Chapter Eleven: The Truth
In the darkness of her prison, Sylva struggled against her bonds, her mind
whirling as she came to terms with what was going on. Aware from the noise
drifting through the crack beneath the door, she could tell that the show
had begun in some style, and as tears began to roll once more down her cheeks,
she heard the first song begin to play.
So she had been wrong.
Inwardly she berated herself for being so stupid. Events with Jack had, she realised, made her suspicious and cynical, and Sadie's comments had not helped matters any. For a moment she found herself blaming Sadie for her predicament, but, grudgingly, she realised that in truth it was her own fault. She was the one who had been reckless enough to go in search of a drink when she had been attacked only twenty four hours before. And yes, now it made sense, how she had been grabbed in the darkness. It all made sense, and, as her captors had left the room, she had noticed one of them limping slightly.
Well, at least she had that to be proud of. She'd left one of them with one hell of a bruise.
"But they're going to kill me!" She remembered, struggling against her bonds with little success. "So what the hell does that matter? I've gotta get out of here, but how?"
She glanced around the room, squinting in the dim light. Her eyes had become accustomed to it, but it was still hard to make things out and, in her predicament, innocent objects seemed to cast sinister shadows on the wall.
"If I ever get out of here I'm so gonna apologise to Nat for what I accused him of." She decided, sinking back against the wall and closing her eyes in defeat. "But since I never am going to get out of here, I might as well..."
She froze as the door of the little room swung open, and someone entered. Humming a tune under her breath, she switched on the light, letting the door swing shut behind her. At first, Sylva wondered if this was another of the kidnappers' accomplices, but, as the girl turned, horror flooded her features. Exclaiming in Morvanian, she hurried down at the girl's side, quickly loosing the gag and reaching for her other bonds.
"What are you doing here? What happened?" She demanded, her expression one of shock and bemusement. "Did someone hurt you?"
Sylva took a deep breath.
"Kidnapped." She gasped, drawing air into her lungs, for the gag had made it uncomfortable and difficult for her to breathe.
"Someone kidnapped you?" The girl's eyes could not be any bigger. "But wait...Nadia and Mischa come - they will help you!"
"I think not, Semela."
A fresh voice came from the doorway, and Sylva glanced up in horror, meeting the cold, steely eyes of Nadia Kastano. Her brother was not far behind her, and his expression was equally forbidding. Semela shrank back from the captive, eying her friends in unsure confusion.
"But...I don't understand." She whispered in her own tongue. "What is this?"
"I told you not to come back here. I said there was a problem with the room, and that we had to move...but you wouldn't listen to me." Nadia said coldly, speaking in English so that her meaning could be understood by both girls. "Now you pay the price for interfering, Semela. Leave Sylvina's bonds alone. She is an enemy of Morvania, and she must pay the price for it."
"Since when have I been an enemy of anyone?" Sylva demanded, as Nadia gestured for Mischa to restrain Semela, coming to check Sylva's ties for herself. "I'm just a musician, here to play for my band, and that's all. Whoever you're working for - is it that Corvin? - I'm not a spy and I'm not here to cause trouble for Adreana! Whatever Mom was involved in, I knew nothing about it until I came here, and it wouldn't matter if I had!"
"Corvin?" Nadia stared at her, then she laughed. "What a silly girl you are, Sylvina. You have no imagination. Why would we work for Corvin?" She grimaced. "He is nothing more than the Queen's lover, and her bastard son's most likely father."
"Adreana's lover?" Sylva gaped, then, "What in hell has that to do with me?"
"Everything." Nadia's eyes narrowed. "Let me explain. Twenty or more years ago, my Grandmother Lexa governed this realm, till our beloved Queen came of age. Adreana is an idiot, she has no idea of politics or government. All she cares about is music and enjoying herself. Lexa would have made a good Queen, and for the sake of Morvania, she made a move for the throne. But your mother..." She paused, and Sylva shivered at the pure venom in the girl's tone. "Your mother and her friends changed all of that. They interfered in my Grandmother's work, and Adreana survived. She was crowned Queen, and Lexa was exiled to the cold borderlands, away from court and from everything she knew. She was a lady of the royal blood, and yet she was cast out like a common criminal! Such is Adreana's way of dealing with those who wish to bring Morvania under proper rule once more."
Sylva cast Semela a glance, seeing that the fair girl was terrified, bewildered hurt still filling her big blue eyes.
"I do not understand." She said in soft, faltering English. "You do all this to hurt Adreana? But she is our Queen!"
"She was never fit to wear the crown." Nadia snapped. She glared at Sylva. "And you...you come here with your Phyllis Gabor and your stupid American band to make it worse! Not only do you do your best to prevent us from winning the competition, but if you expect me to believe you are in no way involved in a plot, you must think me a fool. I have seen you, laughing and talking with Prince Anatole...you are as your mother was - a turncoat, and loyal only to that bitch Queen and her bastard."
"Nat is the Crown Prince?" Sylva's eyes almost fell out of her head, and Nadia stared at her for a moment. Then she began to laugh.
"You know, I almost believed that surprise was genuine." She said scornfully. "But no. Even you could not be that stupid." She shrugged. "Besides, it is of no matter. We have played our set, and we will win. We will dine at the Palace tonight..."
"You're going to hurt Adreana." Sylva's eyes narrowed as she realised the implications of her captor's words.
"Yes." Nadia nodded. "And the prince, and Corvin, and all of the wretched household." Her eyes glittered. "I am Lexa's oldest grandchild, and my mother and father are both dead now, thanks to Adreana's so called justice. Unlike Anatole, my bloodline is pure and I am Morvania's rightful heir. With Adreana gone, there will be no obstacle. I will be Morvania's next Queen, and Mischa," She cast her brother a smile. "Will be my Captain of the Guard."
"Well, that sounds nice and cosy." Despite herself, Sylva could not prevent the sarcastic response. "So you get to rule whilst he runs your errands. Is that what you are, Mischa? Your sister's errand boy? Sheesh."
"Nadia is the elder." Mischa said gruffly. "And it does not matter who is crowned. It matters that the throne returns to the right family."
"I think you're both nuts." Sylva said bluntly.
"I do not care." Nadia shrugged her shoulders. "Because you - and your would be rescuer here - will soon be dead, and nothing we do will ever concern you again." Her mouth twisted into a cold, humourless smile. "After all, such things must be done in the name of justice."
Copper leant up against the wall beside the drinks machine, a troubled frown crossing her face. "They're about six acts into the first half, and we still haven't found her. Where in hell could she be?"
"I dunno, but I wish I could find Nadia. She might have seen something, and they've already played." Nancy scoured the holding area, shaking her head. "Can't see them. They must have gone back to the dressing room - dammit. I was hoping that we could drag another pair of eyes into it."
"Or three pairs, if you consider Mischa and Semela as well." Sadie sighed. "I think we've settled that she's not at the drinks machine, anyway. Where now? Nat, you know this place better than us. Where's a good place to look?"
"If I wanted to kidnap somebody, then I would be sure to get them as far away from public gaze as possible." Nat said simply. "But, considering that all of this area is out of bounds to the general public...remember, performers come in and out all the time. Who would notice a handful of strangers? Many performers are from strange lands, and I doubt you could tell me if anyone here was not here to perform."
"Wouldn't have a clue." Nancy acknowledged, pursing her lips. "I see your point. You think someone might have slipped in with forged identity passes, in order to..." She bit her lip. "Well, that's the stumbling block. In order to what? Kidnap Syl? Hell, what kind of person would want to kidnap Syl? Shouldn't we be looking for someone traumatised?"
"Nancy, it isn't the time." Sadie snapped. She lit up a cigarette, ignoring the no smoking signs and the dark look her bandmate sent her. "It seems all we can do is continue to look."
"We should perhaps split up." Nat suggested. Copper shook her head.
"We don't know what we're up against." She reasoned. "There's safety in numbers."
"Good point." Nat acknowledged. He raised his voice, gesturing to the security guard and calling something in Morvanian. The man came over and, after a brief exchange, Nat turned back to his companions.
"I've told them that Sylvina is missing." He explained. "And asked them to organise a hunt. They will do so - we have our extra eyes."
"What gives you the right to order them around?" Nancy looked suspicious. "What are you, secret police? Is that why you've been tracking us? You knew Syl was in danger? Well if that's it, you're doing a damn bad job of it!"
"I did not know Syl was in danger, and I am not police." Nat shook his head.
"Nat is Adreana's son, Nance." Sadie said quietly. Nancy's eyes widened.
"You're the Crown Prince?" She demanded. "Really?"
"I'm afraid so." Nat looked sheepish. "I have a habit of evading royal escorts and doing my own thing, but it is true. Adreana is my mother, and I am heir to the throne."
"Well, if you ask me, it does make more sense somehow." Copper looked thoughtful. "You've been able to get...well...anywhere you liked, pretty much. Even here tonight. But doesn't your mother wonder where you are? I thought you were a guest of honour."
"My mother gave up trying to keep track of me a long time ago." Nat's eyes twinkled with amusement. "Corvin tries his hardest to keep me in line instead. But I am an adult now - I don't need to be nannied."
"Did Syl know about this?" Nancy asked.
"About who I am? No." Nat looked guilty. "I did not tell her - there have been too many girls wanting my power or my money and I did not want her to look at me that way. I like her very much, but I'm worried that I've put her in danger. You know that there has been some political trouble recently in Morvania? Well," as the girls nodded, "There have also been threats to the palace. Mother knows nothing of them, and even if she did, I doubt she'd know what to do with them. Corvin took me into his confidence about them."
"You think some nutter rebels have Syl?" Sadie demanded. Nat nodded.
"Most probably." He agreed. "I love my mother, but she is not a politician. The stories are true - Corvin makes the decisions behind the scenes much of the time. Although, as time goes on, I have more and more of that responsibility." his eyes twinkled. "One day I hope to be as good an orator as everyone says my father was."
"This is all very well, but we have a set to play and our synth player is still missing." Nancy pointed out. "Besides, if these people are nuts enough to send messages to the Queen, then they're nuts enough to do Syl some serious harm. The sooner we find her, the better."
"And I think I may have found our first clue." Sadie flicked ash from her cigarette, heading down the hallway as she caught sight of something glinting on the dark carpet. She picked it up, turning it over in her hand.
"What is it?" Copper came to join her.
"My necklace." Sadie said. "Alyssa gave it to me for my twenty first, but I said Syl could borrow it. She thought it might give her luck tonight, since we were singing my song, and well, she was pretty shook up last night about everything. I thought saying yes would help."
She squinted at the clasp. "It's broken. Looks like it fell off in some kind of a struggle."
"Yes, but where is Syl?" Nancy glanced around her. "What good is a necklace if we can't find the girl who was wearing it?"
"Shh!" Nat held up a hand, and the girls turned, eying him with some confusion. The prince seemed to be concentrating hard, his expression becoming darker by the moment.
"What is it?" Sadie whispered. "Did you hear something?"
"Voices." Nat nodded. "Speaking Morvanian, and then English. An odd combination. I thought I heard Sylvina's name...but I cannot be sure."
"Voices from where?" Copper asked. "Somewhere nearby?"
"Must be." Nat nodded. "With all the noise from the stage, it would be..." he faltered again. "Do you not hear it?"
"I hear something." Sadie nodded her head. "But I can't make it out, or where it's coming from. All that's down here are dressing rooms - ours is at the far end. Maybe that's where she is?"
"In Jewel's own dressing room?" Nancy looked sceptical. "Like that's not an obvious place for us to look."
In a few quick strides she had reached the door, flinging it open. "See? Empty."
"I wish we'd been able to find Atom." Copper looked pensive. "They're Morvanians and they probably know this place better than we do. Although, whoever it is could well be miles away by now. We weren't exactly intelligent in realising Syl was gone."
"We have one Morvanian with us." Nancy pointed out.
"Atom?" Nat's brow creased in a frown. "I did not realise that a Morvanian band competed in this competition."
"Well, you pay attention." Despite herself, Nancy raised an eyebrow. "It's their home turf - why wouldn't they?"
"Good point." Nat agreed slowly. "But then again, this is a secure area, and noone who is not on stage is allowed through those doors. When I told the guard to search for Sylvina, I also asked if all the security passes had been verified. He told me that they had - with Mother here, they would not risk doing otherwise. That means that, whoever took Sylvina is likely a performer themselves...and it stands to reason that the Morvanian act have to be prime suspects."
"Nadia?" Copper looked startled. "But she and her group are so nice! They showed us around Laviana and everything - you have to be mistaken!"
"Appearances can be deceptive, Copper." Sadie pursed her lips. "Look what we all thought of Nat, after all. We should have listened to Phyllis all along - we don't know who is friend or foe, and we don't know if people are nice to us simply to find out information about why we are here."
"Sadie's right." Nancy admitted at length. "We've barely known these guys a week - I can't even remember Nadia's last name, let alone anything much about them. We have know way of knowing if they're as they seemed or not."
"Kastano." Copper interjected absently. "That was her name. But it's fairly irrelevant. Even if Atom are behind this - and I can't believe it, I'm sorry - they're nowhere about."
"Kastano?" Nat's eyes opened wide. "Is that what you said?"
"Yes." Copper looked confused. "Why?"
"Now it all begins to make sense." Nat's clever eyes shadowed.
"Well, I'm glad it does to someone." Nancy rolled her eyes. "Nat, speak some sense, will you? We're running out of time, and if you know something that is important, spill!"
"I think it must be important." Nat responded quietly. "And it confirms my fear, that Sylvina is in danger because of her involvement with me. Some months ago there was a rebellion in the north of the country. Perhaps you know of it, though I confess it has been mostly kept from my mother's attention. She was wrapped up in preparing for this, and Corvin and I, we decided it was best things remained that way. The people responsible for the rising were caught, tried and sentenced to death. One of them was a woman named Sancha Kastano. She was executed a month ago."
"Why so swiftly?" Sadie looked startled. "I thought there was right to appeal and, you know, all of that stuff."
"It was too great a risk." Nat admitted. "Sancha Kastano was the daughter of a relative of mine, who plotted against mother's throne in 1986. Her name was Lexa, and she was exiled to the mountains, but she died within a couple of years, and noone thought that anything else would come of it." He sighed. "Sancha disappeared not long afterwards, and she must have married, since our secret police lost all traces of her. When trouble began again, it was no surprise that her name came into the fray. She was a widow by that time, and she had three children - one of them, the youngest, was also imprisoned after the riot up north. We had no information on the other two, and it seemed that they had severed contact with their mother. We had no reason to fear they were involved in anything, until you mention that name now. There cannot be a coincidence."
"So Sylva's been kidnapped by Nadia and Mischa, because they believe the throne of Morvania should be theirs?" Nancy demanded.
"I believe so." Nat spread his hands. "And unless we find her quickly, I fear that the victims of the Northern rebellion will not be the only ones to die at rebel hands!"
"Well, in that case, it's time we put a stop to this." Sadie said grimly. "If we heard voices - and I know we did - then they're still somewhere in the building. Since they've sweet-talked us, they probably don't believe they're even under suspicion. I don't know about you guys, but I know well enough that arrogance makes crooks careless. I wouldn't mind betting that Nat is right and they're here after all. Maybe not in Jewel's dressing room, but..." She indicated another door. "In their own."
"Well, then what are we waiting for?" Nancy demanded. "If Jewel are gonna play this show at all, let's go get her out!"
Prologue: Morvania, 1987
Chapter One: Los Angeles, 2014
Chapter Two: At The Airport
Chapter Three: Laviana
Chapter Four: The Competition
Chapter Five: The Queen
Chapter Six: Ransacked!
Chapter Seven: Anatole
Chapter Eight: Nerysa
Chapter Nine: A Frightening Realisation
Chapter Ten: Betrayal
Chapter Eleven: The Truth
Chapter Twelve: Heartfelt
Chapter Thirteen: Home