Great!” Elric smiled, clapping his hands together. “But first, we need to get you in a different outfit.”
Odette tried to take a step back in an attempt to put as much distance between the two as possible.
“If you think I’m going to put on some slinky-”
“Oh, hush,” Elric interrupted as he rifled through one of the crates in the corner. “It’s not like that. You’re not my type,” he chuckled. “Too good.”
Whatever Odette was expecting, it wasn’t the long, puffy dress that Elric pulled out, nor was it the accessories to go with it.
“You’re about her size,” Elric said, tossing Odette the garments before turning around. “Hurry up.”
Casimir trudged up the castle steps, worn down by the time spent in the woods. Casimir had heard the same voice Odette was telling him about, a light, breathy female voice that called out to him. He did his best to ignore it – Odette would always be more important than a mystery woman. Still, he swore he knew the voice somehow.
Casimir froze in his spot at the other familiar voice. His brother. His dead brother, killed at his own skeletal hands.
“Elric?” Casimir whispered.
“And I brought a guest,” Elric chuckled, stepping to the side. Casimir almost choked as Odette came into view, huddled on the floor in a wedding dress.
“Odette!” Casimir yelled as he ignored the stairs and jumped straight over the railing. He made a beeline for her, but was stopped by Elric’s strong hand.
“Not so fast, brother.”
“What did you do to her?” Casimir growled. “I swear if you hurt her-”
Elric threw his hands up in surrender. “I didn’t do anything. I found her in my humble abode, ready to make a grand escape. I merely brought her back.”
“In a wedding dress.”
“Yes, well. I thought it would be the perfect way to reminisce.”
Casimir averted his gaze and scratched his neck. “Elric, I was wrong.”
“Wrong?” Elric repeated mockingly. “You were wrong to kill me and try to seduce my fiancee?”
From Odette’s spot on the ground, the words the brothers exchanged warbled and morphed. Before they had left the cabin, Elric used a strange gun that emitted a green light that Odette swore she had seen before. It caused a blanket of sleep to overtake her, but somehow didn’t knock her out all the way. Too tired to move, she conserved her energy to listen to the two brothers argue.
“If you don’t leave, I’ll have-”
“You’ll have what? Your servants come and take me away? They’re all sleeping,” Elric laughed, waving the gun in the air.
Casimir took a deep breath and crossed his arms over his chest. “What do you want, Elric? Money? Jewels? The throne?”
Elric laughed again. “You think I want to take over a castle you ran into the ground decades ago? No, I want the life I have. But I want Maddie to go with it.”
“This is all for Maddie?” Casimir asked incredulously. “I have no idea where the hell she is!”
“Liar!” Elric roared. “You’ve got her holed up somewhere, I know it!”
Gaining some of her strength, Odette shifted onto her hands and knees before shakily standing up. Casimir noticed and immediately moved to help her before being intercepted by Elric again.
“Give me Maddie and I’ll give you Miss Champagne.”
“How do you know Odette?” Casimir growled again.
“We go way back,” Elric said, waving his question off. “Now where’s Maddie?”
“I told you I don’t know!” Casimir shouted.
“That’s bullshit, and you know it!” Elric fired back. “When you couldn’t have her, you holed her up somewhere. I know it!”
Both men whipped around to find a woman with a breathy voice leaning on the low wall of the foyer. Odette gasped, the memories flooding back as she fell back to the floor in shock. The woman and the skeleton in the woods, the green light from the gun, the endless sleep.
“Maddie,” Elric said in awe.
“He had me in the basement, locked up like an animal. Like he did to this girl,” Maddie said, gesturing to Odette.
“It’s not like that,” Casimir said. “Maddie, I never should-”
“Oh shut up,” Maddie snapped as she strode down the stairs. “Point is, you underestimated me, Your Highness.” To emphasize her point, Maddie waved her own gun in her hand and put Odette to sleep. “It took some time, but I got out.”
Casimir shook his head in disbelief before turning back to Elric. “Well, there’s Maddie. Now can you both get out and never come back?”
“The voices!” Odette screeched in her sleep. This time, Casimir shoved Elric aside and knelt down beside Odette.
Elric dropped his gun and stepped over to Maddie, embracing her before turning back to Casimir.
“What?” Casimir asked. “You’ve got Maddie back. Now get out and don’t ever come back.”
Elric laughed mirthlessly. “Oh, no. You spent years chasing after her, not even mourning my death.”
“You’re not even dead!” Casimir shouted.
“So now it’s time for you to pay,” Elric whispered, throwing a punch at Casimir’s temple.
Odette had woken up at Casimir’s touch and began a slow crawl behind him, her movements painfully soft. The gun Elric had dropped was just within reach, so Odette made a quick lunge for it. Casimir and Elric continued to yell at each other as Odette fiddled with the sticky dials. She eventually pointed the arrow to a random shape and lifted the heavy machine. Odette shakily pointed it at Maddie and pulled the trigger.
Blue light shot from the ray and hit Maddie’s chest. Odette gasped as a blue light emitted from Maddie’s core, prompting ice to freeze her from the inside out. Casimir and Elric finally forgot their fight at Maddie’s shriek.
“What have you done?” Elric yelled, spittle flying across Odette’s face.
“I did this!“ Odette shouted shakily, pointing the ray at Elric. He reached out to grab it from her, but she had already pulled the trigger. More ice encased Elric, freezing him mid-scream. Finally coming back to herself, Odette dropped the ray in shock before slumping downwards.
“Odette!” Casimir shouted, moving quickly to catch her before she fell.
“What have I done?” Odette whimpered.
“You protected yourself,” Casimir said softly, rubbing a hand in soothing circles on her back. “It’s okay.”
“I killed them!” Odette cried.
Casimir pulled back to look Odette in the eyes. “You don’t know that. I’ll have them moved to the dungeon until we know more.”
“Thank you,” Odette whispered.
It didn’t take long for the staff to awaken from their deep sleep. At the sight of Odette in a now dirty wedding dress, they swarmed her with hugs and questions. Even Ming had a small smile on her face as she gave Odette a gentle hug. Casimir had ordered them all out with the promise of a meeting later on in the day, when Odette had rested. Jacqueline slung an arm around Odette’s waist and led her up to the room where she had already drawn a hot bath filled with essential oils. Before Odette took off, she whispered something in Casimir’s ear, and he assured her he would take care of it.
Jean-Luc was sitting in the library when Casimir stormed in.
“How dare you!” Casimir shouted.
Jean-Luc startled and dropped his book. “Master! How is Odette doing?”
“Better, considering you were the one who kidnapped her!”
“Let me explain, Master-”
“Oh, please do!” Casimir said sarcastically.
“I found her in the nursery!” Jean-Luc spat out. “She was looking at His and Her Highness’ urns, and she found the Princess’ bust. She had no right, Master! I know you’re still grieving for your family, and she was disrespecting the rules-”
“So you locked her up in Elric’s house?”
Jean-Luc went silent. “Prince Elric is alive?”
Now it was Casimir’s turn to go silent. “You didn’t know?”
Jean-Luc shrugged. “No! I just knew about this small little cabin. I thought Odette could stay there until she learned-”
“Learned what? How to be a submissive, pretentious backstabber like you?”
Tears sprung up in Jean-Luc’s eyes. “Master, I raised you! I was there for you when no one else was!”
“And you failed me at the time I needed you most.”
“I can’t listen to this anymore.”
“You’re fired,” Casimir said quietly. “Now get out and don’t ever come back.”