Chapter 24 - Out of the Flames, Into the Bonfire
Cecil pushed Edna into the secret passage with surprising strength. “The flames won’t reach this place. Hide here and bide your time, then exit the rampart along the passageway. Don’t let this mother’s death go to waste and live as a woman in the world you’ve longed for all your life. God will protect you. Here, go ahead,” Cecil said and gently patted Edna’s face, a caress she had never initiated before. Her motherly touch was full of sorrow, but Edna was so scared and nervous that she didn’t realize it.
Soon Cecil closed the secret passage. Unable to open the door from the inside, Edna howled for someone to open it and rained punches on the stone door, not realizing that it would not open again even if she slashed her hands open knocking on it.
Meanwhile, Cecil approached the tightly-latched door with her head raised. Pinning her gaze on the blazing torch beside it for a moment, she turned around and faced the remaining people.
“I’m so sorry you had to come with me to this,” Cecil said and threw the oil-filled torch on the floor.
Those waiting inside the room quickly realized that the queen planned to burn them along with her. They rushed toward the door, screaming, but Cecil stood in front of the exit. The door had been bolted tightly so that no one could go outside. Hot tears flowed down her face as she said, “I will go to hell and accept your punishment. But now no one will be able to get out of here alive. No one can know that Edna is alive.”
The fire filled the hall in an instant. Cecil threw all the other torches on the floor in a desperate bid to spread the fire further before Cayden’s soldiers broke the door and stormed in. Then, she headed toward the middle of the hall. The flames licked the hem of the dress with an alarming speed, but Cecil sat down in the middle of the hall and held her head up stiffly like a queen. Ophelia also sat behind her as if to guard Cecil even beyond death.
The queen’s eyes remained open even as the flames came upon her. She did not let out a single scream, silently hoping Edna would forgive her for not saying a single warm word to her child throughout her entire life.
That was how Cecil exchanged her life for Edna’s.
Later, when the doors were opened, everyone inside had already been scorched to death. Cayden, upon hearing the tragic news, ran in to confirm that the open-eyed, sitting body wearing a crown was Queen Cecil.
“Find Eden’s body. If he runs away, we have to track him down to the ends of hell.” Cayden ordered.
At his command, the soldiers began to identify the bodies one by one, frowning at the terrible smell.
“Here he is,” one of them said.
The body had the large ruby ring of the prince on its finger. Cayden pulled out the ring himself, grabbed it tightly, and muttered, “Dreadful people. I can’t believe they burned themselves alive.”
Cayden then ordered the soldiers to clear it all up, went outside, and raised both hands in front of everyone. The people who saw the victory gesture cheered in unison. Now a new world would come. Cayden symbolized a new hope and world for them.
* * *
“It’s hot, it’s hot, don’t. Take me too, NO!”
At the sudden sound of Edna’s sleep talking, Eli turned his head and looked around, checking if a spark of the fire traveled around as he was asleep, but there was no such thing. Then, suddenly, Edna sprang up and tried to walk into the fire.
“…What’s wrong?” Eli asked, confused.
“I have to go. I have to go with them.” Edna muttered incomprehensibly and tried to walk into the fire, shrugging off Eli’s shirt.
It wasn’t until he saw her unfocused eyes reflecting the golden light of the fire that he realized she was still trapped inside her dreams. To prevent her from struggling, he grabbed her waist and arms tightly and retreated a few steps in a hurry.
As she continued to fight his grasp, he slapped her on the cheek. Her head swung back and she opened her eyes wide in an instant. Edna, who had been wandering between dream and reality for a while, looked up at Eli. She covered her tingling cheek with both hands and, realizing he was responsible for it, her eyes filled with tears.
She looked at him with accusing eyes which seemed to say, ‘Didn’t you say you wouldn’t hit me?’ and Eli let out a long sigh, saying, “You must have woken up from your dream now.”
“You turned out to be no different from all the others after all,” Edna murmured.
Even as she remained unaware of her previous actions and blamed him for slapping her, Eli remained calm. He said, “You have no idea what you were like just now. Should I have just let you burn yourself to death? I can do it if you want, but I hate the smell of burning skin the most. It completely screws up the mind and innards.”