“Run! Run! Run!” Morganne kept shouting.

When there were tens and maybe hundreds of arrows flying in our direction, it was inevitable for us to run. How? How could this have happened to us? If we were to rewind, we should have known that there would be an ambush.


It all started with a man with an intention to kill Hendrick. That night, Hendrick had begged to share the bed with me. He had said that his mother used to hold him to sleep and he would feel safe. I had to persuade Morganne to wait until he had slept before we departed.  Fortunately, he had been in my bed and fortunately, Morganne had agreed. If not, he would have been murdered.
“Please let me live.”
I heard Lady Fenov’s whimpers close to the door.
“Just tell me where the Tsarevich is,” A gutful voice urged.
I quickly shook Hendrick, who was still rubbing his eyes, awake. “Hendrick, hide under the bed,” I ordered. “Now!”
“Why?” he grumbled.
“If you want to live, hide now!”
I rolled off the bed and reached for my dagger in the pocket of my fur coat lying on one of the chairs. Then, I concealed myself behind the door at the spot, where the light from the candles hanging on the walls of the hallway would not expose my shadow. This spot happened to be where the drawer beside the right of the door was located. Gripping the shaft of the dagger in an attacking status, I gulped. I had one chance to kill and one chance to protect. 
“I-I-In that room,” Lady Fenov mumbled and the handle of the door descended.
As soon as the door angled itself open, I rammed my weapon under the perpetrator’s front rib cage, specifically aiming at his liver. Blood spluttered all over my dress and dripped on the carpet. The man held his feet sturdy and so I pushed the dagger deeper before pulling it from his body. An open wound would mean a faster death, but from what the Queen had taught me, it would still be a while before he would bleed out.
Always finish the kill. Slice at the side of the chin or make your cut from the bottom up of the chin.   
“You . . .”
His lifeless eyes gawked at me while falling backwards after receiving a kick from me. I ran to secure my hand on his hair. Drawing his head forward, I pressed the blade against his throat.
“He will die and you—“
My blade already slit across his throat. I was panting, almost in a pool of sweat. When I turned to see Lady Fenov, she screamed, “What have you done?”
I wiped the blade clean with my skirt, saying, “I saved you and the Tsarevich.”
I did not understand why she was so worried. She should have at least thanked me. I had saved her and Hendrick.
“Murderer! You murdered a Kuyaza!” Her hands were shielding her tearful face.
“If I hadn’t, then you and His Highness would have been killed,” I argued.
I took a closer look at this man with the goal of locating his fox tail. It was not attached to his sword. In fact, I realized that he had not even carried a sword. I practically searched through his clothing and even removed his snow covered boots. There was not a weapon. My eyes saw what dangled from his wrist. It was a deep purple fox tail.       
“You . . .” I glimpsed at Lady Fenov. “You lied about being in danger. You wanted me to murder this man. Why?”
Lady Fenov cackled. She was laughing so wholeheartedly that I had not expected her to charge at me with a knife. “The Kuyaza does not need someone like you.”
To make matters worse, Hendrick had appeared. I had not even noticed him until his shivery voice echoed. “Th-th-that was the man who killed Mama and Papa!”
“Hendrick!  Find Nestor! Now!” I beckoned and defended myself against Lady Fenov’s strike.
Breaking off from our close contact, I backed into the room. I had to somehow open the distance between us if I wanted to escape. I hurled a chair at her, which struck her stomach. Her hand had grabbed the edge of a cushion and was exerting the same force on the opposite end. I pushed harder and harder until I managed to jam her against a wall. There was still the knife in her hand, and I had carelessly left my weapon behind.
“Why did you set me up?” I protested.
She scoffed and with a shove, she broke free from my barricade, causing me to land on my back. “You do not deserve to be Kamikaze,” she hoarsely rebutted. “Now that you have killed Old Jem, even he cannot protect you.”
That one remark impinged upon her mood, bringing elation to her diminished wrath.
“He?”
I was caught by surprise and her blade was making its way to my neck. One of her hands pinned my shoulder and I took the chance to knee her stomach, tossing her over to her back. Gaining control of the situation, I held onto her wrist, trying to stop her from cutting me.
“Lady Fenov!” Nestor’s voice rang clearly with his footsteps clanged to the beat of his anger. “You are under arrest for the conspiracy to murder Tsarevich Hendrick and for the murders of Tsarevich Leopold and Princess Anastasia.”
Her grip loosened, letting the dagger drop. “Who says? Where is your proof?”
“We have found letters in your chamber with your connections to the Kuyaza and the murders.”
Nestor lifted a batch of papers. A trail of guards followed behind Nestor and now seized Lady Fenov by her arms.
“Hahaha!” Lady Fenov cocked her head to the side, cackling. “He sacrifices a fellow Kuyaza for you! How pitiful!”
All of a sudden, she stole a sword by a guard’s belt and plunged it at her throat. She was dead in an instant.
The guards now carried her body to be disposed while Nestor sighed, “Of all these years, we have finally found evidence and she . . .”
“What do you mean?” I prodded.
“Lady Fenov and . . . that man over there were responsible for the deaths of Tsarevich Leopold and Queen Anastasia. There were rumours of Lady Fenov interacting with that man and also of Lady Fenov negotiating with Countess Barosa—“
“Then, the Countess was the one who—“
“We cannot be certain about that, but we are certain of Lady Fenov’s connection to the murders. Letters were delivered to me from the Kuyaza.”
“Why would the Kuyaza help you?”
 I shook my head, not understanding why the Kuyaza would incriminate their own member. Nestor must have known. Whenever he wanted to reveal something, he would brush his fingers through his beard and when he had to guard a secret, he would then inhale a deep breath. He chose both.
“Because I am helping you.”
“But are you not helping Hendrick as well? The Kuyaza is targeting Hendrick so—“
Nestor looked away, stammering, “I-I-I cannot help him anymore. It was either—“
“How could you? How could you—“
“It was either you or him. I had to choose my own—“
I should have been happy. If I were her, I would have probably rejoiced. But . . . I was not her. I would never be her.
“This has nothing to do with my past!” I screamed and stormed past him, pushing him aside. I had to find Hendrick before I left. I had to warn him of his future.
“Where are you off to?”
I was walking down the corridor when I heard Dmitry’s voice.
“Yes, Renata, where are you going?” Hendrick, who was in Dmitry’s arms, asked.
Dmitry was holding Hendrick like a father would have, but Hendrick bounced off of his clutch and tugged at my sleeve. Kneeling to his height, I swathed my arms around his tiny body.
“Be careful, Hendrick,” I warned. “There are people who seek to claim your life. You have to be strong. You have to live. Okay?”
 With his slender fingers, he swept the tears from my cheeks. His confidence was so overwhelming that I was choking on my own voice. “Crying is for babies, Renata. You’re too old to be a baby!”
He laughed, causing me to grin as well. When I stood again, I saw Dmitry’s frown. He probably knew what I meant.
“Please Dmitry,” I beseeched, “please protect him.”
At first, he would not answer, but after our eyes met again, he nodded. “I will do what I can.”
With that note, I was returning to Urcis with Morganne. We had been following the same paths as before and had not spoken for days. How could I even begin to speak when I knew what was to happen?
“You are too silent.” Morganne had to trot faster to be by my side when we could see the palace from afar. “I know you have grown attached to Hendrick, but you must understand that—“
“He does not deserve to die,” I harked at her. “He does not deserve to die for me. He is innocent!”
“And so was the Kuyaza you murdered,” Morganne argued. “Did you know that he was the one who offered the letters to Nestor? Did you also know that he only came to rescue Hendrick?”
“But he murdered Hendrick’s—“
“He did, but he had no choice then. This time, he made the choice to save Hendrick,” Morganne interrupted. “I am afraid . . . you are the one who has helped instigate Hendrick’s ill fate.”
I held the reigns too tightly that my horse had halted. I found it too hard to breathe, like the sharpness of the air at a high altitude. My chest throbbed, aching with emptiness and vulnerability. Powdered snow was sprinkling onto my hair, my shoulders, and my face. If only the snow could bury my sorrow . . . if only my heart could freeze . . . if only I could be numb again . . .
There was no time for these thoughts though. Morganne and I heard the whizzing of arrows piercing through the mist.
“Run! Run! Run!” Morganne kept shouting.
Chapter 45                                                                Final Chapter
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