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In April, I posted my thousandth post on this blog. To celebrate, I will share here all my short stories. Every couple of weeks, I’ll be posting one story from my celebrated Exciting Destinies series for you to enjoy. With over 30 stories so far, I hope you’ll have lots of fun in the coming months!

This week, it’s Royal Duties from You’re In For A Ride.

Click here to read some more free stories.

Royal Duties

Closed door | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book

Photo: Pixabay

I know the place is trouble as soon as we pass the twin marble columns and enter the austere palace. Pained cries assault my ears, coming from behind a closed door at the end of an endless corridor. Our footsteps echo on the shiny marble floor until we reach it.

A fresh scream comes from behind the polished mahogany. All my hairs stand on end. I glance at my trusted bodyguard, expecting us to flee. His face drops and he shakes his head. This is a trial I have to go through, his eyes seem to say.

The door creaks open. A listless boy stumbles out, dragged by a red-faced woman. His limbs twitch as if he’s a broken mannequin. A puppet with cut strings. I stare with pity at the whimpering kid as they make their way down the long corridor. Then I realize they’re headed the right way. Unlike me.

My bodyguard takes my hand and squeezes it. For courage. Is it me, or has the color fled his face? He pushes the door open and we march into a strange, yet vaguely familiar, room. Eerie lights play on the walls. Haunting music fills the room. My gaze studies the walls as I struggle to locate its source. An orange flame of a light catches my eye. It licks the far wall, burning bright over a long bed. Sharp instruments hang above it and next to it. Their shiny, steel surfaces reflect the hellish flame like a hall of mirrors.

Hazy memories fill my head. I’ve been here before. How long ago, I can’t remember. In fact, I can’t remember much of anything about it. What did happen? And who would go to all the trouble of removing my memories? I swallow, my throat suddenly dry, and consider bolting. But I can’t. My bodyguard had made this clear.

An older man is sitting behind an ornate table, scribbling furious notes on a piece of paper. A ghostly light plays on his face, from a large, square lamp in front of him. When he’s done, he turns his unwelcome gaze to us. I expected an ogre; I get a wizard instead. His white hair is long and unkempt. It flies behind his ears, making him look like a poor Santa Claus imitation. His dead eyes catch my attention. Made of glass, they hold no expression. They only mirror the strange lights in the room. How can he even see?

My skin crawls as he stands up, revealing bright red stains on his white clothes. Blood? When he makes his way to us, I fight to stop from running away, back to the safety of the crowded streets. His mouth twitches and he mumbles something unintelligible before grabbing my arm. He picks me up as if I’m made of straw. I let out a cry of protest and glance at my bodyguard. I expect him to spring to action. Instead, he stands still like a flesh statue. The wizard must have put a spell on him.

Panic swells in my chest. I struggle to hide it for a moment, but my lips open on their own and a muffled scream escapes my mouth when I realize we are headed for the bed. The wizard lifts me onto the hard surface and pushes me down. When I protest, he pushes two fingers against my jaw until it relaxes enough for him to empty a small glass bottle into my mouth. He then pushes my jaw closed until I have no option but to swallow. A sickly sweet liquid burns my throat. When his monstrous hands let go of me, I spit out as much as I can. It’s not much. I’ve already swallowed most of it. My gaze darts around the room. I need something to wash away the foul taste, but no water is on offer.

I let out the scream I’ve been holding in my lungs all this time, in the hope that my bodyguard will break free from the malicious spell and help me. The wizard takes a stunned step back. I try to jump off the bed, but the man leans forward again and pins me down with his outsized hands. I fight with tooth and nail, but he’s stronger than me. That’s when it hits me. My scream—that’s how I fight him.

I let out another, even louder, scream. I expect the man to let go of me long enough for me to make my escape. Instead, he grabs a ceremonial, round dagger and stabs my thigh. Blood soils my skin. My eyes widen in terror. This time, the scream is real. Pain and panic fill me in equal measure. The room spins.

Just as I’m about to collapse, my bodyguard finally frees himself from the spell and springs to action. He dashes to the bed and helps me to my feet. My panic swiftly turns to rage and I shoot a furious glare at him, but gratitude soon replaces my anger. I stumble to the door. He guides me out on quivering legs.

With one hand he pushes the creaking door open, his other arm consoling me. My heart swells at the sight of the exit at the end of the corridor. I can’t stop shivering. Sobs shake my body. Tears streak down my cheeks. What madness is this? What did I do to deserve this?

***

“Let me take the little princess outside and I’ll be right back,” the father says as he takes the wailing little girl into his arms and wipes her eyes with the back of his hand. “Her mother must have arrived by now. She’ll take care of her.”

“Of course,” the pediatrician says before making his way back behind his desk. He sits down and wipes his glasses with a silken piece of cloth. “I have to update her records, anyway. This was her second round of shots, right?” When no one answers him, he looks up, but the two of them have already left. He places his glasses back on his face and stares with dismay at the red smudges soiling his bright white shirt. That damn pen. On a brand new shirt, too. He sighs and turns his attention to the computer screen facing him. “I knew I should have become a gynecologist,” he mumbles to himself as he taps the keyboard. “These kids all look at me as if I were some kind of monster.”