Short Story

A True Friend

ASHLEY JUDD– GRZEXP.com Staff

Aidlyn sat shivering and depressed. The rest of the prison sat empty, there had never been any use for it until now. The kingdom of Deelyn had always been peaceful. There was a single guard outside of Aidlyn’s cell. Her fiance, Tony, was somewhere. She had no idea where he had gone once the palace was taken. Despite the bitter thoughts going through Aidlyn’s head, she had something to look forward to. The guard cycle. Most guards completely ignored her, walked right past, and never spared a glance for her. There was one however, who had been kind, compassionate, and caring. A friend to Aidlyn. The problem was his rotation was number six, and every rotation was an hour at least. 

That wasn’t all, this guard was hiding something, and this was what occupied Aidlyn’s mind. “The way he acts, it’s like he’s constantly looking over his shoulder. Even in the smallest corner of the castle, he’s paranoid.” With a shock, Aidlyn realized she didn’t know the guard’s name. It had been a year since she had met this stranger. Aidlyn imagined the guard’s face. Dark brown eyes, the same shade of hair. He had the start of a beard, but the guard never let it grow out. Aidlyn couldn’t picture him as anything other than “The Guard.” Aidlyn pondered this for another hour or so, until her mind drifted into a restless sleep. After waking up for her meager dinner, Aidlyn waited eagerly for the guard cycle as time ticked by. When finally the friendly face rounded the corner. The other guard left, and both Aidlyn and the guard were silent for ten minutes, mostly out of caution. 

Fantasy castle on a suspended cliff (Architecture and Buildings) fantasy,castle,rock,waterfall,cliff,ocean,storm,kingdom https://pixy.org/30146/ FANTASY CASTLE ON A SUSPENDED CLIFF

“What news is there?” she asked after the ten minutes had passed by.

“Queen Violet has lowered taxes for the citizens, but raised them for those in the palace. Only her closest advisors escape this law.” The guard’s voice sounded tired and heavy.

“But why?” Aidlyn knit her eyebrows together, confused. “The taxes were a fair price for all, but why make those who live in the queen’s own home feel more bitterly towards her?”

“I believe Queen Violet sees it as she is winning the people over, but she doesn’t want to hurt the kingdom’s economy.” They talked about the queen’s perspective for the rest of the time, and as the next guard walked in, Aidlyn realized she had forgotten to ask the guard’s name. 

The next day Aidlyn was determined to find out who this guard actually was. When she saw him, she wasted no time in asking him “Do you have family to care for?”

He smiled softly as he said “Yes, a wife, and two beautiful children. A girl and a boy.”

“And what are their names?” Aidlyn asked, also starting to smile.

“Bella, she’s three, and Toby, he’s seven.” The guard’s smile grew.

“And your wife?” Aidlyn enjoyed seeing him smile, and was determined to keep him smiling.

“Isabella, though we call her Isa, Bella’s named after her, you see.” He seemed to get lost in thought, a faint smile still brightening his face. Aidlyn didn’t say anything else, but watched him, and longed for a family herself. Suddenly, the guard’s smile vanished, and he looked at Aidlyn. “You will receive additional guards tomorrow. Queen Violet believes the lack of guards in the dungeon isn’t a good way to show the public she’s being careful.”

“What does that mean for me?” Aidlyn’s heart dropped.

“It means everything, I have taken two cycles, both right next to each other. The guard that is supposed to be there with me has agreed to take one hour, leaving me with the other.” He took a breath and closed his eyes. “He will explain everything within the hour he’s here. When I arrive, be ready.”

“But what-” Aidlyn was stopped mid sentence as she heard footsteps. Another day had gone without finding the guard’s name. 

Aidlyn spent most of the next day counting the hours until the sixth rotation. When it finally came a guard she had never seen before stood in front of her cell. She didn’t say anything, afraid this wasn’t the guard Aidlyn was waiting for. 

After ten minutes he turned toward Aidlyn and said “Alright we don’t have much time, so here’s what is going to happen. I’m not a guard, but I’m a close friend to your guard. My name is James.” Aidlyn was confused, who was her guard? It clicked, the guard whose name she didn’t know, apparently was her guard. “You’re not supposed to be in here. We’ve found that your mother was an old friend of Queen Violet who had displeased the queen at a young age. The Queen had you arrested under false accusations, only to satisfy an old child fight.”

“What? Where’s the point in that? A queen should be able to forgive a small fight from years ago.” Aidlyn was incredibly angry, there was no sense in putting an innocent citizen in jail.  It was horrible, childish really.

“We understand that, and that’s why we’re getting you out of here, under one condition.” James looked me in the eye before he continued. “Help us bring the Queen down with your story.”

“Of course.” Aidlyn agreed immediately. It wasn’t what she had been expecting, but she was willing to do it. People deserved a fair and wise queen. Queen Violet was neither of those things. 

“Good, then after my rotation, you will follow me until you see a doorway to the right, go through that doorway and you will meet a woman by the name of Grace there. She is a maid in the palace. She will take you out of the palace walls and give you new clothes. Proceed to the Rose Inn where a group of people will be waiting for you to take you to a safe house. Before you ask, they will be the only people at the Inn so they won’t be hard to find. Any questions?” 

It was all so fast, Aidlyn couldn’t process any questions in the moment. She was terrified, but it all seemed so smooth and easy. Aidlyn shook her head no.

“Good, I’m sorry I know it’s sudden, but it will turn out alright.” James smiled kindly.

“What about you and the other guard?” Worry crept into Aidlyn’s mind as she realized what this could mean for them. 

“Your guard will go right back up when he comes down, claiming his partner never showed, and that the prisoner was gone. By that time I will be out of reach of the queen.” Seeing the look on Aidlyn’’s face James added “We’ll be fine.”

Aidlyn nodded again, and James said “It’s time, let’s go.” He unlocked the door and Aidlyn walked out and followed him through the dungeon. She saw the door and went to open it, but stopped suddenly. “Wait! James!” He turned around. “What’s the guard’s name?”

He smiled and answered “You’ll see him soon. Good luck,” and James sped off without another word.

Featured Image Credits:

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