Untitled, Prologue

Fiction By Jackie West // 1/31/2011

  Jason stood before the iron door.
  What brought me here? he thought. Was it fate, or destiny...?
  A rough shove jerked him out of his thoughts.
  "What d'you want, soldier?" barked a voice.
  Jason stiffened involuntarily. Of course it would be Kantorek Raven, third-in-command, and one of the nastiest people around. He saluted, forcing himself to not look annoyed. "I needed to talk to you."
   "If it's about one of those barrack room brawls, then don't bother me," Raven growled as he opened the door. "Don't bother me. I have more important work to do."
  "It's about one of the prisoners," Jason said. "The special one who was brought in about four months ago.
  Raven froze, then whirled around. "She didn't escape, did she?"
  "No-" Jason began.
  "Then why are you bothering me? Let her sit in her cell and rot until Chief decides to bring her out an' have some fun with her. Like I said, don't bother me."
  "Please, Sir..it's important, really, it is."
  With a growl, Raven relented. "Come in then, but I'll only give you a few minutes of my time. He opened the door and strode in.
  Jason followed.
  When Raven was seated on his usual chair, he faced Jason. "So, what is it?" he grunted.
  "She's not a criminal," Jason blurted out.
  Raven stared at him. "What did you just say?"
  "Rohana Axton is not a criminal," Jason said, hardly believing he was being so bold as to say this to Raven-who was pretty notorious for his bad temper.
  "Are you mad? Of course she is!" Raven stood and came close to Jason. "And how do you know her name? You wouldn't unless you knew her personally."
  "Chief wants revenge on her because her father killed his father. Nothing is her fault." Jason winced as Raven grabbed his shoulder and hissed,
  "You know her, soldier. Admit it!"
  Jason closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and said, "She really isn't a criminal. I am."
  "How so?" Raven brought his face right up to Jason's, his eyes a flaming, angry red. "A spy is criminal enough. Enough to earn you death!"
  Jason pulled a small object from his pocket and held it up. "I've been stealing information and putting it on this to help the rebel cause," he spurted out.
  Raven grabbed the object. "Ahah!" he spat. "You have been stealing information...and you know an important imprisoned criminal."
  "She's not a criminal!" Jason found himself yelling before he could control himself.
  Raven grabbed his throat and held it in a viselike grasp. "I'm glad you admitted your crime. If you are finished speaking, then I'll just take you to join your friend down in the dungeons!"
  Jason shook his head vigorously, choking out, "I...have one...more piece..to speak...!"
  Raven released and him and Jason fell to the floor, gasping and trying to breath.
  Raven stood over him, sword in hand.
   "What more, soldier, have you to say?" he asked angrily when Jason had regained his breath.
  Jason swallowed. "Please go before your leader and request that Axton be spared. Her imprisonment is only the result of an intense disagreement between his father and hers since she is the only one of her father's descendants left alive due to Kharan's slaughter." He slowly got to his feet. "And tell him that I wish to take her place in the arena."
  "No, I have a better idea." A slow, cruel smile spread across Raven's face. "I'll take you to him. You two can talk and work it out."
  Jason bowed his head. It was over now. He had done it. His doom was sealed. 
  Rohana Axton stood at the door to her cell, facing Zach Ryder. "He went and gave himself away? But I told him not to bother right before they came and took me to prison!"
  "He felt that it was the right thing for him to do." Zach shook his head."It's in his character. I really wish we could be more alike. We are twins, after all! But he felt that it was his call to help the King...I'm still reluctant, though."
  "Haven't you felt his call?" Rohana asked.
  "Yes...and he has told me that it's my choice to make. He isn't going to force me to come into his service." Zach looked at the floor. "I want to..but-"
  "There isn't any hindrance in your way, Zach!" Rohana exclaimed. "Unless..." she paused. "Unless you doubt that he will succeed."
  Zach didn't answer for a few minutes. Then he spoke.
  "That is exactly it," he admitted. "The Praetorians are so powerful that it seems like no one can defeat them."
  "If you doubt, then you can never join him," Rohana said softly.
  Zach reached out and took one of her hands. "Rohana-"
  "You should go now. We'll get caught if we talk any longer." Rohana withdrew her hand from his grasp. "Goodbye, Zach."
  She retreated to the farthest shadows of her cell, and Zach could not see her any more.
  "Goodbye," Zach murmured, not staying to see if Rohana would reply.
  Jason stumbled and fell. His already hurt head hit the stones and he was knocked unconscious.
  Several minutes later, when he awoke, his head was being split apart with a horrible headache.
  "What happened?" he groaned to himself. "Why am I here?"
  Then nearly all that had happened since he had revealed himself as a spy came flooding back, hurting his head even more.
  Being half-strangled by Raven.
  Being roughly dragged to the private chambers of the Praetorian leader.
  Being interrogated and tortured more horribly than he ever could have imagined.
  Seeing Kharan Naixious in the flesh. The flesh that had always been hidden behind his dark robes.
  It was beyond description.
  All he remembered of the interrogation were the last words spoken to him by Naixious.
  "You will die a more horrible death than even your king can imagine."

  Rohana leaned against the cell door, straining her ear to catch any noise that might be made.
  She was about to sit down when she heard footsteps and voices.
  "-cell 167...special prisoner...meeting chamber..." came the voice of a soldier.
  Cell 167! That was her cell. What was going to happen?
  The sound of footsteps got louder, and soon a group of soldiers stopped before her door.
  One unlocked it and opened it.
  "Come along," he said gruffly.
  Rohana quietly complied with the order. Inside, she was wishing that they hadn't come, although she knew that the day would have had to come that she left and stood before one of the Praetorian generals or the leader himself.
  The chamber they brought her to was all too familiar.
  Raven's meeting chamber.
  The lead soldier quickly rapped a special knock on the door.
  Raven opened it. "Leave us," he ordered the soldiers, "except for you two." He pointed at one pair. "You two stand outside this door. Do not eavesdrop, and do not come in until I call you to."
   He pushed Rohana into the room and shut the iron door with a mighty bang.
   "Do you know why you are here?" he growled.
   "Because you're almighty leader has finally decided to kill me?" Rohana asked.
   "Oh, he's known that he's wanted to kill you," Raven said, bringing his face close to hers. "But his mind can be changed."
   "Oh, he just wants to let me rot in that cell? That's fine, but why did you need to have me here to tell me?"
  "Oh, but that's not it." Raven smiled a nasty looking smile.
 Rohana was barely able to contain a grimace as Raven continued.
 "It appears that one of your friends wants you to escape unharmed. He's been in our organization as a spy for some time to try and get you out, to let you go free."
  "And?" Rohana asked.
  "Our leader admires your friend's courage and, even though he wanted to wipe you off the face of Vendhora, he has decided to free you."
 "I don't believe you," Rohana stated firmly.
 "Our leader never lies," Crow said just as firmly. "If he's lying, he's breaking the Praetorian code of conduct."
 "You had a code of conduct?" Rohana asked disbelievingly-and half jokingly-almost wishing she hadn't said the words as Raven knocked her to the ground.
  "I said he never lies. I never lie. Is that enough?"
  "No." Rohana slowly got to her feet and backed away.
  "You will soon get all the proof you need." Raven strode to the door. "Soldiers! Take the prisoner and let her go free."
  The door swung open and the two soldiers outside strode in and grabbed Rohana.
  Rohana was slowly shaking her head in disbelief. "You're not letting me go free. I can feel it."
  The soldiers and Rohana were going out the door when it happened.
  Rohana fell forward as something struck her in the back.
  The soldiers twisted her around to face Raven.
  "I told you I never lied," Raven snarled. "Soldiers, you can take her back to her friends now!"
  Through the mist clouding her eyes, Rohana could barely make out the knife sheath that he was holding.
   "You lied!" she gasped out. "You said you were setting me free! I knew you lied!"
  "I am setting you free. To die!"

   Zach jerked upright.
   Something had happened.
   It felt like something had been ripped out of him.
   No! he thought. No! They couldn't have killed Rohana. They promised to set her free!
"What am I thinking?" he said to himself. "They wouldn't keep their promises if no one noticed that the code of conduct was broken."
  He buried his face in his hands. I was supposed to help rescue her. I failed. What will He say now? What will everyone say? 


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