He never asked about the scars on her back. He knew she’d never tell him. He’d long ago given up hope that after several months she might start to open up. But she never did, she never spoke. Not once.
He knew what he did of her now as he did all those years ago. Yet now she seemed colder and more distant than ever. She shut everyone out that tried to get close, but still he tried. What was her secret? What painful memory was she trying to forget that would cause her to lash out when he mentioned those scars?
He’d been briefed to be wary of her, that she had brought down an entire unit of fully trained men with her bare hands. That she was a killer of men. That the woman before him, who knew so little of, was considered so dangerous she did not appear on any records of existing in the first place. A woman who didn’t speak, curled up in the corner of her cell, remnants of a burnt white dress hanging off her thin skeleton.
He craved to know her story, what had derailed a once beautiful woman into this pit of despair. He wanted to help her. But with all the eyes surrounding them, both would have to wait, and he would have to play his part. Five years undercover, waiting. Trying to figure out how to get her out of this concrete prison designed to keep her safe, he was told. Her safe…or everyone else he wondered.
‘Doctor Jones,’ the general asked, resting his hand on his shoulder, ‘can we use her yet?’
A quiet anger rumbled in the doctor’s heart. Use her. She is not a weapon.
‘General, from all my assessments her mind is still far too broken,’ Jones replied calmly, ‘if she is as dangerous as you say I’m afraid her current mental state would create even more trouble for you.’ His mouth stung as he spat out the words, doing his best to convince the general to leave her alone a little longer.
‘Doctor, I’m growing tired of this,’ he seethed, ‘you are suppose to be fixing her mind, yet it looks like no progress has been made. Do I need to find another more suited to the task?’ The general stood over Doctor Jones, reminding him of his authority with much pleasure.
Jones had promised he could bring her back and have her fit for duty. But she appeared beyond saving. Five years he had been working his way up through the ranks so he could work with her, and in the last four months he finally had the chance, but he couldn’t make any progress with her.
‘Please general I assure you we have made progress,’ he lied, ‘she has started to recognise names and events, but a broken mind is hard to fix, it takes time.’ Jones stepped closer to the viewing window, watching in sadness at the crumbled husk of a woman in front of him. ‘If I knew what had happened to her…’
The general whipped the doctor around to brought his face so close to his the whiskers of his moustache brushed Jones’ face. ‘I told you Doctor not to ask questions. You were given orders to fix her, not to know her past. Who she is or was is not of your concern.’ He let go of the doctor and stormed out the steel doors in frustration, ‘this is your last chance Doctor, if I don’t start seeing progress I’ll find someone else more suited to the task. One who doesn’t ask so many questions.’ With that he was gone.
Jones sighed deeply and sunk into the wooden chair beside the cell door. ‘I am running out of time to help you,’ Jones whispered, running his hands through his unkept chocolate-brown hair. ‘I need you to help me Katarina…you’re people need you, we are lost without you.’ He took a deep breath and scanned the room, shifting his body in front of the security camera that observed them. ‘Please Katarina, I know you are in there. Santis is not yet completely destroyed,’ he whispered to her, resting his head gently against the cell door’s viewing window. ‘I know it is difficult, but you must let me help you.’
A quiet shuffle came from inside the cell. Katarina lifted her sunken face and stared at Jones, her piercing pearl white eyes boring a hole through him. She had never acknowledged his presence before, let alone look him in the eye. Those eyes. So void of any colour, were hollow and empty, yet full of dangerous intent. She did not flinch, not even blink, as she stared at him expressionless.
‘I was sent to break you out by Blackwell,’ Jones whispered hastily, ‘but I cannot get you out of here unless you help me. Please.’ He watched as she remained silent, her gaze unmoving and unsettling. The air went cold as she unravelled herself and stood up before him. Never breaking her gaze she glided towards the cell door until her lips were up against the viewing window.
‘How much of your soul does Blackwell own that you would accept this suicide mission?’ she crooned so quietly he almost didn’t hear it. Jones took a step back from the door in shock. ‘What did you do Doctor that was so terrible you’d do this for redemption?’ Katarina’s voice sung with curiosity and contempt, ‘is trying to break free a disgraced queen worth the trouble of your conscience?’ Her eyes flickered of something sinister, fraught with the danger he had been warned about. What did he not know?
Her mind was not broken, no. No one who could string such sentences together could be broken. But why then, if she was sane, would she pretend for years to be not so? What game was she playing that he did not understand? Jones returned to the door and without hesitation he pulled out the key and started to unlock her cell. ‘What I did is not important your highness,’ he hissed throwing open the door, ‘it’s what I’m about to do that is.’ Before she could respond he grabbed her hand and started pulling her behind him, dragging her.
‘What are you doing you idiot?’ she seethed, ‘did you ever think that I may not want to be rescued, that I don’t deserve to be rescued?’ Katarina shed her feeble pretence and stood her ground, tugging Jones back around to face her with a strength beyond her withered frame. ‘I am not a queen anymore. There is no place for me and I sure as hell will not let you drag me off to Blackwell, you do not know what kind of man he is.’
Jones looked her directly in the eye, ‘I know what he is, and what you are. But I have a job to complete and I could’ve done it long ago if I’d known you were acting this whole time. So if you don’t mind highness you’ve wasted my time long enough with your moping around.’
‘Well then you’re a terrible doctor if you couldn’t work out I was faking it,’ she hissed. As the anger inside him started to build he threw her over his shoulder and started sprinting through the corridors of the prison. The alarm had been raised, and Jones knew that he’d have three minutes until the armed guards would reach them. That is if they could find them. For all the anger he felt towards her deceit he was also glad it afforded him the time to map every possible escape route in the facility.
‘I hope you know what you’re doing Doctor,’ Katarina patronized, becoming more and more annoyed with every jerk of his uneven run, ‘you’ve signed both our death sentences now.’ Jones turned left and entered a rusty service door into a set of tunnels that appeared long forgotten. Surprised Katarina smiled, ‘I guess you do know what you’re doing Doc,’ she cooed. Jones gave her an unforgiving jolt as he continued running down the tunnels that slowly consumed them in darkness. Before long it seemed as though the blaring tone of the alarm had all but disappeared as he set Katarina down on her feet.
‘This is the part where you help your highness,’ Jones huffed, rubbing his shoulder gently. Although she could not exactly see his entire face she knew his face was painted with a rather smug look having pulled off a seemingly impossible suicide mission. At least so far.
‘Fine, but I warn you after five years I am out of practice,’ she relented. Squinting in the dark, Jones watched Katarina rub her hands together quicker and quicker until a small flame began to dance in her palms. A bitter-sweet smile flickered across her face. It had been so long since she’d used her gift she wasn’t sure she could even muster up a spark. But then again, the royal line had always carried a greater inherent strength. That was why they targeted her first.
‘It’s not very strong I’m afraid,’ she remarked as they started running again, the tunnel lit just enough so they could see a few feet in front of them.
‘It’s good enough,’ Jones replied as they approached a fork, nudging Katarina to take the one of the right. In silence they continued to run, leaving behind the danger of the prison, navigating the endless darkness.
Jones wasn’t sure if any of the guards knew about the tunnel. He’d discovered it after a year of being stationed at Waterford prison by accident one day. It seemed no one had used it in years back then, and as far as he had noticed it still remained forgotten. The prison had been built hundreds of years ago, so it was possible. But he did not want them to dawdle to find out.
The end of the tunnel approached as natural light started to filter through. Katarina snuffed her flame, intensely rubbing the palm of her hand with her thumb. As soon as she put out her flame Jones noticed her wince for a split second before she returned to her expressionless attitude. ‘Are you okay?’ Jones huffed as he slowed his run to a brisk walk. The royal family was not suppose to burn by the own flame.
Katarina remained silent as she basked in the sunlight, having reached the tunnels opening. How long it had been since she’d last felt the sun on her face, warming her bones and breathing life into her very soul. It had been the one thing she’d craved during her imprisonment. ‘I am fine,’ she beamed, ‘just fine.’
The tunnel had opened up into a dense pine forest, the ground still wet from the melting snow. A few feet ahead of them was the edge of a lake, where a weathered blue rowboat bobbed up and down in the black water. Jones scanned the trees for any sign of the guard as he grabbed a rucksack he’d stashed behind a small set of shrubs.
‘I’ll admit Doctor,’ Katarina smirked, ‘I’m impressed. You broke me out of the unbreakable prison.’
Jones grabbed her wrist and pulled her towards the boat, ‘we’re not out of the clear yet highness.’ Jones strode towards the boat and started pulling its mooring rope in. Katarina examined the tiny boat before her. Surely he wasn’t taking her away in that death trap. The boat appeared to be hundreds of years old, barely able to keep itself afloat, let alone two people in it. ‘You’re not seriously going to use this are you?’ she snapped.
Jones removed the faded canvas cover and climbed into the boat, ‘yes. We are going to row across the black lake to the meeting point Blackwell has arranged for us,’ he hissed back at her. How could she be so ungrateful for his help that she would be so rude he thought. Maybe she wasn’t a queen worth saving. ‘Are you going to get in or do I need to take you back inside the prison? It’s your choice highness,’ Jones questioned, offering her his hand.
Reluctantly she took it and clambered into the boat. She was always so uncoordinated on water. In fact she hated water, and avoided large expanses of it at all cost when she could. ‘I want you to know Doctor I do not approve of your travel methods,’ she chided, a frown plaguing her paled face.
‘I do not care if you approve highness,’ he snapped, pushing off the edge of the lake as he started rowing them away from the prisons border. Katarina sat quietly and watched as the height of the prison slowly disappeared out of view behind the trees. She hadn’t allowed herself the flicker of hope that she might one day leave that horrifying place. It was never a possibility. No one escaped Waterford prison. Not since the day it was built. Yet she was outside its walls, regaining her strength in the warmth of the sun. But now she was on her way to Blackwell, and she wasn’t sure what was worse.
She twisted herself back around to face Jones, ‘whatever you promised Blackwell…’ she started before pausing. Whatever he had done must’ve been serious for Blackwell to agree on this suicide mission. He’d only have agreed knowing it would send the Doctor to his death. She looked at the rugged man sitting in front of her, guilt suddenly swallowing her whole. He wasn’t sent to save her, he was sent to die. And if he returned with her, she would be responsible for his death, but at Blackwell’s hand. ‘Doctor…you cannot take me back to Blackwell. He will kill you.’
Jones’ dark brown eyes stared back in confusion. ‘I’m sorry I don’t seem to follow highness,’ he replied.
‘Blackwell doesn’t send someone to a maximum security prison to break someone out, he sends them to die in their attempt to free me,’ she stated sharply. ‘He sent you to die when he sent you to free me. But you didn’t. If you return he will kill you himself. Whatever it was you did, whatever bargain you made with him, he wants you dead regardless.’
Jones sat silent, processing. ‘You’re wrong,’ he replied sternly, ‘I have my duty to fulfill, and I will see it through. I will deliver you to Blackwell.’ Jones continued to row with greater speed and force. He would fulfill the promise he’d made and see the job through.
A calm anger bubbled deep within Katarina, re-igniting the fire inside her, ‘Then let me ask YOU Doctor. It has been five years since you first came to me in prison. You are not the first Blackwell has sent to me you know. He sent three others, they lasted far less than a year before the guard shot them for treason. What makes you so sure you weren’t sent to meet the same fate?’ She reclined herself in the bottom of the boat, her eyes fixed on his. She was no longer the feeble mute, nor was this a voice of a once beloved queen. She looked at him with such disdain that he could be so stupid to think Blackwell an honest man who would uphold his end of a deal. After all if it wasn’t for him she’d never have seen the inside of those prison walls.
‘Are you sure Doctor you haven’t been played by the real madman?’
I wrote this story late one night last year and threw it up on my tumblr page. What do you think? Should I continue the story? Let me know in the comments below!