Lia finished talking about the memory she hid for so long. Amorphophallus suddenly felt like there was no air in the room. She could hardly breathe. For a while, neither she, nor Lia talked.
‘Why?’ .Amorphophallus broke the silence with a pang of disbelief in her voice.
Lia sighed. ‘Do you honestly think that anyone would believe me saying he killed her?’
‘But why?’ Amorphophallus’ voice rose, trembling with anger.
She hesitated. ‘It’s not like I didn’t want to… I wanted to tell everyone, but… but I couldn’t. He… came to see me while everyone was out.’
‘He had the nerve to see you! What did he say?’
‘To check up on me…to see how much I remember. He explained why he did it…and…’
‘Let me guess, he threatened you?’
‘Yes. He told me to keep my mouth shut if I want everyone to be alive. If I defied him, he would’ve burnt them all to death.’ Lia’s head hung in defeat.
‘And you listened?’ Amorphophallus was amazed.
‘I had no option. He threatened to kill Chief Yan. I couldn’t … He also said that he altered the story to make the killing justified. He said no one will hear my story, because the princess was charged with treachery. She was a traitor in everyone’s eye. If I wanted to remember her with respect then I should keep my mouth shut.’
‘Is this the crap that he spewed to keep you silent?’ Amorphophallus was furious.
‘I had no other choice. Deal with it.’
They both fell silent. Suddenly, Amorphophallus remembered something.
‘Wait a minute, you said you fainted at the edge of the forest.’ She said, and Lia nodded to it. ‘But I found you inside the cave. There was no one else there,’ said Amorphophallus.
‘Then who took me inside?’
They looked at each other for a while, the answer was there.
‘Gus!’ they gasped.
Chief Yan’s bedchamber. He was pacing around the room restlessly. Minister Cypress and General Sequoia were standing beside his enormous tree-bed, watching him in silence.
‘What can we do?’ asked the chief.
‘We can send spies to find out what he is up to,’ Cypress suggested.
‘But it is very risky. If our people are exposed, they will be eliminated. And we will be held responsible,’ General Sequoia argued.
‘We are a peaceful nation. We barely know how to lie, and this… this will be a burden for those who work for us,’ said the chief with a heavy heart. ‘You do realize that I have to think a lot about everyone and their safety. I cannot put their lives into danger. They have families.’
‘Sire, they will be willing to help everyone out. Our entire nation is at risk,’ said the minister.
‘But it is also a fact that some of our species are dying at a large rate. Those deaths are not accounted for as they are shown to be killed by humankind. Something does not feel right,’ said the general.
‘I fear he might be planning something bigger this time’, said the chief finally settling himself on the bedside couch.
‘You do not mean…’ said the minister.
‘Yes.’ The chief sighed. ‘He is going to propose Lia.’
The entire conversation had been heard by two other listeners, Princess Lia and Captain Amorphophallus. They wanted to talk with the chief about the recent trip down to the memory lane. They were about to enter the bedchamber of Chief Yan when they heard them talking. They stood outside the door, frozen. Lia was so furious inside that she could not control herself, and stormed into the room.
Everyone inside reacted differently. General Sequoia sprang himself in front of Chief Yan, ready to protect him from danger. Minister Cypress also placed himself into defence position ready to strike down the opponent. They gave both relaxed and surprised look when they saw their opponent was Princess Lia.
‘Lia! What… what are you doing here at this hour?’ Chief Yan asked.
‘Is that true?’ She demanded answer.
‘Is what true?’ Chief Yan tried to look away from her fiery eyes.
‘Is HE going to propose me? Are you ready to accept him as the Chief’s husband?’ She started shaking out of anger.
‘No,’ said the chief softly, he sounded more like a wounded puppy. Understanding that she might have heard the conversation, he gave up. ‘That is what we are trying to figure out. What our next step will be’.
‘I will never accept his proposal,’ Lia said angrily.
‘You may not have any option. He might try to manipulate you by threatening,’ Amorphophallus reminded her about the previous encounter. ‘Which brings us to the topic of why we are here. Lia, I mean Princess Lia, aren’t you going to tell the Chief about your memory?’
Lia looked at her and then calmed down a bit, but hesitated to tell her tale in front of other companies. Amorphophallus’ expression said that she could tell the story in front of them without a problem.
Lia began to recount the story. Nobody interrupted her. After she finished, Chief Yan was almost at the edge of crying. Everyone was feeling uncomfortable.
‘I am sorry Chief Yan. I should have been the one to die, she…saved me,’ tears started to pour out of Lia’s eyes. She started sobbing.
‘It’s not your fault. I don’t blame you. She chose her destiny,” the chief fought back his tears.
‘Wait! Aren’t you mad at me?’
‘You knew! You knew he killed her, didn’t you?’ she demanded.
‘I guessed,’ he answered but looked at the floor instead of her eyes.
‘You KNEW! I suffered because I could not tell anyone. And YOU KNEW! WHY DIDN’T YOU DO ANYTHING?’ she bellowed.
‘BECAUSE THIS WOULD HAVE MADE THINGS WORSE! I KNEW HE WAS LOOKING FOR TROUBLE. HE WOULD HAVE THREATENED TO TAKE OVER THE ENTIRE KINGDOM! The Dryads would have been killed mercilessly. Imagine he said that I am the father of a traitor, so I am not the chief of this realm.’ He shouted back at her.
‘He would have been sentenced to step down from his position and would have been given a death sentence. Thus, he would have gained the entire kingdom.’ Minister Cypress explained.
‘So he acted as if this happened because of an accident. So that no one would know the story,’ said the General.
‘So you all knew while I was being tortured? Good justice!’ Her heart was wounded.
‘DO NOT THINK THAT YOU WERE THE ONLY PERSON WHO WAS TORTURED! I COULD NOT EVEN CAPTURE THE KILLER OF MY ONLY DAUGHTER! SO DO NOT SPEAK LIKE THAT TO ME!’ This was the first time Lia saw him getting really angry.
‘I’m sorry,’she said quietly.
Nobody moved or said anything.
‘He killed her. I always knew he was after my throne but never guessed that he could do that. His claims were too much to avoid. So I had to act like a righteous leader. I had to give up my daughter and act like everything he did was right.’ He stood up from the couch and walked towards the window. He looked out through the open window. His eyes looked weary and sad. ‘Since then I have been trying to keep him out of bay… trying my best to understand what the next step is… trying my best to keep it together so that nobody has to face my daughter’s fate… this time I think he is targeting you.’ He looked away from the window and looked at Lia.
‘I am not letting him get away. I was weak back then, now I am stronger. I will take him down,’ Lia said under her breath.
‘I admire your strength to fight him, but it is not strength that you will need. You will need intelligence. You need a plan to strike him down in one lightening… so fast that he would not expect you to come at him. I failed to do that and had to pay the price. What are you willing to sacrifice?’ he asked.
‘Everything,’ she answered.
‘Easy to say, hard to do.’
‘I mean it. I will stand against him.’
‘Then … you need to know a bit of the background and a lot of planning.’
‘Sire, with due respect, about the human fact I have an observation. I was asked to look after Princess Lia and the human, but when I returned to the cave, Lia was already on the ground. But she says that she fainted at the edge of the forest. I think he carried her to the cave. I believe that he planned something for this to happen beforehand. A human cannot enter our realm without the help of our kind,’ said Amorphophallus.
‘You are right, Lus. But only an underage human could do that,’ the chief replied.
‘But sire, underage human can see us, hear us, but can never enter our realm without anyone showing him the gateway.’
‘Minister, what you are saying is correct.’ General Sequoia agreed with him.
‘But why?’ Asked Lia.
‘Because the underage human heart is pure. Only the pure hearts will be able to see us. But as they grow old, their experiences grow and innocence is destroyed by the experience. Thus they cannot see us when they are older,’ Minister Cypress explained.
‘Sire, if Captain Amorphophallus is correct, I believe that it might be his plan to eliminate someone and create a fuss,’ said General Sequoia.
‘And Rose was the price that I had to pay…’ the chief was sad again.
‘I want to end this. I don’t know how. I want him to pay for his deeds. I know we are peaceful nation, but I am the one who needs to punish him for what he did.’ Lia’s words made a strong impression on everyone.
‘Then I believe this is the only way to punish him. You will have to be the spy for us, but also know that you will be an outcast from every realm. Are you sure you want to do this?’ asked the chief.
‘I am born to do this. He has killed enough innocent people. He needs to go down. But I cannot do it alone. I need help. Also I need to find that human, and need to see what exactly happened on that day.’
‘Then the fellowship of this quest begins tomorrow night, you will not be coroneted to be the next chief. You will be a fugitive and a wanted criminal,’ said Chief Yan.
‘Cannot wait to start it,’ said Princess Lia excitedly.
‘Then let’s begin,’ said Chief Yan with a smirk on his face.
Written by: Kazi Nabila