Secret Children 2: Lost Ruby

By Desert Mouse

Diamond brought the three children to the common room after supper. Sakura was a little disappointed because she wanted to help Rose, Holly and Sapphire clean up the dishes but Diamond wanted to get this over with quickly.

"The three of you know better then to play by the door. You Ruby should not be looking for hidden switches." Diamond said disappointed. After ten years she shouldn't still need to punish the other girls. They all knew the rules.

"There isn't any point in involving those two." Ruby said flat out, this was all her fault and she didn't see any reason the twins should share the blame with her. There wasn't anything to gain from it.

"I'm the only one to blame for this. I just wanted to show them what I think could have been a way to open the front door." Ruby explained.

"Is that how it went?" Diamond asked the twins. She believed that what Ruby said was exactly what happened but it was a matter of protocol to check with the younger girls if they agreed completely with the explanation.

"Sort of." Jade said hesitantly.
"I did agree to follow her though and Sakura just wanted to see where I was going." She explained. She didn't want to shrug off her own responsibility.

"Fair enough. Then Ruby I want you to sweep the third floor hallways. In return the twins will not share your punishment. Diamond decided.
"However there is one catch. They are not allowed to help you, if I don't see them both at Violets story tonight you will all receive extra chores tomorrow." She warned. She knew that there wouldn't be any problems because Sakura alone was harmless and Jade would never risk letting her sister get punished.

"If the task takes her before darkness descends she will miss the tale Violet tells from the heart." Sakura protested.

"Some of it yes, but I'll speak to Violet about privately retelling the part she misses." Diamond said.

"Don't worry its fine." Ruby said to Sakura with a gentle smile.

"I'll be expecting to see you shortly. If you don't play around your chore will not take long." Diamond said before taking the twins back down to help with what little remained of the supper dishes.

When she was left alone Ruby hesitated for several minutes. She knew that she should start her work soon, otherwise Diamond would quickly come up with something else for her to do.
"Why is she so strict about that door? Does it really matter if we just look and imagine?" Ruby wondered. It was impossible to escape the castle but what was wrong with dreaming?

"There's always a chance that one of the secret passages will lead out there. Shouldn't she be more worried about them then a silly door that's been sealed for ten years?" She thought with a heavy sigh. Then smiling to herself she left the common room to go get a broom.

Twenty minutes later she was about half finished and judging from the faded light coming from the window at the end of the hallway, Violet should be about ready to start her evening entertainment.

"I wonder what kind of story she's telling tonight." Ruby said to the lonely hallway. The only reply was the echo of her own voice. Nearby she looked at the statue of some terrifying beast keeping a close watch over the area. It was one of many statues in this hallway just like it except that this one had a chipped eye.

"It was somewhere around here wasn't it?" she whispered with excitement. She was alone up here, all the other girls were busy listening to Violet's story and she knew there was one around here.
"What harm is there in taking a look? I didn't have time to explore when I first found it and I'd like to see where it goes." She thought walking along the east wall. She started tapping some of the stones to remember where exactly it had been.

She was rewarded with the sound of a low rumble and a sharp click. Ruby gently pressed on the wall and it gave way to show her the spiral staircase hidden behind the secret door. The last time she found this she was pressed for time when she heard Sapphire coming to clean something nearby. Back then she closed it quickly but now she would have all the time she needed.

Excited about her adventure Ruby stepped past the door and started up the stairs. As it closed she found herself in complete darkness. Carefully she reached upwards until she could feel the steps directly above her, using them as her guide she walked forward. At first she tried to keep track of how high she was going, but the winding path started to make her dizzy. Then her hands felt the top steps disappear and she had to go in completely blind.

"I must be almost at the top. There are no steps above me anymore." She thought satisfied. Then she lost her footing when a piece of the stone step chipped away under her and she slipped down several steps. She felt a flash of pain in her right ankle and she couldn't help but scream when she tried to put her weight back on it. The injury retreated to a dull throb when she held it suspended or sat down.

"I don't think I can get back down on this ankle." She thought painfully. In the darkness she couldn't even see the stairs so if she missed a step trying to dangerously hop down she could really get hurt. Carefully Ruby eased herself back down on her knees and crawled up the stairs.

"I'll have to see where this goes and hobble down to the common room to see Emerald." She decided. It would be easier to go down a flight of stairs when she could see them so she slowly and painfully continued to crawl upwards.

When she felt the top, Ruby carefully pushed her way past the trap door. The passages in this castle were all designed so that it was hard to open and find the way in, but you could travel through them and exit without seeing a thing.

She heard the door click behind her and found herself in a half filled closet. She couldn't see the clothing but she felt really long sleeves brushing against her head while she crawled. Perhaps if she had known they were not dresses, but garments made for an entirely different gender she would have did her best to turn around but she didn't suspect anything.

She tried not to jolt her ankle when she reached the end. She felt her head come into contact with the closet door so she got onto her knees. She opened it and her heart sunk immediately.

"Where am I? I have never been in this room before." she thought looking around. It was a bedroom, much larger then any of the girls rooms, Emeralds included. It was decorated with the same care and finery as the common room.

"It can't be… This is one of the forbidden rooms." She realized with dread. There would be no simple way back down. She didn't even have to try the door to know that it was locked and the only way out of here was the same way she just came from. And with her ankle she wouldn't be able to look for the passage-opening switch.

"What am I going to do?" she wondered out loud while she slowly crawled to the bed dominating the room. She got on top of it and lifted the hem of her dress to take a look at her injury.

"It doesn't look too bad." She thought. Ruby tested it by trying to stand up and putting her full weight onto it again. Her ankle burned with pain and she let out a shriek before falling back onto the bed.

"Its no good, I can't stand up" she whimpered. The only thing that she could do now was hope her disappearance was noticed and someone came looking for her. She was going to have to wait patiently until elsewhere in the castle Violet finished her story.

"Diamond is really going to be mad at me now." Ruby whispered almost laughing at the irony of her situation. This was exactly the reason that Diamond was always scolding her for exploring.

"She doesn't like it when I explore but I just have to know everything about this castle." Ruby thought. She didn't really mind that the girls could never leave, or that she would never see what was beyond the walls. As long as she could explore the secrets of her prison she was happy. But it often put her at odds with Diamond who's job it was to enforce the castles rules.

Sakura glanced over at the door again with a worried look on her face. It sounded like Violet was almost finished her story and even though the little twin was enjoying it, she couldn't help but wonder why Ruby hadn't joined them yet.

"The adventure nears it's end but Ruby's seat remains alone."" She said in a low whisper to her sister.

"When Violets done we will go up and see her." Jade promised. Ruby wasn't the only one that was missing tonight, as usual Lily retreated back to her room to hide immediately after supper.

After several more minutes Violet brought her story to a happy close but there was still no sign of the castles little explorer.

"I fear what fell Ruby, night has fallen, a brooms dust must have settled but she remains an echo yet to come." Sakura spoke up at last to Diamond.

"She should have completed her chores by now." The older girl commented. She looked briefly at the twins then turned to the other girls.
"Violet, Emerald, Sapphire, and Marigold please come with me to the third floor. If Ruby I not where she's supposed to be then we will have to search the entire castle for her." Diamond said simply.

"She's probably just hiding like Lily. Why should we have to hunt her down?" Marigold protested.

"Or she could be hurt, we won't know until we go up there." Emerald replied calmly.

"The hunt will not depart without the smallest of eyes." Sakura said defiantly. She puffed her cheeks determined.

"Fine with me." Diamond replied. Since Jade and Sakura never went anywhere separately the seven of them headed to the third floor where Ruby was supposed to have been sweeping. It didn't take them long to find her abandoned broom resting beside one of the old statues.

"All right split up. Violet and Marigold you two search the first floor, get Holly to help you when you see she's done attending the animals. Jade and Sakura you take the second floor. Emerald and I will search this floor then move to the stairs, towers and eventually the dungeon. Sapphire you're alone but id like you to take the fourth floor." Diamond commanded. The other girls nodded and split up to search. She was confident that the eight of them would be enough and wouldn't need the help of Crystal who would probably just end up hurting herself. She didn't bother with Rose or Lily because however helpful Rose tried to be her lack of speech meant that she couldn't call to Ruby to get her attention and Lily's mind was too far gone.

Ruby returned her gaze to the nearby desk. There were a couple rolled up scrolls and a dust covered book sitting on top of it, she was curious about what they might be but couldn't get to her feet to go look.

"Maybe they are maps of the castle and all its secrets." She thought with a smile. They could even be instructions on how to open the front door or an explanation why the twelve of them had been imprisoned in the castle.

"Ruby." She heard a muffled voice call out. She couldn't make out the owner of it but she sounded like she was trying to yell. Slowly her name got louder as the caller got a little closer until Ruby was almost sure that she would be heard.

"Holly is that you? I'm in here." Ruby called out. She waited until she heard her name again before making more noise until she heard the rattle-rattle of someone trying the doorknob.

"The door is locked, you'll have to open it." The voice called out.

"That's not Holly, it's Sapphire." Ruby realized now that she could hear the voice more clearly.

"I don't have a key. You will have to get Diamond." Ruby responded.
"Get Diamond…She's really not going to like this." she thought with a sigh.

"Did you look around inside? How did you get in there?" Sapphire was full of questions.

"I can't, I hurt my foot coming up here." Ruby explained.

"I'll get Diamond and Emerald just stay put." Sapphire said. Then she fell silent and Ruby found herself completely alone again.

"I hope she's not too long." Ruby thought taking another look at her ankle. This time she didn't dare try to stand on it, all she could do was poke at it and she found that it hadn't gotten any better.

Unfortunately she had a long wait before she finally heard people at the door again. This time it was Emeralds kind voice that called out.

"Are you ok? Sapphire said you hurt yourself."

"Its my ankle, I cant stand on it." Ruby responded. A moment later she heard keys rattling and one entered the lock.

"It's only been four years since she found that key in her room after the festival. She has only had to use it two other times." Ruby thought bitterly. This was going to cost her and she knew it. The door opened and the first one inside was Emerald holding the deep cinnamon coloured skystone she's had since the girls had first been locked up. Diamond stayed at the door glaring at Ruby coldly and blocking Sapphires path, after all this room was still forbidden.

"Let me see it." Emerald said to gently. She placed the skystone on Ruby's ankle and closed her eyes.

"What does she think about when she does that?" Ruby wondered watching the healer work. She didn't get to see this as often as Crystal did so she was intrigued. Soon her ankle's light throbbing stopped completely and when she put pressure on it there was no pain.

"Can she stand?" Diamond asked.

"She should be able to but I'd like for her to stay in my room tonight so I can make sure." Emerald replied. It wasn't an unusual request, almost every time that she used her magic to heal someone she kept them overnight in her room to be sure that the magic didn't wear off or have unusual side effects.

"No." Diamond replied flatly.

"What do you mean no?" Emerald protested.
"I'm the one responsible for our health."

"Not this time Emerald. Her punishment is effective immediately." Diamond replied. She looked directly at Ruby with a stare that made the younger girl want to hide.
"You know better then this Ruby. You not only abandoned your chore but you went looking for secret passages and came into a forbidden room even though its against the rules. This is why your not supposed to be exploring. Its for your own safety. You could have been even more seriously hurt and what would have happened if you couldn't make it to this bedroom?" She demanded.

"Sapphire wouldn't have found me." Ruby admitted. She took a deep breath. She knew that her sweeping chore was now over. What she did there could only be one punishment and it wasn't going to be to clean the stables, at least not yet.

"How long?" she asked.

"Several days at least." Diamond said finally. She left it at that, part of the punishment this time would be not knowing when it would come to an end.

"Thank you Emerald, and Sapphire.
 Ruby said getting back to her feet. With a heavy heart, knowing that there would be no great adventure for a long time she followed Diamond out.

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