Uncalled For Actions (6/?)
Days 36 – 42 of the experiment.
Her heart thrummed in her head as she tore through the castle using every secret passage she knew.
It drowned out all other sounds including her labored breathing and her feet slamming against the polished stone floor which also meant she didn’t hear Martellus gaining on her until it was too late. His arm reached around her middle, lifting her right off the floor as she kicked and flailed.
“You little brat,” he hissed in her ear, breath hot and stale from running. “Give me the bottle, Violetta, and we’ll pretend none of this happened.
“Why? What are you going to use it for?”
Martellus laughed. “Why would I tell you that? So you can go tattle to Tarvek. They’re so cute at this age.” He tweaked her nose just as the other two idiots trotted up, breathing hard from their snail’s pace jog.
“Get rid of her, Tweedle,” Orrik said, “she knows too much already.”
Violetta struggled harder, twisting every direction, but Martellus’ grip iron, and the more she fought, the tighter he squeezed her until she couldn’t catch her breath.
“I’m not going to have to do that, now am I, Vi? You’re going to be a good girl and hand over the bottle and not tell anyone about this and then we’re all going to go on our merry way, right?”
She glared over her shoulder at him but knew her options were limited so she calmed her struggles until he relaxed his grip some.
“Good girl, I knew-”
Then she bit his hand until she tasted blood. Martellus screamed, dropping Violetta who landed in a full run, tossing a smoke bomb behind her for good measure.
“Get her, you idiots!”
His minions weren’t as fast as Martellus, but their much longer legs still gained quickly on her. She bounced off the wall at the end of the hall and dodged through an open door into a sitting room.
She hopped the back of the sofa, bouncing onto the coffee table then to the chair using her momentum to tip it and roll out the other door back onto her feet.
Orrik and Warner tripped and banged their way through the unfamiliar room like ogres on a rampage, breaking furniture on the way–Uncle Wilhelm was going to be mad.
Violetta bolted down the corridor, sliding into an open area on the other side of the castle and right into strong arms. Instinct kicked in as she fought back before she actually took a look at her attacker. Gil frowned at her until she quick struggling then set her on her feet; Anevka blinked wide, round eyes at them.
“Violetta, what’s going on?” she asked, finally recovering from the shock of nearly being run over by the tiny girl.
Violetta glanced over her shoulder and bit her lip–she could confess or run, running being the smarter option.
“More family?” Gil asked.
“Another cousin–she’s not supposed to be here.”
Violetta crossed her arms, scowling at Anevka as fiercely as she could muster. “I live here.”
“Smoke Knights are forbidden from the summit.”
Violetta snarled, but Gil put a hand up, stopping the argument before it could spill from her lips.
“Wait, she’s a Smoke Knight? I thought you said they were your bodyguards?”
“There’s more to it than that–they’re also often bound to us at birth.”
Gil looked horrified. “Like a slave?”
“I’m not a slave,” Violetta shouted, face nearly as red as her hair.
Anevka shrugged. “She’s still in training and shouldn’t be here where she can be seen.”
Violetta was two seconds away from kicking her cousin in the shin when she heard footsteps pounding up behind her.
She managed to dart out of the way seconds before Tarvek slammed into Gil, sending them both tumbling across the floor. They landed with Tarvek pinning Gil to the ground.
“It’s always you,” he yelled as he brought his fist down on Gil’s face.
Anevka screamed then started smacking Tarvek on the back which did nothing to distract him from his purpose. Gil took one, two, three blows before he managed to wiggle his arms free and block the fourth, blood already gushing from his nose and busted lip.
Violetta had no idea what was going on, but she knew she needed to stop Tarvek before he did something monumentally stupid–that was part of her job. Before she could act, though, familiar strong arms crushed her chest again.
“Ah, ah, ah, not so fast.”
“Let go of me,” she yelled, kicking at Martellus’ knees.
“If you want to help dear cousin Tarvek, you’re going to have to give me the bottle.”
Violetta growled as her mind raced through her options as limited as they were.
The two boys rolled across the floor, nearly taking Anevka with them, this time Gil ending up on top. He grabbed Tarvek by the lapels and slammed him down hard enough to knock his glasses free, but Tarvek caught the other boy off guard by bringing a foot up into the back of his head, sending him flying head over heels.
Anevka wheeled around on them, face as red as her hair. “Will you do something?” she shouted at Martellus.
Martellus tightened his grip on Violetta and laughed. “I am. I’m giving three to one odds on the runt putting Tarvek in his place–any takers?”
Orrik and Warner laughed along with him while Anevka stomped over and smacked his arm which only made him laugh harder.
“Fine,” Violetta said through clenched teeth after Gil landed a punch to the gut, doubling Tarvek over long enough for Gil to kick him to the ground and land on top of him again. She pulled the bottle from her cloak and shoved it into Martellus hands even as he was letting go of her.
She charged into Gil, slamming him into the wall and was back on her feet before Gil knew what hit him.
He shook his head, looking around in confusion.
Violetta got between the two as Tarvek got to shakey legs, ready to take another shot at Gil. “Stop it,” she yelled at him, hands scrambling to get a grip on his coat, but he was so much bigger than her. “Tarvek, enough.”
“This is all his fault!”
* * *
Tarvek trembled with barely contained rage as Gil stood there looking dumbfounded.
“My fault? What did I do?”
Tarvek lunged for him again but tripped over Violetta, sprawling across the floor, forcing Gil to hop out of the way. She stood over him, hands on her hips with that disapproving look that reminded him of his grandmother so much shame flushed his face.
He rolled to his back with a defeated breath and stared at the detailed fresco of mostly naked ladies playing in a river adorning the ceiling. Why do we even have that?
Shaking his head, he tried to clear his jumbled thoughts–what was he doing again?
“Tarvek,” Anevka yelled, stomping her foot next to his face. “What is wrong with you?”
Gil reached a hand out to help him up, but Tarvek smacked it away, allowing Violetta to drag him to unsteady feet instead
Anevka wrinkled her nose, taking a step back. “Have you been drinking?”
The shame deepened as he glared at his boots–it wasn’t like him to lose control.
Martellus and his idiot friends snickered from across the room while Gil scratched the back of his head looking awkward and bewildered. Tarvek sighed, rubbing at his burning eyes–was he crying?
Violetta shoved his glasses into his hands with more force than necessary, irritation rolling off of her in waves that chilled his skin. He didn’t know what to do now or what to say which disturbed him because he always had a plan, was always three steps ahead of the game.
He had to be in their family or he’d be eaten alive, but the fight left him out of his element, feeling ashamed and confused over his irrational actions.
“Tarvek,” his sister said softly, moving between him and Gil, “are you all right?”
He nodded without answering, not trusting his own voice or ability to not say something stupid he’d regret later.
In the distance, a horn sounded.
Martellus snorted. “Not that this hasn’t been positively entertaining, but we have business to attend to. Good luck explaining that,” he added, gesturing towards Tarvek with a smug expression before sauntering off, his minions trailing behind.
Tarvek gingerly touched his lip, his fingers coming away slick with blood. He ran his tongue over the wound then wiped away the rest with this sleeve before finally glancing at his victim who looked much worse with bruises around his eye and blood dribbling from his nose and busted lips.
Gil still hadn’t said anything–he just stared in disbelief until he realized Tarvek was watching him then quickly looked away.
Anevka let out a long breath. “Come on, we better go talk to father before we’re even more late–he’s already angry with you for missing the meeting this morning.”
“I know,” Tarvek mumbled, falling into step beside her.
Gil trailed behind them, still unnervingly silent; Violetta was nowhere to be seen.
“I really can’t believe you, Tarvek,” Anevka muttered. “Drinking, fighting–that’s not like you. And why? What did Gil ever do to you?”
The anger pressed against his chest again as memories flooded his mind–if she only knew.
Gil running away in tears despite Tarvek’s calls of reassurance.
Being dragged out of the vaults to the Baron’s office.
The look on Gil’s face–anger and mistrust–that sent a sharp pain of fear and disappointment through him.
Gil, his best friend in the world, the only person he ever trusted, ratting him out with no signs of remorse just seething animosity.
Leaving behind the one place he’d ever felt at ease back to the turmoil and abuse of his family.
Tarvek shoved the thoughts far back in his head where he’d kept them locked up for the last five years. “You wouldn’t understand,” he mumbled, hunching his shoulders in a useless attempt to shelter his fragile emotions.
“I wouldn’t understand? Maybe if you told me what was going through that thick head of yours I could try.”
“Just drop it, okay.”
Anevka threw her hands up in the air. “I will never understand boys–you’re all idiots.”
She stomped off, leaving Tarvek behind with Gil, his anger already beginning to boil up again. He wheeled around, forcing Gil to stumble back. “Are you just going to stand there?” he shouted.
Gil blinked at him. “What do you want me to say?”
The words bounced around Tarvek’s head, but he bit them back, instead only glaring at his ex-friend.
Gil crossed his arms defensively. “You were the one that attacked me–I didn’t do anything.”
Tarvek clenched his fists, ready to deck Gil again. “I can’t believe you. You come into my house and like nothing happened, like you deserve to be here, like you belong in this world.” He took a step closer, jaw tight, eyes hard. “We both know that’s not true–you don’t belong anywhere, Holzfäller .”
The words had the desired effect as hurt flashed across Gil’s bruised face before it was replaced by burning fury. “You think I want to be here?” Gil hissed, shoving Tarvek back a step. “You think I wanted to come here and deal with this?” He motioned between them. “That I wanted to listen to you insult me like the spoiled brat you are and always have been.”
Another shove knocked Tarvek to the ground while Gil loomed over him, eyes blazing. “I don’t want to be here,” he said through gritted teeth, voice trembling eerily. “I told the Baron this was a bad idea.”
Another step had him nearly on top of the startled Tarvek as he scrambled back. What was wrong with him?
Gil kept coming. “You have no idea what I’ve been through. You don’t know me at all,” he shouted.
* * *
Fury raged through Gil’s veins as he stood over Tarvek, watching the panic spread across his features as he realized what Gil already knew–he had all the power right now.
And he liked the way it felt.
He promised himself a long time ago he’d never let anyone hurt him again–physically or otherwise–especially know-it-all, spoiled princes, and he didn’t have to take the abuse.
Tarvek’s eyes widened as Gil raised his foot over Tarvek’s chest, but before he could act on the pent-up resentment, hands crushed his arms, dragging him back. They didn’t let go as he tried to jerk free–to lunge at Tarvek.
A soldier stepped between them, and Gil was suddenly aware of the shouting around him, of the guns raised in his direction, of the danger he was in. He sucked in a sharp breath as the blazing white rage subsided, letting the muted colors of reality settle back in his vision.
His father’s words buzzed in his head–“The same passion that fuels the Spark often intensifies other emotions, and you must learn to restrain them lest they overwhelm your reason.”
What had he done?
Swallowing hard, he looked past the soldier at Tarvek’s hardened stare and quivering body. Gil couldn’t tell if he was shaking with fear or anger–probably both. Either way, Gil was in so much trouble.
He hung his head and didn’t resist as the guards marched him through the corridors, past the dining hall and ballroom to a large office where Prince Aaronev waited, obviously already informed of the events ahead of their arrival.
So much trouble.
The guards tossed him to the ground at their feet like a sack of potatoes which is about how the Prince looked at him–like he was worthless. It was about how Gil felt at the moment.
The lead soldier stepped forward. “We found him attacking Master Tarvek, Your Highness.”
Gil pushed wearily to his knees and stared up at the reddening face of the Prince.
“How dare you,” the Prince sputtered before turning to his son, giving him an equally scathing look. “Tarvek, is this true?”
All heads swiveled towards the younger prince who shifted his weight uncomfortably under their scrutiny.
“Well?” Aaronev demanded.
Tarvek closed his eyes and took a deep breath, blowing it out slowly. Before he could answer, though, the doors flew open, the Baron marching in followed by Barkley and another suspiciously intimidating assistant.
His eyes immediately fell to Gil still kneeling. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“That’s what I’d like to know, Klaus. I was under the impression that this was a peaceful summit, is it not?”
The Baron’s gaze shifted to the Prince. “But of course.”
“Then explain to me why your apprentice tried to assassinate my son? I suppose it was all in the name of peace?” He spat the last word like it left a bad taste in his mouth.
Gil’s jaw dropped. Assassinate?
To his credit, Tarvek looked just as bewildered. “Father,” he started, but was interrupted by the Baron, calm and composed and emotionless as always.
“Is this true, Gilgamesh?”
“What?” Gil said, voice cracking with indignation. “Of course not!”
The Baron simply raised a questioning eyebrow that managed only to enrage Gil further–did he not believe him?
“Liar!” shouted the Prince, growing even redder. He stepped forward in a flash, slapping Gil hard enough to send him to the ground and bring the sting of tears to his eyes that he furiously blinked away before pulling himself upright again. “I warned you, Klaus, about using riffraff like this as an assistant. They can’t be trusted. Unless this is your plan–disposable assassins.”
“Father,” Tarvek tried again through clenched teeth but went ignored as his father raised his hand to strike again.
The blow never came.
“That’s enough of that,” the Baron said, his hand wrapped tightly around Aaronev’s wrist. “Let the boy speak in his defense.”
“There is no defense.”
“Father,” Tarvek shouted, finally getting their attention just as a side door crashed open as Anevka spilled in, dragging a disgruntled Martellus behind her.
“Gil didn’t do anything,” she said between breaths. “Tell them, Tweedle.”
The older boy shrugged. “I didn’t really see much.”
Anevka smacked his arm, getting another amused shrug. She growled and shoved past him to the center of the room. “Gil is innocent,” she insisted.
Aaronev pointed furiously at Tarvek’s bruised face. “So you’re saying he did that to himself?”
Anevka’s mouth opened and closed like a little fish, her eyes darting to her brother then the floor. “Um-”
The Prince huffed in triumph. “Arrest him.”
“I didn’t try to kill him,” Gil yelled as the soldiers reached for him.
Anevka jumped in front of him, hands on her hips. “Tarvek started it. He attacked Gil for no reason.”
Tarvek’s eyes fluttered shut as he let out a soft breath.
The Prince looked from his daughter to his son to Gil and then back to Tarvek–you could practically see the steam erupting from his ears.
“Gilgamesh,” the Baron said with deadly calm, “do you have anything to add?”
Gil locked his jaw and glared–at his father, at the Prince, and finally at Tarvek who had managed not to make eye contact with Gil once since they arrived in the office. If they thought Gil was going to tattle like a five-year-old, they were sorely mistaken–he’d learned his lesson a long time ago.
They all waited for one of the boys to say something.
Gil wished he knew what Tarvek was thinking. Was he going to confess with what little integrity he must possess? Or insist Gil was to blame in which case, Gil figured the Prince would side with his son even over Anevka’s protests.
Maybe he just wasn’t going to say anything at all.
Gil’s blood threatened to boil over the longer Tarvek stayed silent–they all might get to see a murder after all.
The Baron cleared his throat, drawing the attention back to him. “Prince Tarvek, if Herr Holzfäller struck you then speak up as we should like to know.”
Gil glared daggers at his father, but Aaronev huffed.
“If, Klaus? It’s pretty obvious that he didn’t do that to himself,” he said jabbing his finger at Tarvek.
“That does not mean Gil did it,” the Baron said, still without an ounce of emotion.
How does he do that, Gil wondered. How does he stay so calm when Gil might explode at any moment? The look his father sent him made him believe his father knew exactly how short his fuse was and that he better get himself under control.
“Answer the Baron’s question, Tarvek,” the Prince commanded.
Tarvek looked like he might be sick as he swallowed hard before opening his mouth slowly. The entire room leaned forward to hear his side of the story, collectively holding their breath.
Say something, Gil screamed inside his head.
Then Tarvek belched. Loudly. Several of the guards sucked in sharp breaths while Anevka groaned and Tweedle snorted behind a fist.
The Prince grabbed a fistful of Tarvek’s shirt and shoved him back a step, getting right into his face. “Are you drunk?” he spat. When Tarvek didn’t answer right away, the Prince shook him hard.
“Only a little?” he mumbled already cringing away from this father’s coming wrath.
Prince Aaronev sputtered, his face shades darker than Tarvek’s hair–if he’d been angry at the thought of Gil fighting Tarvek, he was downright livid now.
“There,” the Baron said, taking a step towards the enraged father and hapless son. “Just a misunderstanding, I’m sure.”
The look he gave Gil said he better not disagree with that assessment. Gil nodded with determination despite the growing anger in the pit of his stomach–not even sure who he was more mad at anymore.
“Of course,” he said through gritted teeth, “a misunderstanding. He probably mistook me for someone he actually knew–I have that kind of face.”
He ended with a smirk in Tarvek’s direction, finally getting the other boy’s attention. His stomach instantly knotted at the confusion and despair he saw there, and he hated himself for reacting that way. Hadn’t Tarvek just beaten him senseless for no reason? Why did Gil care if Tarvek was in trouble with his father anyway?
The anger built–again he wasn’t sure where to focus it–Tarvek, his father, himself?–it was too confusing for his pummeled brain.
Anevka chose then to slip between her father and brother to probably smooth things over. Gil strained to hear what they were whispering, but it was useless and really none of his business.
Since no one was paying any attention to him anymore, he slowly got to his feet, side and knee aching from the fight. The Baron stood before him, hands clasped loosely behind his back–the perfect example of calm–but his eyes blazed with a fury Gil recognized easily. He was in so much trouble.
The Baron turned then to address the Prince. “Are we through here, Aaronev?”
The Prince only waved them away–no comment, no apology for slapping Gil and nearly having him arrested.
Figures, Gil thought as they exited, his father’s hand firm on the back of his neck, and tightening with every step.
[ Part 7 ]