Hi! I wrote this far in advance to joining YES, and I got the perspectives a little out of order. Lansie will have the spotlight twice in a row, since I've written too far ahead to make changes. Please enjoy! (Hopefully Lansie is your favourite)
The whole hallway was filled with rubbish. Outdated maps, odd taxidermy sewn onto each other, golden torch holders covered in layers upon layers of dust. The real Duke hadn’t been here in a while. Soon the home would probably deteriorate into a shell of its former glory.
“Porc,” Lansie muttered, picking up a disgustingly muddy shirt off of the ground. “How are any of the maids surviving here?” The Duke chuckled, rubbing her hair until it was tangled. “Silly Lansie. There are no more maids here anymore.” The princess’s eyes widened. “What on earth? How are you living in such a shanty without someone to help you clean?”
“I’m not here often,” Soleil shrugged. “And whenever I am here, I just grab whatever I need for my own expeditions and I’m off. Taxes lowered when my father left. Not enough to keep up with the maid’s pay. Not even enough for the Royal Flammes.”
“So, no fire?” Lansie began to smile at the thought of no more voices. The fire was the only thing that knew of her mistake. Soon she would be guilt-free.
“Princess!” A voice yelled. Lansie turned around to see a guard in glowing white armor. “A poster. For you.” Lansie took the large piece of paper and read:
Prince Lucian Doug Allard, First Heir To The Throne.
“Rubbish!” Lansie snorted, balling up the paper and handing it back to the guard. “My brother is safely on his way here in a carriage. Right, Duke?” Soleil bit his lip as he uncrumpled the paper to read it for himself. “No one’s seen him since this morning, I’m afraid. His window was found shattered, and a rope of shirts at the bottom.” Lansie rolled her eyes. “Of course, he thought it would be a good time to escape the castle in all of the havoc. I’m sure he’ll turn up eventually once he knows my Father’s disappeared as well.”
The Duke and the guard exchanged a sympathetic glance. “Lansie…”
“What?” she hissed. “You don’t believe me when I say my Father is alive? You may think I’m a silly little girl with foolish ideas, but guess what? You have nothing to prove that he’s dead either.” She lifted her chin defiantly and crossed her arms. “May I, your Highness?” the guard asked. Soleil curtly nodded.
“Princess…” The guard knelt down on one knee and held her hand in his. Don’t cry, Lansie thought. Do. Not. Cry. “I’m…I’m afraid…”
“Please don’t say it.”
“That His Majesty’s crown was found in the basement. On a pile of ash.”
“NO!” Lansie screamed, jerking away and painfully climbing onto a pile of junk to reach his height. “You’re wrong! You’re both wrong! And I’m going to prove it to you!” She flipped the hood of her cloak up and stole a white torch from a nearby maid. “I’m going to find my Father in the basement, and you two will just have to bite your tongues as he walks right in here by tomorrow!”
Soleil put his hand on her shoulder. “Lansie, it’s too dangerous for you. There are rumours that it’s still burning in some places down there.”
“You’re going to base my safety off of a rumour?” The Duke’s face stayed blank. “Fine, then.” She gripped his arm as tight as she could and dragged him to the golden doors of the Summer Home. “Then you are going to come with me.”
The basement stairs glowed in a hideously bright white, hiding the secrets on its floor with the glow. Hisses and rumbles repeatedly sounded with each step-down, and even though Lansie would not admit she was scared, she wasn’t pleased with the conditions either.
“Maybe our jument has been out there too long,” Soleil murmured. “It’s feeding time for her right now, and we rode her quite far.” Lansie grabbed the Duke’s shirt collar and shook it. “We didn’t come all this way for nothing. I’m sure your precious mount will survive two hours without some food.”
“You think we’ll only be down here for two hours?”
“You’ll only be down here for two hours,” Lansie chuckled. “I figure by then you’ll go running home to Mummy so you can be fed fancy cheeses off of a golden platter in your junkpile by my maids.”
“That was…oddly specific.”
“And oddly true!” Lansie let go of his shirt collar. “Funny, isn’t it?” She jumped off of the last step of the staircase and blew out the bright white torch that was blinding them on the way down. Soleil blinked his eyes for a few moments before adjusting to the dim light of the corridors. “So this is the basement,” he murmured. “Haven’t been here since I was a wee one.”
“What were you doing?” Lansie asked. Soleil shrugged. “Your brother thought he saw something odd glowing in here. We snuck down. The rest is history.” Lansie looked at him for a quick moment before following the line of blue torches down the narrow hallway. She could hear the voices whispering, but not a single one seemed to know her name. They were all curious about the newcomers. Who are they?
A little girl…
Did they put the white light out?
Why is that man following her?
Lansie gulped as she kept walking down, hearing new voices from each flame until she made it to a large room covered by curtains. A new hallway was to the right of the room, and far in the distance was a glinting golden crown.
“What’s down there?” Soleil asked, peering his head to the side. Landsie jerked his arm and pulled him away from the hall. She didn’t want to get sneered at. Or admit the truth. “Come on,” Lansie told him.
When they entered the room covered by curtains, Lansie let out a breath of awe and sheer shock. “Dreamlike,” Soleil whispered.
A large blue fire pit was in the center of a mammoth, underground arena made of stone, flickering and whisking itself about as if it were looking around the arena’s seats to see who had come. In each seat was a large, tall crate with people’s names engraved in gold. Only one seat stood apart from the rest- the throne of the King.
“What are they?” Soleil asked, pressing his hands against the lowest sitting crate. The name was spelled out in cursive and with extra curls. It read; Claire Rosalie Durand-A soul to be remembered. Lansie gently grabbed his hand and pulled it away. “A memorial, I suppose? It’s best not to wonder.”
Smart girl, a voice murmured. Lansie’s eyes went bloodshot. “Duke?” she whispered. He turned his head back to her from gazing at the arena seats. “What, little Lansie?”
“Someone’s here.” Lansie pointed vaguely in the distance of the fire. Soleil squinted down at it. “Where? I don’t see a living soul.”
You’d be surprised. Lansie gasped. “There! It talked again!” Soleil snorted. “There’s nobody here at all.” Lansie let out a quivering breath. It can’t be. I refuse it to be. The fire isn’t alive.
Come here, little girl. I’ll reveal to you the truth.
Lansie let go of her cousin’s arm. He stood up straighter as she strode towards the fire, carefully stepping over any cracks and splintering boards of wood left carelessly on the ground. “Lansie!” he called. “Get away from the fire!”
“My burn has healed, Duke,” Lansie growled. “And you have no right to boss me.”
“You are not my father.” Lansie stood inches away from the flames, watching as they wicked to and fro, lighting a glow in her eyes. The fire lost its singular voice, switching to hundreds of whispers and mutters that were barely audible to her. But one voice stood out. One that seemed to know who she was.
Do I know you? It asked. Lansie lifted her chin and looked down at the tiny flame straying from the fire. “I’d assume not,” Lansie murmured. “This is my first time in this corridor.” The fire let out a breath. Impossible! We thought our savior would be older, wiser. But you are young. Meek. And yet, I still feel like I knowyou. The voice was feminine and quiet, but the smallest bit shaky. It sounded as if it was trying not to cry.
“What savior?” Lansie asked. She had completely tuned out Soleil by now. There was nothing to be afraid of. All there was in the world now was Lansie, and the flames.
The one to get rid of our vile kidnapper, the flame whispered. It wicked itself back and forth towards her hand, asking if it could hold it. “Don’t burn me,” Lansie warned. But the fire felt cool, and inviting. I’m sorry if my friends burned you. We are very fearful of outsiders.
“Who hurt you?” Lansie asked. “Clearly you’ve been imprisoned here, somehow.”
Yes, the fire growled. We have been imprisoned.
“I can’t save you,” Lansie whispered. “I’m just a girl.”
Then take back what is ours, the fire whispered. It encircled her, hundreds of flames whispering yes or do it into her ears. Lansie crouched down amidst all of the voices, in fear and excitement of the newcomers that seemed enchanted by her presence. If they had been here all this time, they could tell her where her father was. She was not about to give up on that hope.
The fire repeated, take back what is ours, turning it into a chant. Take back the bodies.