Talas and Jace were led to a castle obscured with moss and overgrown vines. Inside the air was damp and cold, making Talas sneeze. There were few windows so the light was sparse. Under their feet Jace and Talas could detect a dirt floor. The castle was formed around a massive oak tree with a trunk as wide as as any royals personal chambers. The bark was removed from the base of the tree and was replaced with expert carvings. Faces, bodies; both fae and human were etched into the trunk
Talas and Jace  maneuvered around the trunk in the gaurds' grasp until they came to a halt in front of door built into the tree. Jace tensed. Had the tree been hallowed out? We're they meaning to go inside it? All of them? 
One of the guard's hands reached for the doorknob and suddenly Jace felt claustrophobic. It would be dark in there. Their air would be restricted. Instinctively he glanced  back at Talas. Her jaw was clenched as she glared at the tree.
Talas paused briefly to observe the carvings on the tree. Faces; etched with expressions of horror, sorrow and regret. What did it all mean?The gaurd behind her pushed her forward towards the entrance of the tree trunk. "Easy," Talas snapped through clenched teeth. She dug her heels into the dirt floor. She needed to stall, to figure out the puzzle to the tree.
 Summoning her aristocrat charm, Talas turned to the guard that held her by the arm. "I have never seen such realistic art in my life. Such raw emotion truly brings the work to life."
The guard offered her an uneasy smile. 
"Who should I accredit the work to?" Talas asked. Everyone turned to face her including Jace who looked pale and nauseated. Why weren't they answering her questions? Talas feared she already knew why. There was no easy answer. There was no artist. 
The guards ignored her and turned their attention back towards the door. 
Quickly Talas shot her elbow back hard into her guards rib. He staggered and doubled over from the pain. Talas spun around so she was behind him. Her arm shot out around his waist, reaching for the hilt of his sword. The guard holding Jace lunged towards her. Jace took advantage if the guards diverted attention and bolted for the castle door. Talas ran out after him. They escaped into the forest, their legs aching and hearts pounding with adrenaline. They only paused to rest once they felt they had put enough space between theirselves and the far.
Talas leaned against a tree. She struggled to catch her breath and talk at the same time. "They weren't going to brand us, we'll not in the way.. We thought." She gasped for air as Jace stared at her expectantly. "They were going to brand us into the...tree."

The End

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