Cassandra Hoerrner is an independant novelist/writer. She was an editor-in-chief for The Current. Hoerrner has appeared in Letter of Love as a co-writer and script doctor. She has also written multiple narrative works based on established fictional characters and setting elements. Follow her on twitter @suncompendium.
The World Still Turns
Tiffany approaches the cell, a dank and dark place with rusted iron bars separating the outside world from those within each cell. Despite the rust on the outside, the prisoners are bound by wrists and ankles within, preventing any dreams of escape. A prison for the worst of the worst, to be sure.
Tiffany rests her hands on the dagger and sword hanging on her belt, and clears her throat to draw the attention of the woman within. “It’s the fifth of the Gradient Moon,” she says, doing her best to remain looking stern, even under her helmet.
Myrani looks at the knight captain in her full armor, iron shining in the low torchlight. Despite her imprisonment, she still smiles at Tiffany’s armored form. “My execution date has finally come, has it?”
“It doesn’t have to,” Tiffany replies, doing her best to keep the longing from her voice. “There is still time for you to renounce your rebellion and admit your wrongdoings. The council would grant you a lighter sentence.”
Tiffany hates seeing Myrani like this, chained like an animal and wearing only filthy, dirt covered rags.
“What, and deprive the people of their show? I’m sure a notice of my execution has gotten to the public by now, and I would be remiss to not give them the satisfaction of seeing my head roll.”
Tiffany removes her helm, kneeling in front of the cell. Getting closer, she notices the physical toll imprisonment has taken on the former queen. Myrani’s wrists and ankles are bruised, a mix of dark purple and yellow that makes bile arise in her throat. There are bags under the woman’s eyes, but even so, they still look just as bright and full of light as the last time Tiffany held her in her arms.
“You would joke at a time like this? It’s a matter of life and death, Myr-”
“Do you believe me to be stupid? Unaware of my circumstances? Please, my love, you know me better than that.” Myrani responds, catching Tiffany’s gaze with her own.
“I thought I did,” Tiffany responds, grim. Memories of warm summers and warmer skin, breath in her mouth that was haggard and not her own, swam around in her head. “And then you betrayed the order and used your royalty to rebel against both the other countries of Valenhold and the order itself.”
“And you believe I was wrong for that?” Myrani raises a brow, inquisitive. “This world needed change, my love, you knew that as well as I. The order controlled everything, everyone, and they were lying to the people to achieve that control. How could I truly live with myself knowing such a thing was happening and yet doing nothing to stop it?”
“And starting an all-out rebellious war was the way to fix things?”
“Nothing else would be significant enough. Real change cannot be decided in a meeting chamber!” Myrani yells, despite the echo of the dark dungeon. “Words are not strong enough to incentivise change meaningful enough to overthrow a whole system that’s been in place for centuries!”
“You don’t know that! You never tried!”
“Oh, and you did? Don’t be foolish, Tiffany, they never even took you seriously.”
“Pardon? I am the captain of the guard! The highest position a knight can reach!”
“Do you hear that?” Myrani asks no one in particular, clearly mocking the knight. “Ser Tiffany of Achenveld, the captain of the guard. The highest position a knight can reach, I tell you!” She narrows her eyes. “And what has she done with that power, other than kill those she used to call friends because some fools in robes told her it’s the right thing to do?” Myrani growls. She then sighs, despondent, the temporary energy draining from her.
Several beats of silence pass where the knight and former queen lock eyes. There’s a longing there, a repression of days long past and a love never quite lost.
“So you will not renounce your actions and beg forgiveness?” Tiffany says finally, breaking the silence.
“I am tired, my love.” Myrani smiles.
She does look the part, Tiffany is more than aware.
Myrani’s hair, once bright and strikingly white, is now greyish and clumpy and her eyelids droop in a concerning way. Dark circles have formed under said eyes. She looks as though she has not slept in days.
“I have lost. My troops lay dead on the battlefield I led them to, my castle lays a ruined pile of ash and brick, and my cause will die along with me. I have nothing left to live for, and I certainly shall not forsake my ideals for a little more meaningless time in this foul cellar.”
“Nothing to live for?” Tiffany repeats, tears welling in her eyes despite her urging her body not to give in. “Not even for me?”
Myrani’s lack of a reply is soul-crushing.
“Beg for your life before the council and they will grant it to you, and then...and then I could protect you, always. We could live together, finally, until the end of our days-”
“My love,” Myrani says, but Tiffany keeps pushing.
“-I promise, I promise we could be happy together-”
“My love,” Myrani repeats, firmer this time. “There is no room in this world for me, anymore. I have done my part to make it better, and now it is your turn. If you truly believe you can put the fire out from inside the house, then I will entrust my goals unto you. I trust you can create a better world.”
“A better world? Can I truly handle that without you?” Tears flow from her face and despite how weak it makes her feel, she can’t stop herself.
“Oh, Tiffany,” Myrani’s green eyes hold an emotion Tiffany can’t quite understand, but she just wants to see them closely one last time. “Come here.”
“I am going to die today, we are the only ones down here, and you can’t break one rule?” Myrani says. “Please, Tiff, I will never forgive myself if I die without having kissed you again.”
Against her better judgement, Tiffany complies with the former queen’s demands. The cell is more than large enough, but she wastes no time getting close to Myrani. Her armored hands pull Myrani’s face to her own, and their lips meet in the only moment of clarity Tiffany has felt in ages. This is what’s right, this is what feels right. Myrani’s hands drift down Tiffany’s armor.
“I love you.” Tiffany whispers.
“And I you. Always.” Myrani responds, before grabbing the dagger off Tiffany’s belt and driving it into her own heart. Time seems to slow down as Tiffany sees the blood splatter, as she feels Myrani’s body go limp in her arms.
Her last word rings in Tiffany’s ears, a deafening sound in her mind.