After Lucy refused to tell the sociopath in front of her what he wanted to know she fully expected him to set about methodically torturing her. Instead he has sat these past hours without movement, watching her. The heat of his gaze traveling across the bones of her cheek and jaw pausing at the base of her throat where he watches her heart flutter. Then down to her breasts grazing each nipple and over her stomach flat from near starvation, finally resting at the juncture of her legs. He briefly caresses the base of his ear before rising with uncanny grace and gliding over to her where he lifts her face to him with just the tips of his fingers.
“So typically lovely, once. But perhaps this outside matches your soul and that would be most lovely indeed.”
Leaning further in he murmurs, “You will tell the crown all that they want to know and when you are done you will wish you had given me what I wanted instead. This I promise you.”
The cold breath of truth slithers down Lucy’s spine and she shudders once.
“After you,” he says, opening the tent flap.
In front of the tent a hot air balloon is tethered to a stake and one of the young invaders, not unlike the one who murdered her daughter Sonjia, opens the gate to the basket and as she climbs in she hisses, “Shame on you.” Even though she knows he is only doing what he must to survive.
She and the young Mr. Sociopath are the only occupants and he steers the balloon deftly. As they rise into the sky she feels her tether to Mari, her youngest, stretch pulling thinner and thinner until it parts, a mere filament floating away on poisoned currents. The balloon rises higher and higher, the air thins and improbable crystals form on her eyes lashes. The chemicals in the air should stop the water from freezing and she would think it an illusion if the young Mr. Sociopath wasn’t also wiping his eyes.
The balloon alights on a wide clear field and the snow that shouldn’t be falling has covered it in a blanket pristine as a newly bleached sheet.
At the edge of the field rises a row of shining jagged peaks. In the center of the largest is a curved entrance. As she is led towards it she feels simultaneously corporeal and ethereal. This place should not be, a gateway to someplace, where, time else. Her mind cannot keep up and she collapses into the soft clean snow. Strong arms slide under her knees and shoulders lifting her and carrying her across the threshold of the entrance.
Welcome to the jag of crown,
Where you are as likely to live as drown.
Sometimes our way takes a little shove,
But I have faith in you my sweet, sweet love.