Brahm and Drake yell, dragging their guards forward to intervene, but the men catch their footing and pull them back.
“Look what you did to her, Brahm,” Queen Marison says, holding her daughter hostage by magic.
The princess trembles with agony, but her sobs are pure anger.
“You’re just like your father—turning your back on your family for a human.” Queen Marison shakes her head and walks up to her daughter. “It hurts, doesn’t it? Do you regret protecting him now?”
“No,” Sabine snarls, still fighting her invisible bonds.
“Then I don’t believe you’ve learned your lesson.” Turning her back on Sabine, the queen walks toward Regina and me. She stoops low before she reaches us, using a corner of her skirt to protect her hand as she picks up the letter opener. With a sickeningly sweet smile, she asks, “May I use this for a moment?”
“No!” I yell, but Regina yanks me back.
“Take it,” Marison says to the princess.
Sabine cries, shaking her head violently even as her hand reaches for the small tool. She screams when her fingers wrap around the metal handle, and both Brahm and Drake roar with anger.
“That’s enough,” Marison finally says, and Sabine opens her hand.
The letter opener falls to the ground with a clatter.
“What about now?” Marison asks. “Do you regret lying for Brahm?”
Tears stream down Sabine’s face, and she shakes. Blood drips from her hand, falling onto her ivory gown. Even still, the princess’s face scrunches with unadulterated loathing as she barely manages a whispered, “No.”
Marison’s eyes narrow, and something chilling crosses her face. Too calmly, she says, “Very well.” She looks back at Brahm. “This is your fault, do you understand? Just as it was your father’s fault that Drake betrayed me.” Then, to the guards, she says, “Don’t let them turn away.”
Regina whispers a frantic, “Please, no.”
As if she’s bored of a game and no longer wishes to play, Queen Marison says, “Sabine, I have no use for you anymore, and I cannot allow such a pathetic creature to inherit my throne. Pick up the letter opener and stab it into your heart.”
Too many people yell at once, but it all becomes a blur. I yank from Regina’s hold and run across the room, snatching the letter opener half a second before Sabine can take it.
I whirl around to face the queen, prepared to fight even though I know I can’t win. But I’ll die trying—for Brahm. For Regina and Drake and poor Sabine.
And for Eleanor, my parents, and everything my family has been through because of this woman’s wickedness.
“ALICE!” Brahm yells, fighting like a caged bear.
But it’s too late for him to save me. Marison surges forward, gathering magic like a sickly cloud around her. Voices scream, dark things that lurk in nightmares.
I lunge forward, prepared to slay the monstrous woman, when she casts her magic at me full force. The world goes pitch-black as the darkness surrounds me. I scream, never having felt agony like this in my life. The magic rips me apart with its icy tentacles, feeling like it’s rooting around in the depths of my being, looking for my soul. I fall to the ground, curling up in a feeble attempt to protect myself.
And then…it’s gone. I open my eyes to find I am in one piece, no sign of the attack marring my body.
And the scream is no longer mine.
Gasping, I push myself up on trembling arms, watching in horror as Marison’s magic engulfs her. She writhes and yells, and everyone in the room watches, helpless.
Suddenly, the black magic dissipates, and the voices go quiet. The queen falls to the ground, eyes open, crumpling like a discarded doll.