Secret of the Black Rose

1. Under attack

The cold wind blew past the trees, in the night and slapped everybody, making them shiver. It was piercing cold and not soon after, small flakes of snow started to fall. Most of the people halted in their places, and deciding to retire for the night, they stopped their practice halfway. In a few moments, the entire ground was empty, devoid of any soul or living presence, except for one person who was training with all her might and vigor.

The rapier sword sliced through the air and landed on her target, a gigantic wooden pole. Every time, the sword struck the pole, there was an obvious scratch at the point. The sudden absence of people around her did not hinder her concentration, nor did she feel the chills of the haunting night. Her focus was on her target and she continued with her practice.

“Priscilla,” A loud, panicked voice echoed across the hall and this time, the girl’s sword paused before it reached the pole. A small scowl made its way on her face and she turned around, ready to attack the man who had disturbed her.

She raised her weapon, ready to launch an attack on the intruder, only to find the man defending himself with ease. Barely a few moments had passed, that her weapon fell to the ground with a loud clank. “I won again.” The man chimed and picked up the sword the girl had dropped.

With a glare, Priscilla took back her sword and wiped it clean. “Why did you disturb my training, Samuel? You know…”

“I know you hate it if someone distracts you from your work. But Priscilla, look around.” Samuel moved his hands around him. “It is snowing right now and everyone has evacuated the grounds long ago.”

“So?” The girl questioned, her expression now wavering a bit. It was colder than the frosty winds and Samuel had look closer to notice her slightly exhausted face.

 With a small sigh, Samuel took a step towards her. “Priscilla, I know you have undergone a lot and I also know why you are training this hard. But that does not mean you ignore your well-being and health.”

“Samuel, I know what I am doing.” With that, Priscilla turned away from him, putting all her attention on her practice. However, the man behind her pulled her back even before she could lift her sword.

“Priscilla, you cannot go ahead and torture yourself this way. You need to eat and sleep to rejuvenate your energy.” Samuel argued, his voice turning low all of sudden. Although the man admired the girl’s strong willpower and determination, he was also irritated by her self-ignorance. “You can practice again in the morning.” He stated, giving her no room for objection.

Seeing that the girl was about to argue with him, he tightened his stance and lifted his chin. “And, it is an order.”

This time, Priscilla could not turn a blind eye to his words. Samuel was her superior and it was her duty to obey and follow his commands. Gritting her teeth, she gave one lethal glare to the man, who was unaffected by it. It was only after she started walking towards her dormitory did the coldness of the night hit her hard and she trembled.

Rubbing her hands to keep herself warm, Priscilla hastened her footsteps to reach her destination faster. Samuel, who had been following her closely, smiled seeing her actions. Although the man wanted to offer her his coat, he knew Priscilla would reject it at once. The girl was too stubborn to take help from others, even from him, who she was familiar with since childhood.

By the time Priscilla reached her room, her lips had lost their color and her face had gone pale. Her stomach was creating a ruckus in hunger. But first, she decided to take a bath to warm herself. ‘Food can wait.’ She thought to herself and stood under the shower, waiting for the hot water to warm her up.

As the water hit her, her mind went back to four autumns previous, when she lost everything she had and rendered her to the state she was in right now. A satirical smile made its way on her face and she lifted her hands, the once that had been drenched in her parents’ blood. “Father, Mother, wait for me. I will find the culprit.”

Not soon after, when she no longer felt cold, Priscilla wrapped herself in thick clothing and went to the dining hall, which was bustling with activity. All the men had shifted to the hall and due to the large number of occupants, the place was suffocating and looked small. However, to Priscilla, this crowd was her salvation from loneliness, from the monsters that haunted her whenever she was alone and in her dreams. This crowd was what gave her a new home, when she lost one four autumns back.

“Priscilla, here.” She heard someone call her and her head snapped in the direction of the sound. Her emotionless face broke out into a smile when she noticed her excited friend, Mileva, waving at her. Filling her tray with food, Priscilla made her way towards Mileva, who welcomed her with a huge smile.

“Did you finish your practice?” She queried, taking a bite of her food.

“No, Samuel interrupted.” The girl answered and looked around, sending a small smile to the woman on her right when their eyes met, before she focused on eating.

“I see.” Mileva thought for a while before she scooted closer to Priscilla. “He did a great job in stopping you. Who would practice in this storm and cold? You need to take a break.” She stated and took a peek at the girl beside her. Contradictory to her expectations, Priscilla remained silent, not retaliating like she did usually.

Surprised by her unusual response, Mileva gaped at her until Priscilla faced her, unable to tolerate her piercing gaze. “Is anything the matter?”

“No... I mean, yes. Why aren’t you behaving like you normally do?”

“How do I behave normally?” Priscilla threw a question of her own, deciding to ignore her friend's curious gaze.

“You are agreeing to my claims without arguing, unlike your usual self. Is everything fine?”

Prada Murthy

Edited: 18.02.2021

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