BANISHED

STRANGE BIRD IN THE WOODS

Intending to finish her preparations for the upcoming debate, Iris strode into the lonely corridors that led to the library. She walked on lost in thought when she suddenly tripped over a pair of familiar-looking legs. Due to the sudden impact, the books she clutched left her grasp.

Raelle! she hissed through clenched teeth.

As she stood up, Raelle purred, My bad, I didn see you there, not sounding a bit apologetic. Without uttering a word, Iris started to walk away as she knew better than to retaliate.

It seemed Raelle was bent on gaining Iris full attention because at the very last moment, she pulled her last card. Its a pity how you drag everyone down with you, including that cursed mother of yours and your pathetic brother, she snickered as a mocking smile tugged at the corners of her lips.

Somehow, she had finally tipped Iris over the edge because instantly, Iris turned around and lurched for her hair. Raelle yelped in pain and with all strength left in her, she pushed Iris so hard that she nearly collided with the wall. This action only irked Iris the more that she reached out this time and slapped Ralle in across the face…..and that was enough to mute her. Raelles cheeks stung with pain, and the tears in her eyes threatened to fall but her arrogant self didn dare let them out.

Both girls were still panting heavily and glaring at each other when they heard footsteps from behind. Turning around, they caught sight of Sir Jude, one of the Kings closest guards, who stared back at the with a grim expression on his face. Due to his intense gaze, Raelle straightened herself and dusted her dress. Without uttering a word, she quickly headed towards the exit as Iris watched her back retreat.

Iris returned her gaze to Sir Jude and flashed him an apologetic smile. He sighed and then scolded, You should be careful next time, lest you want to disappoint your father.

Iris timidly nodded and grabbed her books. With one last look, she walked in the direction of the library. The library was a long, gothic-looking room. It had a wide stretch of shelves and shelves of books and was indeed a bookworms dream come true.

Iris knew this library more than anyone else. Growing up, she had passed most of her time here when Raelles teasings aggravated or when she needed solace.

Dragging her feet lazily, she slumped into the seat at her favorite spot. Right in the corner behind the last rack. She preferred that spot because of the solitude and seclusion it offered.

The sun rays penetrated through the uppermost window and shone in that corner thus, lighting it up. Iris buried her head in a book titled The Tricks of Politics and in no time, she was lost in it. After reading a considerable number of pages, she closed the book and pushed it aside. She then stretched her legs and leaned in on the chair whilst stifling a yawn.

As she lay there motionless, her thoughts drifted to the upcoming debate and she felt fear creep into her. Tomorrow Iris, Raelle and Keith- all sharing the same father who was the King but having separate mothers- were to compete in a political debate in which the winner was to be promoted from being a courtier to an advisor.

What if she stumbled upon her words? she thought.

How would she bear it if she humiliated herself in front of everyone? She didn really mind but becoming an advisor to the King was a crucial milestone in her quest to rule.

The sound of footsteps clicking against the marble floors of the library jolted Iris from her reverie. Suddenly, the sounds halted that Iris thought her ears were playing tricks on her. Just as she stood up to check who it was, she heard voices of people speaking in hushed tones. She knew these voices, yet she just couldn lay her fingers on the owners.

Straining her ears, she supposed that the owners were probably two racks away from her spot. Walking on her toes whilst holding her dresss above her ankles, Iris stealthily moved to the next book rack where she was in good earshot of the intruders.

To her dismay, she could only catch sight of the back profiles of what seemed like two women. After futile efforts of craning her neck to catch a glimpse of their faces, Iris cursed under her breathand decided to evesdrop instead.

Wheres the milk?, the older one asked.

Here, replied the younger one whilst placing a glass of what seemed like milk on the table. The older one then reached into her gown and brought out a whitish, powdery substance wrapped in paper.

Opening it, she dropped the powder into the milk and watched it slowly dissolve. She then stirred the milk with the spoon to make sure no traces of the powder was left.

As the younger one took another glass of milk, she said, This is mine and this is his whilst grabbing the glass of milk that had been contaminated. Both women grinned wickedly and the older one ruffled the blonde locks of the younger one. She then warned, Make sure not to switch them up, dear. The blonde girl assured, I won , mother. With that, she turned to leave whilst carefully holding the glasses of milk in both of her hands.

Just as she turned in the direction of the door, Iris finally caught sight of her face and a startled gasp left her lips.

It turned out to be that the younger woman was none other than Raelle!

Without having to take a look at the older womans face, Iris quickly guessed it was Queen Eva – the Kings second wife and the mother of Raelle – because of the similar blonde locks she had.

Unaware that the older woman heard her gasp, Iris let her guard down.

Whos there? asked Queen Eva and Iris eyes widened with shock. She carefully held her breath in and tried to stay still as she heard the woman coming nearer.

Hearing no response, Queen Eva turned to leave, but it seemed that luck was not on Iris side today, because at the next moment, a book near her head toppled over and hit the ground beside her with a loud thud.

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