Considering, all that she ever had in her cell was a burlap rag for a blanket and the cold dirt floor for a bed, the tome seemed to make a comfortable pillow for Sage. She allowed the daylight to creep into her barely open eyelids. When sleep was the only thing separating you from a life of caged misery, it became a hard habit to shake.
Maverick opened the door to her cell and knelt down to give her a slight shake. "Not now Mav." What was he doing here so early? He came several times during the day to allow her to use the bathroom, sometimes even so she can bathe, but never this early. The sun was only beginning to rise.
"Cousin, have you forgotten everything that happened last night?"
Slowly, it dawned on her. The meeting with Lord Remerez, and talk of his ridiculous monsters. No, her monsters. She darted up, knocking aside her coverings in her haste.
Maverick gasped. "Ah, Cousin! What in tarnation are you wearing? Or, or not wearing?" Mav blushed, but he had the decency to look away. "Please Sage, cover up your legs. It is not proper for me to see you so, so...Just cover up woman!"
Sage couldn't help but laugh at his ramblings. She positioned her blanket over her legs. "Sorry, our Tyrant Lord sought to embarrass me. Little does he know, I enjoy running around half naked." She jested. Maverick made a face at her before fleeing her cell. Minutes later he returned with a pair of trousers, designed for a woman of her size. She didn't ask where or how he acquired them, nor did he tell.
Once she slipped the trousers and her boots back on Maverick took to plaiting her hair. "Ow!" She protested, as he yanked a handful mercilessly into a tight braid.
"I'm sorry cousin, it's better you wear it confined and out of your face. I'll not have a relative of mine, walking the streets looking like a whore."
Sage winced. "This is your idea of goodbye Mav? I'm uninspired."
He finished the braid and tied the end with a blue ribbon, allowing it to fall over one shoulder.
"I'm sorry Sage. You know I'd take your spot in a heartbeat if I could. Our Lord seeks to punish and make an example of you. Just remember everything that doesn't kill you, weakens his spirit." He pulled her into a tight embrace as she blinked away tears. She was being let out of her cage, but torn away from the only family member she had left.
"There, there. Don't cry cousin. I will find a way to meet up with you again. Soon." He promised. "Now. Tell me, are you still a good archer?"
Her frown cracked into a wry smile. "What Rosewood isn't?" He grinned. "That's the spirit. I'll have your bow waiting for you at the citadel. You'll take and protect the tome."
She nodded solemnly
Wordlessly, he took his own Rosewood pendant, and pinned it on her shoulder, under her braid. She ran her fingers over the tiny brass compass for luck.
"And there's one last thing. Since I can't accompany you on this journey, I'll send the next best thing." He whistled, and instinctively Sage knew to duck. Gadget sailed into the open cell. He hit the wall with jarring speed and chirped happily about the impact.
"No, not the bird."
"Of course, Gadget has been reprogrammed to serve and protect you. I pledge on his behalf."
"No, Maverick. I'm not taking Defect anywhere with me. Least of all on a dangerous quest!"
Maverick reached out to cradle the mechanic bird. "Stop calling him Defect, his name is Gadget. And please Cousin, its the only way to ease my worries."
She sighed in defeat, how could she deny his request now?
Minutes later Lord Remerez sent his guards to fetch her. She threw the tome in Maverick's satchel and slung it over her shoulder.
The guards all but dragged her to the citadel as the annoying bird chirped happily by her side. Several sets of steps were built into the mountainside. The walk was tiring and awkward, as neither guard would let up on the grip they had on her arms.
The citadel was a tall building on a steep cliff. Sharp shooters were always on guard, positioned behind the long and narrow windows, should an enemy attack. The building lacked the embellishments of the castle, though the structure was immaculate, in that it was made up of high arches, tall pillars, and spiraling towers. Though it was plain, it was an intimidating fixture, as was how her father intended it to be.
Sage was ushered into the foyer. Weapons and instruments hung high on the walls. Brass scopes and maps, littered a table on one side of the room. Trinkets, bolts and screws were thrown carelessly on the other table. The lack of organization in the citadel brought a smile to her face. Perhaps Galabria was too much for Remerez to handle?
The guards released her arms to open a set of double doors ahead of her. Regaining her composure and dignity, Sage held her head high and strode into the room. Her brave entrance was tainted by Gadget's own awkwardness as he flew into, yet another wall.
Everyone seated in the citadel turned to stare at the commotion. She quickly took her seat. "Who brought that nuisance of a bird?" She asked theatrically. It was then, that Gadget decided to position himself on her shoulder. Her cheeks warmed under their gazes. Chained and cuffed prisoners sat on one side of the room, and the Tyrant army on the other.
After a few minutes the doors were closed with a heavy thud. Lord Remerez took his post at the center of the room. Their eyes met, and he smiled maliciously. The room grew silent as everyone gave him their attention.
"Allow me to introduce our guest of honor," He said motioning for Sage to stand besides him. She crossed her arms defiantly. Up until now, nobody had recognized her, she wasn't about to blow her cover. Only she didn't have a say, two guards grabbed her already bruised arms and pulled her to her feet.
"Get your meat hooks off of me!"
Gadget flew at one of the guard's heads, and was instantly swatted backwards into a wall. Sage was seething when they brought her to Remerez. He reached out to take her hand. She cringed once he linked his fingers with hers. "Ah, it is so nice to see you properly clothed. Empress."
His voice carried across the room, his men laughed, while some of the other prisoners gasped. Humiliated, she averted her eyes. "Fetch her bow and cuff her hands." He pushed her back towards the guards who did just that.
"Now, as you all know you're here for the Sake of Galabria, as I can not risk taking my army out of the Kingdom to fight these Evils brought on by the curse of the Rosewood legacy-
"That's a damn lie, we didn't bring these monsters here, perhaps karma did!"
"Shut her up." Remerez beckoned immediately. The guard who cuffed her, placed his sweaty palm over her mouth. Remerez gave her a victorious grin, it made his face appear even more contorted. He redirected his attention to the crowd. "As I was saying, some of you have wisely chosen your path of redemption. To protect your Kingdom, is an honor nonetheless. Those of you who were less willing, will be judged and sentenced accordingly after Galabria is brought to peace once more."
Sage glared at Remerez, from beneath the guard's meaty paw.
"You will each be given weapons and aide throughout your quest. All I ask for is patience and commitment I do not know, how long this will take. So please pledge your loyalty to me and trust my guidance. Do it for your kingdom." He punched his fist into the air. "For Galabria!"
Sage watched in horror as the crowd followed his lead without question. "For Galabria!" They cried in unison.
If this journey didn't kill her, surely the angry mob of prisoners would to gain the Tyrant Lord's favor.