Ebony surrounds me in its cold embrace, hiding me from my pain. At least for a little bit. I am sitting in my cell. Keeping a silent watch on a silent dungeon. Two weeks have passed since I was betrayed and arrested. Throughout them I have endured numerous tortures, although I am always healed shortly afterwards. They would not dare go too far and kill me accidentally, I am far too important to the Queen as a source of information. I am the only one who knows the name of the rebel leader—known only as the Jinx—so far as she knows, and I intend to keep it that way. The true name of the Jinx is my key to staying alive as long as I have in this place.
The ball and chain on my leg is rubbing my sores raw again. I will bear permanent scars from this imprisonment. I think to myself before realizing that it doesn’t matter, for tonight I will die.
This thought brings a grim smile to my face and I whisper through my pain, “My name is Bria Mason, I am sixteen years old. Today, on my birthday, I will die a rebel’s death. I am known by many names, to the Queen ‘the Spy’, to my followers ‘the Jinx’, to my jailer I am prisoner 114283.” I glance at the numbers tattooed on my forearm, gazing at them for a full minute before I utter the final words, “Today I will die a rebel’s death.”
Those whispered words echo mockingly through my silent cell, as they have so many times. Bouncing from wall to wall, they toll my defining truth like a church bell on a winter’s night. Those words have become my key to sanity—I cannot lose that now.
I have kept it from them, through torture heaped on torture I have kept it from them. The Queen is too impatient though; tonight she will push too hard and kill me. The oaths I took bind me to silence, and although even now I could speak, betray the entire rebellion and receive numerous rewards, I will not. I care far too much about the many people we have helped and worked with to do as the Queen asks and list their names so she may kill them. Better that I die than our cause dies.
I do not fear death, in truth I have begun to think of it as an escape from the pain I have endured. Pain that has begun to toy with my thoughts. In my worst moments, I am sure I am not sane, but some little thought always reminds me of what sanity is. I keep repeating my names to myself over and over, trying not to lose sight of who—what—I am.
When I agreed to become the Jinx, I knew that when I died it would be alone. Is it not always such with those who bear a great responsibility? But I did not suppose it would be so hard to give the ultimate sacrifice.
It is not hard in the way I thought; indeed, I am happy that my death will help my—our—cause. Yet strangely enough, I am scared that I will not have done enough. Unexpected regrets fill me; I regret that I did not do more when I had the chance; I regret not respecting my advisors; and most of all, I regret not telling him my feelings. But why should these regrets come? Have I not given everything? I do not know the answer.
I resist the urge to try and escape, it would only make me look like a weakling anyway. And how can I give everything to a cause if when the time comes for my devotion to show I cannot devote myself without fear?
Night is falling and with it, my final hours approach. In a moment, two guards will open the door and take me to the Queen—to my death.
As if on cue, the heavy stone door swings open with a creak. Two of the Queen’s personal guards step in, confirming what I already knew. Tonight will be my death.
One of the guards turns to me, as he speaks his cold, cruel voice rings off the stone walls. “Come on wretch. You’re to have an audience with the Queen.”
I stand and lift my chin defiantly. The heavy chains I wear make it hard to balance and I nearly fall, but I am able to accomplish my goal. I look him in the eyes and stare at him with nothing less than pure contempt. I can tell he is surprised; I’m sure he expected fear, rage, perhaps even a girl seeking pity, anything other than the proud contemptuous stare I give him now.
His companion, who has yet to speak, comes and removes the ball and chain from my leg. Picking up a pair of leg irons, he places them around my ankles. He does the same with my wrists with a smaller, although similar, set of chains. My gaze holds nothing for him; he is one of the many I fought to free, simply trying to help his family. His type cannot help their fear of those in power.
Instead, I concentrate all of my rage, pain, and hate into my looks at the other guard. He does not fight to protect his family—I’m sure he has none—rather he simply enjoys inflicting pain on those weaker than himself. It is people like him that make this empire what it is, a hard place of callous people and corrupt rulers.
Freed of the encumbering chain I had been wearing I stand steadier now, drawing myself up to my full height. I am not particularly tall, but I feel better when I’m not groveling at someone’s feet. It gives me the courage to stand proud and strong.
Our full procession leaves my cell now, with a guard on either side of me. I walk through the corridor, the dark and damp feel of it weighing down on me, leaving me in the grip of my fear. One overpowering thought presses down on me: I walk to my death.
The screams of tortured prisoners echo off the walls, but even more disturbing are the sounds of moans in between each scream. Maniacal laughter rings through the hallway as someone finally gives into madness. This is a place of horrors. There are stories of this place throughout the kingdom. Stories of men so desperate for the end, the end of their tortures, that they have starved themselves to death. Other’s tales have spoken of the many who somehow found a way to hang themselves, a shorter end but one much harder to achieve due to lack of materials. Not one person has escaped since the prison was built; it is pointless for any to resist and try to damage that reputation. The reputation of torture, beatings and perfect impregnability. The cold stones the make up the dungeons have a haunting cold appearance. A chill seeps in through the marrow of my bones. This is the place of death and dying; the place I will die my rebels death.
I do not know how I will die, what new torture these captors have for me. All I know is that I will not survive the night. My body cannot take any me of their tortures and the Queen is losing the last of her meager patience.
A wayward stone pokes out of the floor and trips me. The chains I wear, although easier to stand in, still make it hard to regain my balance. Unable to stand I drop to the ground.
On either side of me, my guards begin raining down kicks on my already bruised body. I silently groan. Mentally I curse both men in every language I know. The desire to resist them comes to my mind but self-preservation stops me from doing anything.
It is strange I should care whether I die now or later. The thought springs to my mind unbidden. Perhaps it is because I have yet to fully give up the hope of escape, although in my heart I know I will die tonight.
Dodging kicks, I force myself to stand again. As I had hoped, the kicks stop and we continue down the hall.
The end of the long corridor is approaching now. A cold gray door stands ahead. This door will take me to a room of death and dying. In the past I’ve pretended indifference to where they take me and what they do to me but now, in my final hours, I let terror grip me in its iron fist. Laughing on my left reminds me of the cruelty of my captors. I mask my fear once more—allowing it to show only gives them the opportunity for more cruelty.
On my right, the guard opens the door, ushering me into what I refer to as the room of death. “Prisoner 114283.” I will die a nameless death. Is it not always so with leaders that do not accomplish their goals before death?
I walk through the door, my head high in defiance. A grim smile sets on my face as one last thought crosses my mind. As I walk to my death, I whisper it to myself one last time.
“My name is Bria Mason and today, on my sixteenth birthday, I will die a rebel’s death. I am the Spy. I am the Jinx, leader of the rebels. Today though, I lose all names and their corresponding identities. Today I am simply prisoner 114283 and today I will die among my enemies.
“Today I will die my rebel’s death.”