Chapter 6 Paint the Roses Red

"How much longer until we get there?" Connor asked tiredly, he felt heavy as if he couldn't keep his eyes open. Cheshire seemed more jumpy than lately. She turned and frowned in a motherly fashion.

"You should rest." She said quietly, "the less weakness you are able to show in front of the queen the better."

Connor didn't question her words but he did ask, "where will I sleep?"

Cheshire shrugged and motioned to the trunk of a tree. The idea of sleeping on that rough surface was not appealing but Connor sat and watched as Cheshire's nimble hands moved over a pile of wood, quickly turning that pile into a camp fire. The warmth caused Connor's mind to loudly report how tired he was. He could feel stress in every one of his muscles, slowly loosening. Quickly he was asleep.

Her gold cat eyes scanned over the sleeping human. If I really did have a speck of humanity I'd end his life now.

Her clawed hand flexed as blood began pounding into it, the desires of her ancestors making themselves known to her. She bit down hard on her tongue until iron was all she tasted. The quick pain brought her back and she crouched on her heels, tending to the fire.

Let us kill him. Voices upon voices echoed in her head, all genders all ages. One small fact not known by many about cheshire cats, once they reach a predetermined age they stay that old until they die. Due to this, no cheshire has ever died of old age. In fact, most were beheaded once they began to lose control of themselves.

I'm not so far off from that. Cheshire thought glumly. She, so far, had lived more lifetimes than almost all of her ancestors combined. She was by far, the strongest of her kin. Yet, some argued she was simultaneously the weakest. As Duldee said, "Ches is too nice for her own good."

Cheshire stood, feeling the anxiety brought on from being in such a close proximity to the queen's rose garden. Many saw those roses and only saw the vibrant, beautiful red they were. Hardly any person ventured close enough to smell the iron, see the flecks of a dried brown substance, the way the roses gleamed like water. Hardly a person knew those roses were red with the blood of the queen's adversaries. More like the queen's prey.

She glanced down at the human boy. He had actually impressed her, with the stoic stubbornness and determination he possessed. With the fact he had not run from her, even after she attempted to kill him.

Cheshire began to pace, anxiety forcing her body into movement.

"He really does look quite helpless, doesn't he Ches?" The cold voice sounded from behind her and without hesitation Cheshire turned and knelt.

The queen stood, several feet taller than Cheshire, staring down at the human boy with her wide gleaming smile. She made a hand motion and Cheshire immediately rose, looking down.

"I wonder what his blood would look like on my roses… they've been seeming a little too brown lately. Perhaps it is time to paint them yet again."

Cheshire suppressed a shudder.

The queen's hand twitched and her eyes focused on the boy's chest over his heart, then moved to the pulse on his neck.

Cheshire silently prayed the queen wouldn't just kill the boy in front of her. She didn't mind blood or torture, but what the queen did to her victims was more than torture. Ripping apart the body's rib cage than forcing the heart out to eat it before her victim's eyes. The veins were never broken until the queen decided, ensuring the victim remained alive as long as possible and then bled out. The queen prided herself in extracting all the pain possible from one person in the short time before death. There was a reason her staff didn't include a torturer, or well interrogator.

"My lady," Cheshire spoke softly so as not to wake the sleeping human, "do you wish me to end his life? Or will you do it?"

"Who said i was going to kill him?" The queen laughed, the sound like breaking glass, "Like I said, I can wait. I want to see his potential."

Cheshire silently nodded, thanking whatever force was in control that she would not have to witness another bloody excuse for a death.

Connor shifted in his sleep, leaning on his side against the rough bark of the tree. He looked uncomfortable so Cheshire figured he had to have been extremely tired to sleep there.

"It's so ugly it's adorable in a hairless animal sort of way." The queen commented, her smile gleaming while she spoke.

Cheshire suppressed a laugh. Adorable, she supposed, meant something different in her mind than in the queen's.

Connor stirred letting out a yawn. He heard a voice say something and then Cheshire said something in a hushed whisper he couldn't pick up. He opened his eyes and looks up to see Cheshire standing in front of him. One of her clawed hands was flexed and tense.

Connor gulped, slowly beginning to stand up. He had learned never to make sudden movements when near a predator. Cheshire's eyes gleamed slightly and she turned motioning for the human to follow her.

Leaving the forest showed a large clearing and in the distance a spiraling column of ice. Surrounding the ice for miles were hedges of roses.

"Stay close to me, do not wander off, do not touch anything. Am I clear?" Cheshire said.

"Yeah." Connor replied, mind reeling. Cheshire sounded anxious… scared even.

"Good." Cheshire began forward toward the hedged of roes and moved along the outskirts of them until she came upon a large opening barely big enough to fit her.

"Um, Cheshire?"

"Yes?"

"Why are the roses… wet?"

Cheshire stopped dead. She looked over her shoulder at the human and said quietly, "can you honestly tell me, after week in this place, you can not figure that out for yourself?"

"Stupid question. Right, sorry. Um, rephrase: what would happen if I touched one?"

"If you so much as grazed your finger on one of the thorns your body would go paralyzed in a matter of moments and your brain would melt. Tricky bit of magic that, I actually helped pull it off."

Connor's hands shot back to his pockets nervously.

With that the pair traveled in silence, moving through the thick maze of bloody roses with a speed Connor attributed to Cheshire's knowledge of the defenses surrounding the castle.

Hey guys! This chapter is so overdue and I feel bad that it's so short -. Sorry about how long it's taking me to update things, School and life and etc. are insane for me. As always, thank you to my readers. Enjoy the story! ~HellanTroy