Nelly woke , lifting her head up off the window she had been resting against. She was still on the this train with a terrible feeling in her stomach that nobody but her seemed to get. The first day she had woken confused but one of her fellow passengers explained they were all going home. The explanation had settled her at the time. It wasnâ€™t until this morning, four days later that it hit her â€śgoing home from where?â€ť She decided to ask â€śWhere have we been?â€ť another question hit her and she asked it right away â€śand where is home?â€ť The question seemed to perplex the man she asked.
Lievon stood outside the all to familiar castle, his heart hammering in his chest, a knot forming in his throat. He couldnâ€™t even remember how long it had been since he had been here last, but he remembered the day he had been cast out. His betrayal of his friend still twisted in his heart and he knew he had no right to be here, but he needed Chthonâ€™s help. He forced himself to walk up to the front door and bang on it. He wasnâ€™t expecting the beautiful young woman who answered, but he could see both Ruth and Chthon in her.
â€śDo you think they had trouble on the road?â€ť Antia asked as she and Andrej waited at the front door of their home for her brothers.
â€śIâ€™m sure theyâ€™re fine my love.â€ť Andrej couldnâ€™t help but chuckle at how excited and worried she was. He could feel it. He pulled her into him and tipped her head back, adoring the blush that tinted her cheeks. â€śTheyâ€™re grown men and I am sure capable.â€ť
â€śAre you sure you have to go alone?â€ť Gaspare asked as Iom shouldered his pack.
â€śThis time yes.â€ť He took Gaspareâ€™s hands, pulling him close. â€śIâ€™ll be back before you know it and Iâ€™ll make it up to you.â€ť He leaned in, grinning as he kissed him, satisfied when Gaspare blushed.
â€śJust be careful.â€ť
â€śBut then it wouldnâ€™t be any fun.â€ť
â€śDonâ€™t worry so much, Iâ€™ve been there before. Two days there, two back, then you can do whatever you want to me.â€ť
Gaspareâ€™s face turned a deeper shade of red. â€śStop.â€ť
â€śI love you and Iâ€™ll be back soon.â€ť
â€śI love you too.â€ť
Iom left, heading away down the road. He usually brought Gaspare with him, but there was something special he wanted to get for him this time around. It was as he was as he was sleeping his first night out that he felt something cold pressing against his throat and he woke, blinking and bringing into focus the men standing over him. â€śWell heâ€™s a pretty one.â€ť The one who he was sure was the leader said.
â€śHow much do you think that monster will pay for him?â€ť Another asked.
â€śWait.â€ť Iom finally found his voice. â€śI donâ€™t want any trouble.â€ť
The leader kicked him in the stomach and Iom gripped his stomach as the air left his lungs. The man crouched down, gripping his hair and pulling him up so their faces were close together. â€śOh itâ€™s no trouble at all.â€ť
Gaspare paced in the living room, worry eating at him. Iom hadnâ€™t returned when he said he would and he knew something had to be wrong. â€śGaspare?â€ť Darayâ€™s voice brought him up short. â€śAre you okay?â€ť
â€śNo,â€ť he sighed, taking a seat, â€śitâ€™s probably nothing and Iâ€™m probably being stupid, but Iom hasnâ€™t come back yet. He was supposed to be back two days ago, butâ€¦â€ť
â€śThat doesnâ€™t sound like Iom, heâ€™s adventurous, but he wouldnâ€™t make you needlessly worry.â€ť He turned to Alvah.
â€śWeâ€™ll find him.â€ť Alvah said.
Gaspare felt at least a little better knowing his Uncle would search for his mate, especially since he was doing it for Daray. Alvah had shown in multiple ways since they had been together there wasnâ€™t anything he wasnâ€™t willing to do or go through for him. Gaspare didnâ€™t think anything said it more clearly than the day Alvah rushed into the sunlight knowing full well the horrendous effects it had on him because he felt Daray was in danger. No matter what it took to get Iom back he knew Alvah would help him do it.
They took only things to cook with and a single change of clothes for each of them before rushing out. They didnâ€™t want too many things weighing them down. Gaspare took the lead since he knew the most about where Iom had been heading on his journey. Daray gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze â€śweâ€™ll find him, even if he got into trouble heâ€™s resourceful and strongâ€ť
Gaspare, trying not to get too much into his own head decided to push the conversation to Daray’s new abilities â€śyouâ€™re doing so well at controlling your new strength as a vampire. It takes most much longer to be so good at itâ€ť
â€śAlvah has been a very patient and persistent teacher but in good ways. Iâ€™m really happy with my progress tooâ€ť
Iom fiddled with the collar around his neck, his fingers sliding over it, looking for any kind of line. He had been messing with it since it had been forcefully put around his neck and all he knew is it was covered in symbols and had a loop in the back for a chain. â€śYou know, if you keep fighting, itâ€™ll only be worse.â€ť It was another one of the monsterâ€™s servants, a man about his age named Adan. His brown eyes were fearful, ashamed, his voice a whisper.
â€śI donâ€™t care, I refuse to be his plaything. I have to get home.â€ť
â€śYou canâ€™t leave, not with the collar and hounds. Heâ€™llâ€¦heâ€™ll punish you.â€ť
The worst Iom had received so far was a beating, but that had been from the men who had captured him when he had tried to escape. He had managed to severely injure one of them. The monster though had only made threats and promises that Iom knew would be kept. He had seen it on the faces of the others here. When they served their master dinner, when they were forced to feed and bathe him, and when they would come back from his room. Iom shook his head, he didnâ€™t care how much pain he was put through, he wouldnâ€™t be that creatures toy and he wouldnâ€™t die. â€śIâ€™m getting out of here and Iâ€™ll bring help.â€ť
Adan shook his head. â€śItâ€™s no use, itâ€™s easier if you justâ€¦â€ť
â€śDonâ€™t worry, Iâ€™ll get us out, I promise.â€ť He turned to Adan. â€śI might need your help.â€ť
â€śI canâ€™t, if he found outâ€¦â€ť
â€śHe wonâ€™t and if anything happens Iâ€™ll tell him I forced you, so just listen to my plan.â€ť
Adan looked like he might cry or completely shut down on him. By the looks of the poor man he had been here a long time, being abused and fearing for his life. Eventually a look of resolve came across his face â€śokayâ€ť His voice didnâ€™t have the resolve his face did but Iom was glad he could get him to help. â€śyou wont regret helping, I have an in with two pretty incredible vampires. My best friend also became one, not too long ago but heâ€™s getting really good. Maybe we can even get Mabel to help. I donâ€™t know what she is but sheâ€™s a woman you donâ€™t want to crossâ€ť
â€śwhy donâ€™t you know what she is?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t pressure her. I think sheâ€™s embarrassed of what she isâ€ť
â€śI can tell you all about everyone I know once weâ€™re out. I just want you to be confident in knowing that all we have to do is get to them and this monster will never have us or any of the others again. Heâ€™ll be lucky if heâ€™s still breathing when they are done with himâ€ť
â€śDo you smell that?â€ť Gaspare asked as he came to a sudden stop in the middle of the road.
â€śItâ€™s Iom.â€ť Alvah said.
â€śI can smell it too.â€ť Daray added. â€śHis soap.â€ť
Gaspare turned towards the woods, spotting a smaller trail leading into its interior. â€śHe went this way.â€ť He headed off and they followed. â€śWhy would the scent be so strong?â€ť The thought worried him. Was he out here wounded? It was shocking finding his pack with everything turned out of it and scattered about. He bent down, picking up the book he had gifted to Gaspare. â€śHe was here.â€ť
â€śSo were others.â€ť Alvah said. â€śMen, four of them.â€ť
â€śThey took him, they had to have taken him. They canâ€™t haveâ€¦you donâ€™t think they wouldâ€¦â€ť
Alvah grabbed him by his shoulders and gently shook him. â€śStop and smell the air, Gaspare, their scent heads further down the trail and there is no smell of blood or death.â€ť
Gaspare swallow as he hugged the book to his chest. â€śI know, Iâ€™m sorry, Iâ€™m panicking. I just canâ€™t lose him.â€ť
â€śYou wonâ€™t.â€ť Daray said. â€śIom has been to many dangerous places, he wonâ€™t let himself be killed, heâ€™s too stubborn.â€ť
Iom could tell that his plan terrified Adan, but it was the the best he had come up with. He knew the monster had to have some sort of key or spell for the collars. â€śI need you to find it for me, Adan. It must be in his room.â€ť
â€śBut what if he catches me going through his things? Heâ€™ll hurt meâ€¦heâ€™ll call his friends in to hurt me.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m going to distract him. Heâ€™s had his eye on me since Iâ€™ve been here. I can keep him focused on me long enough for you to look through his things and he wonâ€™t think twice about your scent being in there so donâ€™t worry about that. Iâ€™ll meet you in my room, get this thing off of me, and then go get help.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m a good runner, trust me. Iâ€™ll get away and Iâ€™ll come back, I swear. I wonâ€™t leave you all here. I need you to trust me.â€ť
Adan nodded, he had already decided he was going to take this chance at freedom no matter the risk. This was such a miserable life and he knew if he let fear make him back down heâ€™d never be able to forgive himself. Not only would he still have to deal with everything he was put through here but heâ€™d have to feel like it was his fault for not even trying when a good chance presented himself. Iom was so confident this would work and his vampire friends would help. It was hard not to trust a man this sure of himself.
They both set the plan in motion, Adan going to their captors room and Iom actually seeking out their captor to flirt with him just enough to keep him busy awhile. If this didnâ€™t work Iom knew this would come back to haunt him but he had faith in Adan. After however long he had been here he knew just the desperation of wanting freedom would drive him to find what they needed.
â€śWe canâ€™t just stop.â€ť Gaspare argued. â€śHe could be hurt, orâ€¦we have to keep going.â€ť
â€śJust long enough to eat.â€ť Alvah replied.
â€śWe canâ€™t, we have to find him.â€ť
â€śGaspare.â€ť Daray gently interjected. â€śLetâ€™s eat, okay? We havenâ€™t had anything since we left, weâ€™ve just been going. So letâ€™s at least eat, then weâ€™ll get going again. Besides, itâ€™s night, a little break wonâ€™t hurt.â€ť
â€śJust for a bit.â€ť
Gaspare swallowed down the lump of fear in his throat and nodded. He wasnâ€™t hungry, but he ate what Daray made anyway. All he could think about was what Iom might be going through. Once they were finished and everything was cleaned up, they headed out again. The night was quiet as they followed Iomâ€™s scent and that of the men who had taken him. It was the scent of blood that brought them up short a little while later and they were relieved to find it didnâ€™t belong to Iom, but one of the men. â€śHe must have hurt one of them.â€ť Gaspare said.
â€śPretty severely too.â€ť Alvah added. â€śHe must have bid his time, not revealing what he was until he attacked one of the men.â€ť
â€śSee? Heâ€™s alright.â€ť Daray said as he squeezed Gaspareâ€™s shoulder.
Iom had not slept, even though he knew he should have. Even Adan had stayed up with him, listening to him going over the plan a couple more times as if trying to hold onto his resolve. They had gone their separate ways before everyone woke and were both ready to do what they had to. The monster was outside behind the house waiting for his breakfast and Iom had volunteered to take it to him. It was still surprising how normal the creature looked and how charming he came off when he spoke, but everyone knew this was just a mask, that his human form was merely there to deceive. He could feel the creatures eyes on him as he stepped outside and he raised his own, making eye contact for a few heartbeats before looking away. The creature was more than interested in him, he could smell it.
â€śI see youâ€™re already getting used to being here. Bringing me my food, how sweetâ€ť Iom set his food in front of him and the creature took the opportunity to grab his hand â€śwonâ€™t you sit with meâ€ť Iom was proud of himself for not instantly jerking away. He even managed to keep the disgust off his face â€śsureâ€ť sure might not have been the best line but their captor might catch on that something was up if he appeared too comfortable anyway. The man smiled and kissed his hand which made Iom want to punch him. It was obvious this thing was used to being able to do whatever he wanted regardless of others feelings.
Iom sat as soon as he let him go â€śare you acquainted with my name yet?â€ť
â€śHm, It is Baikunthaâ€ť Iom nodded and Baikuntha began eating. Iom said â€śI guess I figured I may aswell get used to being hereâ€ť Baikuntha swallowed â€śYou will like me eventuallyâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m an amazing loverâ€ť Iom almost couldnâ€™t stop himself from rolling his eyes.
Iom crossed his arms and legs. â€śYouâ€™re not the first to say something like that.â€ť
â€śI am sure, but I mean it.â€ť Iom huffed and looked away to which Baikuntha responded to by reaching over and grabbing Iomâ€™s chin and turning his face back. Iom could feel his strength, but he wasnâ€™t intimidated, he was irritated at being grabbed again. â€śI could show you.â€ť He let his fingers slid down and hook into the collar around Iomâ€™s neck, pulling him closer. â€śIâ€™ve never had someone as beautiful as you.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure.â€ť He forced an amused smile onto his face. â€śI donâ€™t see a difference between me and the others you have here.â€ť
â€śThen I want you in my room tonight, after all, I could have taken you the moment you arrived here.â€ť He let Iom go, allowing him to lean back.
â€śAnd what happens if I refuse?â€ť
Baikuntha chuckled as he took a bite of his food. â€śNow why would you do that? I want to see you tonight.â€ť Iom could guess what would happen if he said no. He had a feeling this creature would lose his temper and if he wanted to escape then he couldnâ€™t afford getting the crap beat out of him. He simply nodded and Baikuntha smiled. â€śGood.â€ť
Iom wondered if Adan had found what they needed. He certainly hoped he was at least in the room searching. Iom knew Adan might need a lot of time so he needed to keep Baikuntha talking. He didnâ€™t want to keep talking about sex, the more they talked about it the more chance he ran of giving away how repulsed he was by the idea but it was somewhere to start while he thought of something else â€śWhat sort of things are you into in bed, anything I should be worried aboutâ€ť Baikuntha grinned â€śIt dependsâ€ť
â€śOn you, stay on my good side and itâ€™ll be niceâ€ť He internally groaned thinking about what an asshole this man was. He couldnâ€™t wait for Gaspare and Alvah to hand him his ass and free all these poor men being sexually abused and kept under threat of worse happening to them. Adan had even spoke of Baikuntha’s friends abusing them if they misbehaved too much and he could only imagine. Some beings could come up with some ridiculously twisted things to do to others.
â€śDefine, being good. I mean, one manâ€™s bad is another manâ€™s good.â€ť
â€śI think you know. You come to me when youâ€™re called, you donâ€™t disobey, and you donâ€™t fight.â€ť He shrugged. â€śItâ€™s simple really. If you listen, youâ€™ll be treated well.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™ll be happy here as long as you follow the rules.â€ť He smiled. â€śWhat about you? What things do you like?â€ť
Iom shrugged. â€śThis and that.â€ť He didnâ€™t really want to use the things he and Gaspare did together. â€śIf Iâ€™m being honest, I havenâ€™t done much.â€ť
â€śWeâ€™ll have to change that then.â€ť
â€śPerhaps I prefer vanilla.â€ť
â€śNo one prefers something so boring and lazy.â€ť He pushed his plate away and turned more to face Iom, letting his hand rest on his knee. â€śThere are so many exciting and new things to experience, things you couldnâ€™t even begin to imagine. I can show you.â€ť
Iom was hopeful this man wouldnâ€™t have the chance to try and show him. His touch right now sent a terrible feeling through Iom. He wished there was some way to know what Adan was doing. He wanted nothing more than to get away from Baikuntha and quickly. Just in case Adan still needed time he decided to put his hand on Baikunthaâ€™s, praying it wouldnâ€™t push things too far forward. All he wanted was to keep his attention. Many things about Baikuntha told Iom he was growing more excited so he decided he shouldnâ€™t touch him again once he managed to smoothly take his hand back.
Baikuntha laced their fingers but once Iom turned the conversation into something more normal he pulled away, happy Baikuntha didnâ€™t protest. â€śI have things I wish to do before I see you tonight Iom. I am eager so donâ€™t think about changing your mind.â€ť
â€śI am too curious nowâ€ť Baikuntha smiled, what a freaking sucker,or he was just that cocky., so used to having his way at this point.
â€śSomeone tried to cover their tracks here.â€ť Alvah said as he walked around the area they had come to a stop in. Iomâ€™s scent had become weaker and it had taken him a moment to realize someone had tried to cover it up.
â€śWith what?â€ť Gaspare asked.
â€śAnimal scent. Perhaps there was something they didnâ€™t want anyone to find.â€ť
â€śSo which way do we go?â€ť
â€śIâ€™m not sure, give me a moment.â€ť
â€śI know, trust me, I know, but if you want to find him, you must stay calm.â€ť He squeezed Gaspareâ€™s shoulder. “How about we branch out and see if we can pick his scent up again.
â€śOkay.â€ť Alvah knew what Gaspare was going through. After nearly losing Daray, he understood that fear and desperation, but he also knew if they panicked, they might not find Iom.
Iom worked around the house, slowly making his way to the room he had been given. He could hear Adanâ€™s quick heartbeat even before he entered and he quickly closed the door and turned to him. He looked terrified. â€śAre you alright, Adan?â€ť He asked gently.
â€śIâ€¦I was nearly caught by one of the others, but I donâ€™t think he saw me take anything.â€ť He swallowed. â€śIâ€¦I found these.â€ť He pulled a small book and small metal rod out of the waist of his pants. The rod was made of the same metal as the collars. â€śI think this is a key and the way to use it is in here.â€ť He handed them over. â€śWhen are you leaving?â€ť
â€śTonight, as soon as everyone is sleeping. He asked me to come to his room.â€ť
Adanâ€™s eyes filled with concern â€śthen you better hope you make it outâ€¦if you stand him upâ€¦heâ€ť He didnâ€™t want Adan pulling up too many painful memories for himself so Iom said as comfortingly as he could â€śHey, Iâ€™m going to make it and Iâ€™m going to bring my mate and his Uncle. Donâ€™t worry about me. Even if I am punished, I can handle it. Just worry about you okay. Go ahead and leave my room before others start talking. I donâ€™t want him running in here jealous because he thinks Iâ€™m flirting with everyoneâ€ť Adan stood â€śif you end up needing help just come find meâ€ť
â€śThank you Adan, Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve done plenty for me. Thank you for trusting my plan. If he finds this, as part of my gratitude I will not tell him who helped me, no matter what he does.â€ť Adan shook his head â€śNo, if he guesses you had help donâ€™t do thatâ€¦Iâ€™ll just face the music for what Iâ€™ve done.â€ť Adan left and Iom got to reading, skimming more than anything to hurry things along.
The sun was nearly all the way down by the time Iom came across what he was looking for and his heart actually jumped in excitement as his eyes moved over the text. He wouldnâ€™t leave his room until everyone was down. It would be better that way so none of them were hurt if worst came to worst. He read over the words again then took the rod and pressed it to the collar. There was a code phrase for each collar that he had written down and Iom said his as softly as he could. He heard the collar click and he pulled it from around his neck, looking it over for a moment before closing it and watching the seam seal completely. He hid the key and book under his mattress then went over to his door and cracked it open a little. He could hear people moving around as they got ready for bed so he stood there, listening to every creaking floorboard, breath, and heartbeat.
He knew he only had this one chance, that he would have to be sprinting the moment his feet touched outside the house. Baikuntha had three hounds as far as he knew. He took a deep breath and was relieved when the house finally fell silent. He stepped out, gently closing the door and listening. He wondered how long the monster would wait before coming to investigate. He move as quietly as possible, keeping his breathing soft as he made his way past each room.
It was incredibly tempting to run but Iom continued to remind himself that being quite was key to getting out. Even when the door came into view he knew he wasnâ€™t free, not yet. He had only made it through the beginning stages of getting out of this horrible place. He pushed the front door open, hating it made noise. He begged with the universe that Baikuntha hadnâ€™t heard. If he did hopefully he continued not to suspect anything. As far as Baikuntha knew everyone was still wearing their collars which meant they could only get so far if they went outside.
Iom didnâ€™t take the time to shut the door again. That would only add to the risk heâ€™d be heard. He simply ran while he finally could, darting through the grass as fast as his legs would carry him. The very second he registered something slamming into his forehead he was out, not realizing what happened until he woke in what he assumed was Baikunthas bedroom â€śIom, really?â€ť It was Baikunthas voice. It was still as calm as ever but he could hear the fury underneath that tone. â€śwhat gave me away?â€ť
â€śYou really think you have any privacy as my new toy? You really think Iâ€™m an idiot, that I own all these men and have so many others out there collecting for me by chance?â€ť
â€śyouâ€™re powerful, I can feel it coming off you. Some think they can be all brawn and no brainâ€ť Baikuntha was leaning over Iom who was chained at the wrists to his bedpostsâ€¦ He grinned a few moments though still, there was nothing amused about him now. â€śI was so looking forward to you Iom but youâ€™ve left me with no choice but to kill youâ€ť
â€śYou wont make me feel like anything is my faultâ€ť
â€śOh? Really?â€ť Baikuntha walked away, coming back with a severely beaten, barely even alive looking Adan. Baikuntha sucked air through his teeth â€śsee, this is definitely your fault. I had completely broken this one. Heâ€™d do anything I asked, would endure anything at this point without a complaint and would even go out of his way to make sure I was happyâ€¦that isâ€¦until you. See, Adan is why you have to die. The fact you swayed him to do something against me tells me how dangerous you are to keep. Now Adan, Adan Iâ€™ll keep alive and heâ€™s going to pay in so much worse ways for stealing from me than just the beating I gave him and I want you to die knowing that Iom. That you made this mans life a million times worseâ€ť
Some of the menace was seeping out, distorting that calm voice he always tried to keep. He could tell that this did infact hurt Iom and the triumph he felt was enough to make that facade falter just a bit. â€śwhy the fuck are you this way!? Its not like youâ€™re even fucking ugly, you could have a real mateâ€ť
â€śI didnâ€™t start this because I was lonely, I started this because I wanted to, because I canâ€ť
â€śHow long has he been like that? Why did you wait so long if you knew what we were doing?â€ť
â€śWhy do I do this all? It can all be answered the same way, for my entertainment. It was amusing to see you think you could actually get away. To see if Adan could really go through with it, to see just how clever you would be with your break out. Even now, you arenâ€™t dead yet because my fun would be much too short without this delicious dialogue. Iâ€™m also hoping this mate of yours finds us before I finish tonight so I can kill him in front of youâ€ť Iom laughed â€śYouâ€™re strong but Alvah and Gaspare could destroy you any dayâ€ť
â€śI would love to see them try, I really, really would.â€ť
Iom glared at him, angered that he had toyed with him and with Adan, that he had hurt Adan even though it hadnâ€™t been his fault, and angry at himself for not thinking Baikuntha could be playing them. â€śAdan, Iâ€™m sorry, truly sorry for everything.â€ť He said, his eyes never leaving the monsterâ€™s.
Adan laid curled up on the floor, his hands covering his head, his body shaking in fear, but Iom could hear him whispering, â€śItâ€™s okay.â€ť Over and over again.
â€śHush now, Adan, once heâ€™s gone, we can start your training over.â€ť
Gaspare, Alvah, and Daray raced through the darkened woods, their noses locked on Iomâ€™s scent. Gaspare had hated how long it had taken to pick it up again, but at least they were back on the trail and they had decided to follow it rather than rest. They were all worried about Iom and knew another delay could mean something bad might happen.
Iom thrashed and kicked, trying to use his legs to push away from the monster, but the creature kept him pinned in place by his throat, pushing down when he fought to hard. Baikunthaâ€™s sharp nails dug into his skin, leaving rows of red, bleeding wounds. He felt one dig even deeper into his stomach and Baikuntha leaned closer. â€śWhat if I spilled your guts right now, Iom?â€ť
Iom spit in his face. â€śFuckâ€¦you.â€ť He choked out. He knew the beast was getting off on his pain and if he could ruin it for him, he would.
Baikuntha growled at him, his eyes shifting to a bright yellow, the eyes of the monster. He started to slide the nail up and Iomâ€™s cry of pain came out strangled. Baikuntha suddenly jerked back with a pain filled roar and it took Iom a moment to realize Adan had managed to get up and retrieve the decorative letter opener on Baikunthaâ€™s desk. The monster spun, backhanding Adan so he flew back into the bedroom door, unconscious. Baikuntha twisted, trying to pull the letter opener out of his back.
Iom thought fast, he couldnâ€™t break these chains but they were directly attached to the bed. He was vampire and it was just wood, strong wood but he knew if he tried hard enough he could break the bed and hopefully quickly while Baikuntha was distracted. Adan obviously couldnâ€™t take much more abuse and that last stunt might make Baikuntha change his mind about killing him off. He wanted Adan to live for the freedom he would have as soon as they were found. He didnâ€™t deserve to die in this place, he couldnâ€™t let him die some monsters toy.Â you can do this, you have toÂ Iom said in his head as he grabbed on to the piece of bed one of his chains was connected to and destroyed it â€śfuck yesâ€ť He actually said out loud.
Baikuntha growled again, lunging at him but one arm free was all Iom had needed. Iom hit him as hard as he could then used all the strength in his legs to make him stumble backward. The combination gave him enough time to break the other part of the bed. He was still attached but much more mobile and heâ€™d use the pieces of wood instead of treating them as a hindrance.
Iom swung at him, furious, desperate swipes to keep Baikuntha at bay. He dared not turn to try and open the door so all he could do was fight him off. He wasnâ€™t expecting the tail that came darting out from behind Baikuntha and barely manged to stumble to the side. The sharp tip scraped his side then punctured a large hole in the door. â€śIâ€™m going to tear you apart mind and body.â€ť Baikuntha growled. â€śBy the time Iâ€™m done with you, you will be begging me to take you in.â€ť
It was the sound of combat that grabbed their attention. The silence of the woods helped them pinpoint where it was coming from. Gaspareâ€™s stomach dropped when he realized it was in the same direction as Iomâ€™s scent. When they burst from the woods, they were immediately met by growling, snapping hounds, drool dripping from their mouths as they attacked the intruders. â€śGet to Iom.â€ť Alvah ordered. â€śWeâ€™ll take care of the dogs.â€ť
Gaspare didnâ€™t protest, only wanting his mate back. The moment he entered the house he could smell fear, could hear the sounds of people whimpering, of their racing hearts. Most of all he could smell Iom and hear his voice and he ran towards it. He heard Iom scream as he reached the room at the end of the hall and ripped the door open. Iom was pinned face down on the floor, the tip of a tail driven through his shoulder, a man on top of him, Iom struggling and cursing at him. Gaspare saw red and was across the room, ripping the man off of his mate before he could even completely turn and look over his shoulder.
Iom quickly got up, ignoring his pain and going over to Adan to check on him. He was grateful to see Adan was still clinging to life. Iom briefly considered getting him out of the room but there was no telling when or if Baikunthas henchmen would stumble upon all this. They came at odd hours. There didnâ€™t seem to be any kind of schedule. He could have even invited friends to come help him punish Adan so they couldnâ€™t get far from Gaspare. He sat there, guarding Adan since his mate obviously had things under control.
This was the first time he had seen him in a fight that actually took a lot of effort for him but he was definitely winning. Soon Alvah and Daray were bursting in and Iom whispered to the still unconscious Adan â€śI told you theyâ€™d come. Weâ€™re going back to my home. I promise, we wont let anything else happen to youâ€ť It was almost embarrassing when Alvah destroyed the cuffs so easily they may as well have been made of paper but his mind was mostly taken with how much better it felt not to be attached to large pieces of wood. Gaspare hugged him and they both shed a few silent tears before Daray said â€śHe looks bad, we brought some medical supplies but if theres any here we might need what we already have to tend to him on the way. Whatever he is he doesnâ€™t seem to be healing very well right nowâ€ť
Alvah spoke â€śHe is a shifter, a Fossa to be exact and Daray is right Iom, do you know where in this house we can tend to himâ€ť
â€śHe would have been the one to know but we need to stay and look. Heâ€™s like this because he helped me. That bastard punished him before bringing me in here. I wont leave until we know heâ€™s stable enough to come with us. We also need to unlock everyone elses collars so they can go off where they need to go offâ€ť Alvah nodded â€śGaspare, Daray, you two stay with Iom and this man. I will search the house. How is your collar off Iom?â€ť
â€śTheres a book and metal key in my room.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll grab that tooâ€ť Gaspare just kept hugging Iom but that was more than fine with his mate. It felt so incredible to be in loving arms again. When Alvah came back he dropped off the supplies and asked Daray to start tending to Adan while he began freeing everyone else.
â€śIâ€™m sorry I didnâ€™t get here faster.â€ť Gaspare said as he brushed his fingers through Iomâ€™s hair.
â€śWhat are you talking about? you had perfect timing. I had him right where I wanted him.â€ť He let out an exhausted sigh. â€śI canâ€™t wait to get out of this place, to get Adan and the others out of this place.â€ť
Gaspare hugged him a little tighter. â€śDid heâ€¦?â€ť
â€śNo, not that he wouldnâ€™t have, but no, he didnâ€™t.â€ť
â€śPlease never leave without me again or at least donâ€™t sleep on the road.â€ť
Alvah came back with the other men who all couldnâ€™t believe they were actually free and some of them started crying when it set in they would be leaving. â€śI told them to come back with us and we would get them home.â€ť Alvah said. â€śHow is he?â€ť He gestured to Adan.
â€śStill alive.â€ť Daray said. â€śWeâ€™re going to have to go really slow with all of them, especially Adan.â€ť
â€śCan you carry him?â€ť
â€śWhat about you Iom, are you okay to travel?â€ť
â€śEven if I wasnâ€™t, I would still insist we go. None of them need to stay here any longer.â€ť He raised his head to look at the other men. â€śYou should all grab as much as you can; food, clothes, water, even jewelry and money. That monster owes you everything, so take what you can for the trip.â€ť
They all began to gather what they could and were soon off. If Baikuntha had called for others they made it out before they arrived. At home Alvah and Daray allowed Gaspare and Iom to go straight to their room while they took care of settling in their new guests. Gaspare and Iom were soaking their sore muscles in the tub when Iom said â€śI guess you canâ€™t tease Alvah about this castle anymore. It came in handy, Iâ€™m glad we had space for everyoneâ€ť
â€śI probably wont tease him about anything for awhile. Iâ€™m so glad he and Daray helped me get you backâ€ť
â€śMaybe after all these men are looked after you and I can both go where I was headedâ€¦I wanted to get you something specialâ€ť
â€śWe will definitely go, itâ€™ll still be special even if you didnâ€™t travel to get it alone.â€ť
â€śI love you Gaspareâ€ť
â€śI love you too Iomâ€ť Gaspare held Iom a little tighter, his wounds were mostly healed and he was still struggling emotionally from everything. Gaspare had come much too close to loseing Iom and his only comfort was that Iom was willing not to leave his side for awhile.
~ The End
The gangly, curly haired youth bursting through Violetâ€™s door nearly made her drop her book. She glared at the boy, telling him with her eyes that it was more than a bit rude to walk into a house uninvited and to do it in a way that nearly knocked pictures off the wall was even more reprehensible. The look took him by such surprise that he seemed to forget what he had been going to say and stood there frozen for a moment opening and closing his mouth like a fish on the bank of a pond.
Violet marked her place, closed her book, then took a deep breath to calm herself. â€śCan I help you?â€ť She asked and he seemed to snap out of his sudden daze.
â€śUh, maâ€™amâ€¦yes maâ€™am, sorry.â€ť He collected his thoughts, wheels turning as he put words together to form a full sentence. â€śA dragon maâ€™am, there is a dragon and the mayor asked me to get you.â€ť
She sighed, putting her book irritably down on the coffee table. â€śOf course he did.â€ť
â€śSorry Miss Violet, so sorry.â€ť He bowed and then bowed again.
â€śOh stop, how annoying, do I look like a princess to you?â€ť She stood, straightening her dress. No, she thought as she moved around the coffee table to the coat closet, rather I look like someone took a witch and a librarian and mashed them together.
â€śNo maâ€™am, sorry maâ€™am.â€ť
She rolled her eyes. It was hopeless after all. She yanked open the door and pulled out her cloak and boots, shaking them both out before putting them on. â€śCome on then.â€ť She walked past the young man and he quickly followed, head down. â€śOh stop moping, I shouldnâ€™t have snapped at the messenger.â€ť
â€śYes Miss Violet.â€ť
â€śWhere is this dragon then?â€ť
â€śOutside of town maâ€™am, in that old cave maâ€™am.â€ť
She walked on, ignoring the turning heads and whispered words of â€śDo you think the witch is gonnaâ€¦â€ť and made her way out of town and over rolling hills to the now occupied cave. She knew it was occupied because she could hear the breathing of the beast and noticed faint smears of blood here and there.
â€śWhat are you going to do maâ€™am? Turn him into a toad? Kill him?â€ť
â€śHow absolutely barbarous.â€ť She said and picked up a large rock. When would they learn that she had as much magic as a thimble, unless the thimble had been enchanted, then that was a whole other story. She pulled back and threw the stone as hard as she could into the cave, hearing it make contact with something and then the breathing stopped. The boy cowered behind her as a roar echoed out from the cave, the ground shook dramatically and a red wedge shaped head detached itself from the darkness soon followed by a large scaled body.
â€śOh shut up you annoying thing.â€ť She snapped and the creature shut its mouth, seeming shocked. â€śNow go on and get.â€ť It lowered its head and started to open its mouth when she slapped the tip of its nose. It drew back, shaking its head. â€śI donâ€™t think so you very bad dragon. Go! Now! Find another place of residence and stop scaring the villagers. They come to me when things like you turn up and it can be quite nerve racking so go on, find sheep or cows elsewhere.â€ť It opened its mouth again as if to protest and she planted her hands on her hips, glaring at it with death in her eyes. Its jaws shut and it launched itself into the sky, kicking up dust and knocking the young messenger boy over with the force of its wind. â€śThere, now someone else can deal with him.â€ť
The messenger looked in awe of her and she sighed. No matter how often they saw her handle things without any magic at all they still thought her a mystical being. If the others were braver they could handle these situations too. Violet walked away, happy she was successful again and not that dragons snack. Violet hoped that maybe she could finally finish this book when she arrived home. Maybe this town and the magical creatures around it could afford her the hours needed because she was incredibly into this book. Once inside her shoes were off again and she lifted her book before settling back into her chair. She was instantly taken right back in, not coming back to reality at all until she closed it.
Upon looking up she noticed it was night and smiled thinking this was the perfect time to get a walk in. The sky would be gorgeous and the villagers would all be resting. Gleefully she set her book back down and slipped back into her cloak and boots before going off into the cool night air.
It was always so peaceful at night, as if the countryside itself decided to relax. She breathed in deeply and let her breath out in a sigh. Even with all the trouble, she still loved it here. The road branched and she turned off onto the left path just as someone came tumbling out of the woods and into her. â€śSorry.â€ť He said, grabbing her to steady her. â€śAre you alright?â€ť
It took her a moment to regain her equilibrium, but when she did, she looked up at him. He was tall, really tall and his eyes were a shocking shade of blue. â€śUhâ€¦yeahâ€¦uhâ€¦â€ť
His head suddenly jerked up and he looked at the woods then back down at her, his eyes searching hers for a moment. He then lifted her hand and smiled at her. â€śHold onto this for me.â€ť He let her go and took off running.
â€śWait, who are you?â€ť
â€śDian,â€ť he called back, â€śbe sure to tell them where I went.â€ť
â€śWhat?â€ť She was confused and it took her a moment to realize she was holding something. She opened her palm, studying the silver medallion that rested there. It had beautiful, intricate designs carved into it inlaid with blue and gold. She had never seen anything like it before. The sound of snapping twigs pulled her back to reality and she turned to face the woods, her hand sliding into the pocket of her cloak as three more men came stumbling out of the woods.
Violet wondered what problem she had gotten herself involved in now but she wasnâ€™t worried, even as she realized how tall these men also were. She faced down dragons, trolls and many more much more formidable creatures than simple men. â€śHas anybody else run by?â€ť a man with red hair and incredibly intense green eyes asked. She didnâ€™t skip a beat answering â€śNo, I have been out here awhile clearing my head and havenâ€™t seen a soul until you three.â€ť Violet didnâ€™t know who the unsavory party was yet but going by gut feeling she trusted the man who had given her medallion.
The man looked at her a short while, long enough for her to take in more of his face. He had light scars but they werenâ€™t unattractive. In fact they probably served to get more women in his bed â€śYou wouldnâ€™t lie to me would you?â€ť
â€śWhy would I? I donâ€™t know you so Iâ€™m certain I donâ€™t know who else youâ€™re looking for. Iâ€™d like to be left aloneâ€ť
â€śwe donâ€™t have time to waste, if the broad says she ain’t seen him she ain’t seen himâ€ť the man to his left said. The word ain’t almost physically hurt to hear but while she wasnâ€™t scared of them she still didnâ€™t want to piss them off by correcting anyone. The men left her and she was glad to see they didnâ€™t go the same way Dian had. Medallion in pocket she resumed her walk, knowing if she went home now sheâ€™d only pace anyway.
She turned back around when she reached the end of her walk, her eyes and ears open, listening for anyone approaching. When her home came into view, she was surprised to find that there was a soft orange light coming from inside. From the way it danced, she was sure it was from the fireplace. Someone was in her home. She approached as quietly as she could, moving around the back of the house and grabbing the wood ax propped against the wall there. She knew it wasnâ€™t one of the villagers, they would have just left. She moved over to the back door, being careful not to stomp on the back porch. She gripped the door handle and pushed it slowly, glad when it didnâ€™t squeak. She listened, not hearing anything but the crackling of the fire. She gripped the ax as she stepped in and gently closed the door.
She readied herself as she came closer to the living room, the ax pulled back, ready to strike if someone attacked her. She froze when she saw him, Dian, sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace. He gave her an exhausted smile. â€śYouâ€™re safe, thatâ€™s good.â€ť He said.
She lowered the ax. â€śYouâ€¦how did you find my house?â€ť
â€śItâ€™s a gift.â€ť He pushed himself to his feet. â€śI hope you donâ€™t mind me resting here.â€ť He crossed over to her. â€śMay I have it back please?â€ť
She moved the ax to her other hand then reached into her pocket and pulled it out. â€śTell me why those men were after you.â€ť
â€śI stole this.â€ť
His amused smile at her questions lit up his eyes. â€śBecause Iâ€™m looking for the rightful heir to the throne.â€ť
â€śIf itâ€™s so important why did you hand it off to me? They could have taken itâ€ť His smile lifted a little again â€śI knew you were too intelligent and brave for them to figure out you had it. I was worried they would catch up so handing it to you was the safest thing to doâ€ť
â€śBut you donâ€™t know meâ€ť
â€śIf you sit with me by your fire I will explain everything and answer any follow up questionsâ€ť His stomach growled and she said â€śMaybe I should feed you first. I have some leftovers that will be quick to heat upâ€ť
â€śThank youâ€ť He began explaining as she heated up food. He was exhausted, would have been able to fall asleep that second if he laid down but he wanted to explain everything to her. Even if he didnâ€™t want to explain she had given him a place to rest and helped him by hiding the amulet, he owed her an explanation. â€śso youâ€™re descended from a powerful witch and you read my mind earlier which is how you knew you could trust meâ€ť
â€śYes but donâ€™t worry, I have to be touching you to do itâ€ť she shrugged â€śNot worried, I donâ€™t have much to hide and nothing really embarrasses meâ€ť He looked so amused again â€śHow are you so cheerful when youâ€™re being chased and have such a big job to doâ€ť
â€śI enjoy every moment of life, always have and Iâ€™m enjoying your company. Youâ€™re a beautiful and interesting personâ€ť She seemed more surprised by his comment than anything as she asked â€śso, what gave you this job?â€ť
â€śI worked for the previous king and queen before their deaths and doing this for them is only right. Their son deserves to ruleâ€ť
â€śAnd where is he?â€ť
â€śNorth. His parents thought if heâ€™s in the snowy, icy reaches then it would give people less of a reason to go after him. He was put on a ship and put under the care of a merchant and his family.â€ť
â€śI canâ€™t imagine going from a prince to a merchant. It must have been hard.â€ť
â€śHe was always a good boy and, much like his father, a hard worker. It may have been an adjustment, but he wouldnâ€™t have shied away from it.â€ť He sighed. â€śI thought I had thrown them off my trail, by pretending to board a ship, but I guess they caught on.â€ť
â€śWhat are you going to do now?â€ť
â€śResupply and continue my journey. I have to fulfill my duty and bring him home. If I donâ€™t things could take a turn for the worst and no one wants that.â€ť He sat his fork down and leaned back, truly exhausted. â€śThank you, Violet, truly, thank you. I promise to repay your kindness.â€ť
The words came tumbling out of her without a single thought â€śwhy donâ€™t you repay me by allowing me to come with youâ€ť Despite the fact those words came unbidden she meant them. She had been tired of being here and maybe if she left the people would learn to take care of themselves. Dian sat upright, amusement playing over his exhausted face â€śThat works for me.â€ť
â€śwow, that easily?â€ť
â€śYouâ€™d be helpful, I can tell. Even if I didnâ€™t owe you Iâ€™d welcome you alongâ€ť
â€śThen lets both get some restâ€ť While Dian finished eating Violet brought a pillow and blanket into the living room, laying them both on the couch for him â€śgoodnight Dian, youâ€™re welcome to any food or water you need in the night. Iâ€™ll make us coffee and a descent breakfast in the morningâ€ť
That night Violet slept with her ax near her bed, just in case the men who had been chasing him managed to find her home. She woke the next morning to the sound of footsteps and someone talking. It took a moment to realize it was Dian, already awake, and she wondered who he was talking to. She yawned as she got up and made her way into the living room, seeing him pacing back and forth and reading out loud from one of her books. He smiled as he turned, closing the book. â€śSorry, did I wake you?â€ť
â€śItâ€™s alright, you should have woke me as soon as you got up.â€ť
â€śI didnâ€™t mind waiting.â€ť He let his eyes move over her. She looked quite cute disheveled as she was.
â€śI look rough donâ€™t I?â€ť She asked and his eyes jumped to her face.
â€śNot at all, quite the opposite. I apologize for staring.â€ť He cleared his throat. â€śWould you like me to help you with breakfast?â€ť
She shook her head. â€śI can manage.â€ť
â€śIâ€™d feel bad if I made you do everything.â€ť
She couldnâ€™t help but smile at him. He was far too kind and generous. â€śThen how about you read to me, you have a really nice voice.â€ť
He chuckled. â€śDo I?â€ť
She felt her cheeks heat. â€śWell, yeah, itâ€™s enjoyable enough.â€ť
He grinned again ‘well I was enjoying this book anyway, we will have to bring it on the journey so I can read aloud for you in the evenings. I always read out loud. Itâ€™s one of the odd things about me” She had been too sleepy to register what he had been reading so she asked â€śwhich book is it?â€ť he lifted it so she could see the cover â€śOh, thats actually a series. One of the villagers here writes it.â€ť
â€ścould we bring them all?â€ť
â€śYeah, if any get ruined I can always get another. She wonâ€™t even allow me to give her paymentâ€ť
â€śBecause I take care of this village. If anything bothers them they come running. Just the other day I had to chase off a dragonâ€ť
â€śHow do you think theyâ€™ll do without you?â€ť
â€śFine Iâ€™m sure, they just need to realize they donâ€™t need meâ€ť
â€śYou arenâ€™t worried about them discovering that?â€ť
â€śNo, Iâ€™ll get more time on my own and I have enough skills I donâ€™t need anything to be given to meâ€¦anyway, Iâ€™ll get the coffee started. That way itâ€™ll be ready when I amâ€ť Violet started the coffee then went back into her room to get dressed in something comfortable for the road.
â€śYou look good in that.â€ť Dian said when she came back and she couldnâ€™t help but blush.
â€śTheyâ€™re just some old clothes.â€ť
â€śThey suit you.â€ť
â€śThank you.â€ť He smiled and her heart jumped, causing her to look away in embarrassment and head into the kitchen to make breakfast.
â€śSorry, I didnâ€™t mean to make you uncomfortable.â€ť
Violet shook her head. â€śYou didnâ€™t, I promise, just not used to someone saying something like that to me.â€ť
â€śWell if they havenâ€™t, they are obviously blind.â€ť He sat down at the table, flipping the book open. â€śMay I still read?â€ť
â€śOf course.â€ť She had to admit to herself once again that she really enjoyed his voice. It was surprisingly smooth and had an unexpected deep timbre to it. She could honestly listen to it all day.
The smooth way he read along with how skilled this author was at showing the reader a scene had her mind clearly seeing what was happening in the story within her mind as she prepared breakfast and enjoyed her black coffee. Violet was almost disappointed as she sat down with their plates and he stopped but her mind quickly reminded her that he planned on reading throughout their trip. They ate silently but when Dian was finished he said â€śthat was incredible. Iâ€™ll be glad to read to you while you cook on the tripâ€ť she smiled â€śthatâ€™ll work amazing for both of usâ€ť She got up almost too quickly, not used to interactions like this at all.
Dian didnâ€™t say anything, her nerves only gave him hope. People who didnâ€™t react to your flirting werenâ€™t interested and he was incredibly interested in Violet. She was beautiful, an a amazing cook, had a mind of her own and was brave. He could only imagine what else he might find to like about her during their journey to collect the prince. When she gathered the series together Dian insisted he carried it since he was the one who had wanted it. She didnâ€™t put up too much of a fight having realized how heavy they would probably be after awhile.
â€śSo, whatâ€™s your plan?â€ť She asked as she shouldered the small pack she had made up with food and water in it.
â€śMake it to a bigger city and rent a horse and also buy warmer clothes. I wouldnâ€™t want you to freeze to death.â€ť
â€śWell I have you to make sure I stay warm, so Iâ€™m sure I wonâ€™t.â€ť He grinned and she blushed. â€śI mean, with your magic. You can make fire right?â€ť
She swallowed and he chuckled. â€śSo, what if he isnâ€™t there?â€ť
â€śThen weâ€™ll wait.â€ť
â€śIt must have been awful for him, being forced to stay in hiding even after his parents died. I donâ€™t know if I could have stayed, I think I would have raced home, heâ€™s definitely stronger than me.â€ť
â€śNow thatâ€™s not true, Iâ€™ve seen it in your head. That dragon didnâ€™t know who he was dealing with.â€ť
â€śYouâ€¦how much did you see?â€ť
â€śI didnâ€™t have time for much, I just saw the past few days. I wont look at anymore unless you say itâ€™s okay though. I just had to know if I could trust you and if you were up to facing those men should they comeâ€ť She could understand that. He did have a huge responsibility on his shoulders. â€śIâ€™ve found with most creatures all it takes is being brave. In our world you canâ€™t judge a book by its cover so they probably think Iâ€™m more than just humanâ€ť
â€śProbably, non magical beings do tend to just run or cower, especially in the presence of dragonsâ€ť
â€śHave you seen many dragons?â€ť
â€śI met a shifter once. He was a cool guy and as a dragon, well, he probably could have swallowed that dragon you met wholeâ€ť
â€śYeah, maybe I can introduce you two one dayâ€ť
â€śI would like that, maybe once weâ€™ve brought the prince home.â€ť
He nodded and they continued down the road, Violet looking back at her home as they got further and further away. She wondered how everyone would react once they realized she had left. She could only imagine. It was better not to tell them she was leaving, they would just try to make up excuses for why she couldnâ€™t. â€śIf you wish to turn back, now is the time.â€ť Dian said and she turned to him, smiling.
â€śNo going back until weâ€™ve finished this. Besides, itâ€™ll give them time to find their own courage and strength. Theyâ€™ll have to rely on each other if another dragon shows up.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure they will.â€ť
â€śAnd I get to go somewhere new thanks to you, even if it is dangerous and cold.â€ť
â€śSpeaking of dangerous,â€ť He reached over, taking her hand, â€śallow me to give you a little protection.â€ť He said a few words in a language she didnâ€™t know and she felt warmth move from his hand to hers, up her arm, and into her chest. He smiled and let her go. â€śThere, a ward of protection, just in case.â€ť
â€śThank youâ€ť Violet was surprised when he didnâ€™t let go but she didnâ€™t complain. She hadnâ€™t held hands with someone since she was a little girl and the fact he was so handsome along with nice definitely contributed to the fact she didnâ€™t mind. â€śAre you truly staying out of my head?â€ť She had to ask. He smiled again â€śYesâ€ť
â€śalright, I trust youâ€ť
â€śwhat would we have to talk about anyway if I went and looked at everything?â€ť
â€śTrue, I mean, the books are only going to last us so longâ€ť
â€śI was trying not to think about them. I want to know what happens nextâ€ť Violet smiled, filling with amusement of her own. â€śwho is your favorite character so far?â€ť He had to think â€śCedric, Iâ€™m going to have to go with Cedricâ€ť
â€śBecause heâ€™s so relatable. Heâ€™s trying his best to do the right thing without hurting anyone, but heâ€™s realizing things arenâ€™t that simple.â€ť
Dian gave a little laugh. â€śYeah, I donâ€™t want to hurt anyone, I really donâ€™t, but I know Iâ€™ll have to and Iâ€™ve made peace with that fact. These powers were passed down to me to defend myself and others and thatâ€™s how Iâ€™ll use them.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re a good man, Dian, you really are.â€ť
â€śI owe the king and queen, they were good people and my friends. I couldnâ€™t save them, even with all my power, so now Iâ€™ll bring their son home and help him take back the throne.â€ť
â€śAnd Iâ€™ll help you.â€ť
â€śAre you sure, you know there are bound to be swords and ill tempered mercenaries.â€ť
She smiled, making his heart dance. â€śIâ€™m sure, besides, you have my back.â€ť
They chatted happily about their lives, Dian telling her stories of what it was like serving the previous king and queen, of how his magic worked. She felt her face heat as she asked if he had a wife or kids and her heart fluttered when he smiled in amusement and told her no.
Despite how embarrassing it was to ask him, Violet had to know. It came as a relief to know that her attraction to him could be felt without guilt. She wasnâ€™t ready to confess to anything yet, it was much too soon and they had too far of a journey ahead of them but it was incredibly nice to know that if she fell completely in love it would be okay. The terrain they were currently in was perfect for getting to know one another. The path was smooth and there didnâ€™t seem to be a wild animal with the mildest interest in them. They were able just to talk until lunch when Dian kept to his word and read to Violet while she heated up their food.
They were back on the road as soon as they finished eating and cleaning up and Dian decided to continue reading as they walked, even acting out some of the scenes much to Violetâ€™s amusement. He grinned every time he got her to laugh and teased her when she blushed. Their first day passed without trouble and Dian started another fire when night fell so Violet could warm their food and to keep them warm. They settled in for the night after he finished reading and he was relieved she could so easily sleep outside. It was some time after midnight when they were woke by the sound of footsteps and whispered voices. Their eyes met past the fire and they both lay there as still as possible.
â€śViolet,â€ť he said softly, â€ścover your ears, close your eyes and scoot back away from the fire.â€ť
She nodded and squeezed her eyes shut, pretending to roll in her sleep, bringing her hands up to her ears as she did so. Dian could hear the men in the woods. They thought they were being stealthy, that he and Violet had not heard them, but they had been wrong. He heard them step out of the treeline and readied himself. One approached him from behind and he could see in the firelight another heading straight for Violet. He heard the whispered command of their leader and just as the one near Violet reached for her, he closed his eyes, covered his ears, and caused the fire to explode up into a bright pillar of blinding light.
They groaned loudly and Dian quickly rose, punching the man who had been previously in position to grab Violet. They both heard bone crunch and knew the mans nose was going to be gushing blood. â€śfuckâ€ť Violet got up too, ready to fight alongside Dian but instead he grabbed her wrist along with the bag of books and began running, pulling her away. Dian knew this journey would require violence but he wanted to use as little of it as possible. The only reason he punched the man so near Violet was to make sure he couldnâ€™t find his senses and grab her when she stood and if he was being truly honest with himself, he also did it because she was coming to mean a lot to him.
Violet couldnâ€™t quite keep pace with Dian but she did her best. The two kept at it until they were both panting and sure those men were far behind them. â€śOh crap our stuffâ€ť Violet realized they had the bag of books but not their items. He sighed â€śwe have whatâ€™s important, our lives and the medallion. We can make due along the wayâ€ť
â€śIt’s good you keep it on you constantlyâ€ť
â€śYou didnâ€™t get scorched or anything did you?â€ť
â€śNo, still have my eyebrows.â€ť
He chuckled as he stopped and took her face in his hands. â€śYeah, they look even to me.â€ť
She blushed. â€śUm, yourâ€™s do too. You were closer than me so, thatâ€™s surprising.â€ť
â€śTrust me, Iâ€™ve burned mine off a few times, back when I was first learning. There was a time I had to keep my hair extremely short because I kept burning it.â€ť She laughed and he smiled back. â€śIâ€™m glad you got to keep yours though, itâ€™s too beautiful to burn.â€ť He let her face go and took her hand instead. â€śCome on, letâ€™s keep moving.â€ť
Violet wasnâ€™t sure how long they kept walking, only that the sun was suddenly starting to rise and she was getting tired. She was about to ask for a breather when Dian scooped her up into his arms. â€śWhat are you doing?â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re tired right?â€ť
â€śWell yeah, but youâ€™re already carrying the books.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll be fine, I promise.â€ť
â€śIf Iâ€™m not walking I could read to you so you can learn what happens nextâ€ť He smiled again, it lighting up his face â€śthats a perfect ideaâ€ť he set her down long enough to grab the book they were on and give it to her. â€śAre you sure this is enough sun for your eyes not to hurt?â€ť
â€śOh yeah, this is fineâ€ť Violet relaxed in his arms and began quietly reading, semi worried there might be others near who could be drawn by her voice. They had been lucky to get away from their last situation so easily. She didnâ€™t want to roll their odds again anytime soon. Things were quite, almost concerningly so for Dian but he wouldnâ€™t worry about it. He was finding he liked her reading voice too. Dian suddenly stopped a few chapters later, causing Violet to look up at him â€śwhats wrongâ€ť he set her down so he could touch the ground. Violet stood there silently, gripping her book. He took her hand, still not offering any sort of explanation. She supposed they either needed to be quite or this was just a result of traveling by himself up until now. He might just not be used to explaining anything to someone else.
Either way she began looking around, only seeing different kinds of bugs exploring this place they called home. He was crouching again, feeling the ground. He looked up at her â€śyou know I almost fell for it listening to you read. It might be dangerous for you to read while I hold you. I might not pay close enough attentionâ€ť
â€śwhatâ€™s wrong?â€ť she finally pressed, eager to know what she should be worried about. â€śI canâ€™t imagine anybody knew Iâ€™d be coming this way so this must be an old trap someone set for whatever reason and then forgot to get rid of itâ€ť
â€śthat or were killedâ€ť
â€śyeah, I suppose theyâ€™d need some kind of reason to do this but come down here, feelâ€ť She crouched down beside him and felt in front of them. Her face scrunched up”what?”
â€śtheres nothing thereâ€ť
â€śbutâ€ť she felt again â€śdear god maybe whoever set it forgot and walked right offâ€ť
â€śthat kind of karma would suck. Since we ran in the dark we must have gone the wrong way somehow. Iâ€™m normally better than that. Iâ€™m sorryâ€ť
â€śYou donâ€™t have to be sorry.â€ť
â€śI should be more aware.â€ť
â€śDian, you havenâ€™t had to worry about someone else traveling with you, so donâ€™t beat yourself up. Youâ€™re just trying to be a good protector and companion.â€ť
He sighed then gave her a smile. â€śYouâ€™re an amazing woman, Violet.â€ť They both stood. â€śIâ€™m going to disarm it just in case someone else comes around then we can get back on track.â€ť He had her step back and he held his hands out, closing his eyes, and whispering a spell.
Violet was amazed when his palms began glowing with pale light. Her heart danced in her chest as his voice became a little louder and more impassioned. She could feel his magic as it spread out around them and tingled over her skin. The light faded and he let out a soft sigh and opened his eyes. â€śIs it safe now?â€ť
â€śYes, everything should be fine and no one should get hurt.â€ť
He nodded and reached over, taking her hand. His palm felt warm against hers. â€śAre you ready?â€ť
She didnâ€™t realize she was just staring at him until he cocked his head to the side and gave her questioning look. Her face flushed in embarrassment. â€śOh, yes, sorry, letâ€™s go.â€ť
“He chuckled. â€śHow cute you are my little warrior.â€ť
â€śOh hush, come one.â€ť She started to walk off and he gently pulled her back.
â€śItâ€™s this way.â€ť
She nervously chuckled, wishing her face wasnâ€™t so warm. People around her had always looked up to her back home but Dian was the first man to make her feel seen as a woman. He was so flirtatious and sweet. Her thoughts soon turned more serious as they walked back the way they came. She knew the two of them had gone far and wasted hours of time in a situation where every bit of time was precious. When he began guiding them to the left she grew concerned they were going the wrong way again â€śbut we didnâ€™t turn before? Shouldn’t we still go straight?â€ť
â€śNo, itâ€™ll be quicker to get back on course this way. I know this area pretty well which makes it all the more ridiculous I did that and I see that face, itâ€™s not your fault. Youâ€™re distracting but that doesnâ€™t make us getting side tracked your faultâ€ť
â€śI wont hear of it. Iâ€™m a man with a job, distracting female companion or not I should be aware of where we are goingâ€ť She gave him a small smile â€śso, can we talk?â€ť
â€śYeah, what would you like to talk about?â€ť
â€śWell, what do you plan to do, after everything? I mean are you going back home or something else?â€ť
He smiled. â€śDefine something else.â€ť
â€śWell, maybe settle down or something?â€ť
He shrugged. â€śMaybe, I havenâ€™t given it too much thought really.â€ť He chuckled. â€śOkay, thatâ€™s not entirely true, Iâ€™ve been thinking about it more recently. I mean, what if I died never falling in love? What if I never had the chance to have kids and raise them around the castle and show them magic?â€ť
â€śYou would want to live there?â€ť
â€śWell, I feel an obligation to continue my job, not just for the prince, but for his parents, my friends. However, if she wished to stay where she was then I would have no choice but to travel back and forth.â€ť
â€śI think I would move if it were me, I mean it would be something new, an adventure.â€ť
Violet was startled when he said â€śwell good because you are the cause of my thinking of that recentlyâ€¦I know we just met Violet but Iâ€™d be a liar and an idiot to pretend you didnâ€™t have a pull on my heart. Youâ€™re not only beautiful but youâ€™re incredibly brave. That brief glimpse I saw into your history made me want to know so much more about you. You also have impeccable tastes in books apparently.â€ť She almost stuttered but managed to speak normally â€śYou canâ€™t really think Iâ€™m pretty. Iâ€™ve never felt prettyâ€ť He took her hand, causing Violet to stop so he could look into her eyes â€śYouâ€™re gorgeous Violet. I mean that. How do you feel about me?â€ť
â€śI like you a lot tooâ€ť
â€śgood, I really do hope by the end of this adventure youâ€™ll truly want to live in the castle with me. We donâ€™t have to rush into marriage or kids or anything. I was just being honest about the kind of thoughts you draw out of me Violetâ€ť
â€śI know, Iâ€™m happy, really. Are you sure youâ€™re ready to live with me? I mean, Iâ€™m a bit hot headed sometimes.â€ť
â€śNo youâ€™re not, you just get exasperated, I saw it.â€ť He tipped her head back and bent down, his lips stopping a breath from hers. â€śYou are so noble and beautiful, a true warrior and I love you for it, Violet.â€ť
â€śDian.â€ť Her voice came out in a whisper and he smiled as he pressed his lips to hers.
He pulled back with a sigh. â€śWe should go my love. Are you ready?â€ť
Dian decided to take as many shortcuts as he could as they headed further North, wanting to stay as far ahead of the men chasing him as he could. He knew the journey back might be harder than the journey there while they were being followed. He could feel that it was starting to become colder the further they went and was relieved when the city came into view. Violet was shivering and he picked her up, hoping his own warmth would keep the cold at bay.
She snuggled into him â€śthank youâ€ť her voice was a whisper which concerned him even more. Dian picked up his pace, wanting to get her inside somewhere before she became sick. Dian walked into the first in, only setting her down to pay for a room. It didnâ€™t take long, soon they were inside and he suggested â€śwhy donâ€™t you run yourself a bath while I go out again and see if anybody around here sells clothing. Now that weâ€™ve hit a city we really need a change of clothes, something warmer since most of whats left of our journey will be coldâ€ť
â€śYouâ€™re cold too though. You donâ€™t need to get us warmer clothes right now.â€ť
â€śI really want to, I can probably just ask the man at the front desk so I wont be outside long. Just relax here, warm up and Iâ€™ll be back before you know itâ€ť She could see the resolve in his eyes to go so she didnâ€™t argue it any further. Besides, her body longed to be in a warm bath. Dian left as Violet entered the bathroom, making sure to lock the door so she wouldnâ€™t get any surprise visitors. Just as he thought the man at the front desk knew a good place to go clothes shopping for them both so he didnâ€™t have to wander to locate one.
Violet let out a sigh of relief once she was sitting in the tub and she was grateful that it was so big so the water rose up to her chin and covered everything. She rested her neck against the edge, just soaking up the soothing warmth. She hummed softly to herself, thinking of Dian and how much had happened in just the short time they had known each other. After everything she had had to face and scare away, falling in love with someone like Dian had been the most unexpected. She couldnâ€™t get over how perfect and honorable he was and she hoped she wouldnâ€™t suddenly wake up asleep on one of her books.
Dian bought clothes as quickly as possible, thanking the woman running the store for helping him find something suitable for Violet. He spent extra on a coat and boots for her, wanting her to be as warm as possible while they traveled North. He made a stop at another store to buy dry kindling, a small ax, and ask where the best firewood could be found in the direction they were going. He wasnâ€™t going to make Violet travel through the night in the snow. He thanked the man there and hurried back to the inn.
The bathroom door was still closed when he entered the room so he knocked on the door, both to make sure she was really still in there and to let her know he was back â€śyeah? Dian?â€ť her voice sounded from the other side of the door, obviously still safely in the bath â€śdo you want me to set your new clothes in front of the door or to set them in thereâ€¦I wont go all the way inâ€ť
â€śYou can set them in here, thank youâ€ť Dian opened the door just enough to set the clothes on the counter. Violet pulled on the stopped so the tub would drain. There wasnâ€™t a lot of heat left in it anyway and she was sure Dian needed a turn to warm his body. Violet was a little nervous about the clothes fitting since he didnâ€™t know her measurements but to her glee they fit perfectly and were incredibly comfortable. As she looked in the mirror she decided they were even cute, he had good tastes, another thing to love about him.
The first thing Violet did upon leaving the bathroom was hug him. He just smiled, holding her tight â€śthank youâ€ť
â€śI was worried about youâ€ť
â€śJust not used to it being so cold. I mean it snows back home, but itâ€™s much colder up here.â€ť
He pulled back to look at her. â€śHow are you feeling? Warm enough?â€ť
â€śYeah and I love the clothes.â€ť
â€śThey look good on you, but I have something even better.â€ť He moved away from her and lifted the coat. â€śTo keep you extra warm.â€ť
Violet took it gently, amazed by how soft it was. â€śWow.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s made from a bear hide. The interior is sealskin, same with the boots to keep you dry.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re so sweet, Dian.â€ť
â€śI canâ€™t have my beautiful love freeze to death.â€ť He took the coat and held it open. â€śLetâ€™s go out and get something to eat, we can talk about what weâ€™re going to do while we do.â€ť
â€śOkay.â€ť She slipped the coat on and quickly buttoned it. â€śWhat do you think?â€ť
â€śYou look like you belong here, very cute.â€ť
â€śare you sure youâ€™re up to going out? You havenâ€™t had a chance to warm upâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ll be fine, just cuddle with me laterâ€ť Dian said, bringing her hand to his lips to kiss it. The difference in their temperatures was clearly evident but he insisted he was fine so they left together. â€śthis one place smelled amazing when I passed itâ€ť Dian said as he scooped her up outside. â€śI canâ€™t waitâ€ť Violet was worried about Dian not being able to truly get warm yet so she was glad they didnâ€™t have to go far to reach the place he was talking about.
Violet agreed, the smells coming from this place were amazing. They talked about the restaurant until their food actually came â€śso do you need us to take a break here for more than just tonight? We can stay a day or two. Youâ€™re not used to this and I donâ€™t want to push you too hardâ€ť Dian said after his first bite. Violet finished chewing and swallowed â€śI definitively want to leave in the morning. I donâ€™t think we should take a long stop unless one of us gets sick. Youâ€™re right, Iâ€™m not used to this but Iâ€™m really fine. Besides, you keep picking me up so how can it be all that hardâ€ť
Dian smiled â€śI like being close to youâ€ť Violet blushed and he was just happy she was warm enough to. She found herself thinking about how sweet and caring he was again. Traveling together was one of those things that could make or break relationships so she felt it showed how much promise this thing between them had that she felt this happy. They talked about where they needed to go and the best ways to get there until their food was gone. After Dian paid he took Violets hand and said â€ślets just enjoy eachother for the rest of the night okay? If we talk I just want it to be about normal life things, I want to get to know you moreâ€ť Violet smiled â€śIâ€™d like that tooâ€ť
Zinlya was by herself in a pond bathing when a woman came flying out of nowhere, obviously ready to kill Zinlya. Zinlya ran to her sword, getting it just in time to block the womans blow. The metal meeting caught Torgan and Uaileanâ€™s ears so they rushed to help her, abandoning the meat Torgan had been preparing and the fire Uailean had been working up. â€śPlease stopâ€ť Zinlya urged â€śstop? Whatâ€™re you doing here! What evil deeds are you carrying out for your wicked mother!â€ť
â€śIâ€™m not doing anything for her, please listenâ€ť Their swords continued to clash, Zinlya expertly blocking the womans every advance. Her frustration grew so much she cast her sword away, ready for a magic battle with the princess. â€śget out of our territoryâ€ť Zinlya cast a defensive spell so when a harmful one hit the angry fairy she was shocked, who would defend the daughter of the cruel Queen Isranthae. Zinlya rushed for her clothes, embarrassed that both Torgan and Uailean were here.
Torgan rushed the fairy as she was recovering and she tried launching herself into the air to avoid him, but he grabbed her ankle and slammed her into the ground. One hand went around her throat, pinning her down while the other conjured fire close to her face. â€śIf you move, I will burn you.â€ť He warned.
â€śTorgan, calm down.â€ť Uailean said, placing a hand on his friendâ€™s shoulder.
â€śShe tried to kill Zinlya.â€ť
â€śBut she didnâ€™t, let her up so I can talk to her and take care of Zinlya.â€ť
Torgan glared at the woman. â€śYou try anything stupid and you are ash.â€ť He pushed off of her, extinguishing his flame and turning to Zinlya who had her clothes clutched against her, her skin flushed red in embarrassment. He pulled his shirt off and walked over to her, looking away as he handed it to her. â€śYou can put this on and find somewhere to get dressed.â€ť
â€śThank you.â€ť Zinlya said as she took his shirt, noticing he was blushing too.
She tugged it on and ran off to hide behind something and put her clothes on. Uailean spoke to the woman â€śZinlya is here because I asked her to come with me. Sheâ€™s as interested in clearing our kingdoms name as we are. How old are you? Are you really so young you donâ€™t know of how good the previous king and his daughter were. Her mother is the only one who has lost her mind. Iâ€™m vouching for her, though, I donâ€™t know if you know of who I amâ€ť
â€śOf course I know who you are and no Iâ€™m not some child but how can you trust her? What if she agreed to help to spyâ€ť
â€śMy word she is on our side is good enough for our king and prince. Are you saying they are not of sound minds?â€ť she gave an annoyed sigh â€śI suppose she only tried to defend herself when I attackedâ€¦her mother with how she is now would have tried to kill meâ€ť
â€śexactly, in my travels with her so far she does everything in her power not to kill others, even when they are trying to kill herâ€ť
â€śHow was I to knowâ€ť
â€śwell you know now. Keep this a secret.Her mother doesnâ€™t know anything about her being with us and I donâ€™t want her having any clues to our whereaboutsâ€ť They were still talking when Zinlya returned to them and the fairy sheepishly said â€śI am sorryâ€ť
â€śI understandâ€¦I know what my mom has put this kingdom through but I really am trying to right thisâ€ť
â€ścan I help?â€ť
â€śYou canâ€™t be seriousâ€ť Torgan said and Uailean interjected â€śyou felt her power Torgan, she could be of use if something happens along the way. How do you feel accepting that offer Zinlya?â€ť
â€śshe definitely has spirit. Iâ€™m fine with her comingâ€ť Uaileanâ€™s tone became more serious again â€śYou are welcome to tag along but if there is a second you do something that makes me question your loyalty to this missionâ€¦lets just say I wont stop Torgan next time.â€ť She nodded then moved closer to Zinlya to shake her hand â€śYouâ€™ve already gained a lot of respect with me by letting me come alongâ€ť
â€śHopefully this will all be over before long. Uailean has very good leads on who may have killed my father or had him killedâ€ť Uailean spoke again â€śfeel free to talk to her princess but it would be in our best interest if we donâ€™t give her any more details than she needs for nowâ€ť Zinlya nodded then asked â€ścan I help with dinner now?â€ť
â€śmaybe our new member should earn her forgiveness by finishing up dinnerâ€ť Uailean suggested.
â€śOkay, no problem.â€ť She replied.
Torgan made sure he was between Zinlya and their new companion, who called herself Amaryllis. He wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but she had attacked Zinlya. When they made it back to camp, Amaryllis started on dinner, Zinlya once again offering her help, but was quickly waved off. â€śWhy donâ€™t you come relax.â€ť Torgan said.
â€śAlright, if you insist.â€ť She said with a smile as she dropped down next to him.
â€śI do princess.â€ť
â€śThank you for helping me earlier.â€ť Her cheeks flushed.
â€śI could tell you were uncomfortable, sorry I saw.â€ť
Uailean couldnâ€™t help but chuckle at how embarrassed they both were. â€śHow cute, you act like youâ€™ve never seen a naked woman.â€ť He had to tease, just a little. They both turned bright red and Torgan glared at him.
â€śI will kill you.â€ť He threatened.
â€śSorry, but you were both acting so awkward.â€ť
Zinlya laughed at the exchange, managing to relax about the fact Torgan had just briefly seen her naked. Uailean waited until the meal was ready to begin his interrogation but he wanted to be sure they could trust this woman to tag along. He started asked her a multitude of questions and she answered them promptly, not shying away from one. Eventually she said â€śItâ€™s getting late, have I answered enough for us all to rest?â€ť
â€śYou should sleep near me Zinlya, just to be sureâ€ť Torgan suggested, earning a grin from Uailean. Torgan almost thought he wouldnâ€™t add anything but Uailean said â€śMaybe you should even hold her. I mean, can we be too careful with the princessâ€™s life? Two royals did and there will truly be no stopping Isranthae. The other kingdoms might actually start to believe her too should Zinlyas life end in this territory.â€ť
Zinlya was blood red as she said â€śIâ€¦I wouldnâ€™t be opposed to sleeping close enough for you to hold meâ€ť Torgans urge to punch Uailean subsided with Zinlyas willingness to do it â€śYouâ€¦well you could lay your head on my chest if youâ€™d be comfortableâ€ť Uailean laid down and so did Amaryllis. She could see now why Torgan had looked so angry about earlier. She didnâ€™t think she was going to be in good graces with him for a long time.
Torgan made himself comfortable then reached for Zinlya who moved into his arms, situating herself and snuggling close, her entire body warming. â€śIs this okay?â€ť She asked. â€śYouâ€™re not uncomfortable?â€ť
â€śIâ€™m perfect, how about you?â€ť
â€śMe too.â€ť She let out a little sigh as she closed her eyes. â€śYouâ€™re heartâ€™s beating really fast.â€ť
â€śYeah? Sorry if it bothers you.â€ť
â€śNo, itâ€™s nice, very calming.â€ť In truth hers was beating just as hard. â€śI like it.â€ť
He held her a little tighter. â€śSweet dreams, Zinlya.â€ť
In the morning Zinlya woke to Amaryllis and Uailean talking. It was Uailean who apologized â€śsorry, we didnâ€™t mean to disturb you twoâ€ť Zinlya sat up which woke Torgan since his arm had been on her â€śitâ€™s alright, we have important work to do and itâ€™s timed. You know as well as I do my mother has fairies looking for meâ€ť He nodded and said â€śwell weâ€™ve already made breakfast so eat up you two and lets get goingâ€ť Breakfast was a little awkward since they were both embarrassed about cuddling last night but they fell back into their comfortable grove about an hour into traveling.
â€śso Zinâ€¦can I call you Zin?â€ť Amaryllis asked.
â€śYeah, a lot of people doâ€ť
â€śUailean told me this morning that youâ€™re even more impressive than I saw fighting youâ€ť
â€śMy father had been training me since I was young. Even before he decided I would be queen we had matches. Its just the training got much more serious when he decided he wanted me to ruleâ€ť
â€śUailean thinks you could beat the queen if it came to itâ€ť Zins expression grew sad â€śMaybeâ€¦I hope it doesnâ€™t come to that. If I can present her with the real culprit maybe she will go back to being my mother. She has to be in there somewhereâ€¦the woman I grew up with. Iâ€™d like to think even if I donâ€™t she wouldnâ€™t be able to truly fight me. Maybe that alone could wake her up but then againâ€¦sheâ€™s become such a monsterâ€¦Iâ€™m sorry by the wayâ€¦for whatever specifically she did to make you so angry when you saw meâ€ť
â€śIn truth, her actions shouldnâ€™t matter when it comes to you. I should have thought before I attacked, but instead I pushed your motherâ€™s crimes off on you. No one should have to pay for the sins of their parents.â€ť
â€śYet I am, even now.â€ť
â€śEven so, I should have shown understanding rather than rage. We have all lost loved ones and friends in this war and you are not to blame.â€ť
Zinlya reached over and patted her back, giving her a warm smile. â€śWeâ€™ll all have to work hard to fix this land and bring peace to the people in it.â€ť
â€śAnd I will.â€ť She smiled back. â€śThank you for listening.â€ť
â€śPerhaps when we get the time, you could show me how well you fight when youâ€™re not naked and being ambushed.â€ť
Zinlyaâ€™s cheeks flushed. â€śSure, that sounds fun.â€ť
â€śwe need to turn left once we get to the dense trees. I doubt there will be enough space for the two of you to do any fighting until after we question Peadrus MacGillâ€™EĂ˛inâ€ť
â€śand I still canâ€™t know anything about why we need to talk to him?â€ť She asked and Uailean said â€śyou seem nice enough but this is too important to take risks. When I trust you enough to have more information Iâ€™ll let you knowâ€ť Amaryllis seemed to accept that as the final word on the matter. They turned when they were supposed to and started their journey through the dense trees. It made going forward much more difficult, especially since they stepped on large roots far more than solid ground but they made good time anyway, all determined to get to the bottom of who killed the king before things got worse.
Zinlya knocked but no answer came. She looked back at Uailean since he was the lead on all this and he said â€śtry knocking louder. We cant possibly be unlucky enough that he isnâ€™t homeâ€ť She took a deep breath in then let it out slowly to calm her nerves before trying again. She knocked forecefully and this time heard a groan from the other side of the door.
â€śThat doesnâ€™t sound good.â€ť Zinlya said and Uailean moved up and banged on the door. There was no more noise so he drew his sword and gestured for Zinlya to step back.
He kicked the door in and headed slowly inside, followed by Torgan and then Zinlya and Amaryllis. Peadrus was laying in the middle of the floor, a glass next to his left hand, and vomit on the floor next to his head. He was pale, his veins prominent against his skin. â€śAmaryllis search the house, see if anyone else was here, look for any clues.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll help her.â€ť Zinlya said and Torgan started to open his mouth, but stopped and just nodded. â€śDonâ€™t worry, Iâ€™ll be alright.â€ť
â€śI know, just shout.â€ť
She and Amaryllis drew their weapons and moved off into the back of the house. Uailean rolled Peadrus onto his side. â€śPeadrus, can you hear me?â€ť He let out another small groan, but other than that, remained near lifeless.
â€śWhat in the hell happened?â€ť Torgan asked.
â€śFrom the looks of it?â€ť He glanced around, seeing an open bottle on a table. â€śPoison.â€ť
â€śAnd recent, that or heâ€™s stubborn.â€ť
â€śIs he going to die?â€ť
â€śWithout help, more than likely.â€ť
The girls carefully walked through the small home, each ready to fight the second anybody jumped out at them. Nothing obviously said someone else had been here but then again, the only fairy here that knew this man was Uailean so they could be missing something. At the very least the two concluded nobody else was still there so they returned to Torgan and Uailean â€śwe didnâ€™t see anything that seemed oddâ€ť
â€śwere you able to find the entrance to his basementâ€ť
â€śNo, where on earth is that?â€ť
â€śTorgan, watch over him. I need to know what this poison is to help him and I can get that answer downstairs. Our friend here is a bit of a chemist. Heâ€™ll have what I need to solve that mysteryâ€ť Uailean grabbed the bottle then asked the girls to follow him. He pushed what looked like solid floor and there laid an entrance â€śwowâ€ť Amaryllis said softly as they descended. Zinlya could tell Uailean was stressed so she stayed quiet, waiting on his next command.
She and Amaryllis looked around while Uailean worked. Neither of them had ever seen anything like this. Zinlya knew her mother employed a chemist, but she never spent time in his lab, just knew of its existence. â€śThis is going to take a few minutes to process.â€ť Uailean suddenly said and they both turned to him.
â€śDo you think he poisoned himself?â€ť Amaryllis asked.
â€śNo, he would have just drank it straight away, not put it in wine and he would have made something that actually killed him. Whoever did this was a bad chemist or bought a dud.â€ť He sighed as he rubbed his temples. â€śSomeone was trying to stop us, I can feel it, someone doesnâ€™t want us to know.â€ť
â€śBut how would they know we were coming here?â€ť Zinlya asked.
Uailean sighed. â€śA spy perhaps back at camp. They could have slipped in as one of ours and found us out. You know how insane things are right now, it would have been easy.â€ť
â€śSo you think whoever did this, also orchestrated my fatherâ€™s murder.â€ť
â€śYes, but weâ€™re going to stop them, weâ€™re going to end this war.â€ť He let out another sigh. He turned back to the test he was running. â€śWe have to end this.â€ť
â€śWe will, you know Torgan, me, and even Amaryllis will fight for it no matter what.â€ť
Uailean nodded. â€śI know, thank you. Could you go and check on them for me? Iâ€™m afraid if Torgan started yelling we might not hear him down here.â€ť
â€śOf course.â€ť She gave his shoulder and squeeze before leaving and he gave her a smile in return.
â€śToganâ€™s a lucky man.â€ť He said once she was gone.
â€śHe should tell her.â€ť Amaryllis replied.
Uailean chuckled. â€śIn time.â€ť
â€śthey were childhood friends werenâ€™t they?â€ť
â€śyes but Zinlyaâ€™s responsibilities eventually took her away from play. Her father had high hopes for her rule. They only just returned to eachother company when we started this endeavor. If Iâ€™m confident in anything though, Torgan wont let her slip through his fingers again. Weather on this journey or at its end he will tell herâ€ť When she stepped into the room Torgans hand caught fire but quickly went out â€śsorry to startle youâ€ť Zinlya apologized and Torgan said â€śNo, Iâ€™m glad you came backâ€ť
â€śUailean wanted me to make sure you were okayâ€ť
â€śI am, whats going on down there?â€ť
â€śHes running a test, he says it will be awhileâ€ť Torgan looked down at Peadrus â€śYou hear that, Uailean is running a test, just hang on for us. Youâ€™re so important to us figuring this out. Weâ€™re here on a mission to figure out who truly killed King Thane.â€ť Torgan kept talking to him, trying to keep him as alert as possible. Zinlya decided to stay with Torgan, knowing if Uailean needed her heâ€™d send Amaryllis up.
Uailean was shocked at the testâ€™s result and he and Amaryllis rushed back up and to Zinlya and Torgan. â€śWe need to get him to a healer now.â€ť
â€śWhat is it?â€ť Zinlya asked.
â€śWater hemlock. Torgan help me with him.â€ť He and Torgan pulled him up and between them.
â€śHow bad is that?â€ť
â€śReally bad.â€ť Torgan answered. â€śLike surprised heâ€™s not dead bad.â€ť
â€śAmaryllis, you and the princess are going to have to be our guards just in cast.â€ť Uailean said.
â€śIs he going to survive?â€ť Zinlya asked.
â€śIf we get him help.â€ť They started to leave and Zinlya thought to grab the bottle and dump it out in the dirt as they left. She didnâ€™t want someone breaking in and thinking it was alright to drink it. She disposed of the bottle then they were hurrying away from Peadrusâ€™s home.
It was even harder getting though the dense forest carrying Peadrus through but they made it out in half the time it had taken them to reach his home. The group didnâ€™t dare stop for anything, even when they began to ache. Finally they arrived where Uailean was taking them. A house came into view with a woman standing outside. There was a toddler on her hip that she quickly set down â€śwhatâ€™s the matter?â€ť
â€śBring him inside, lay him anywhereâ€ť they ran in, startling a man who Zinlya assumed must be her husband. He just walked away, scooping up the toddler who had been following their mother. It was impressive watching her work. Zinlya found herself wanting to get to know this healer. If they didnâ€™t have such pressing matters sheâ€™d want to know about her life and how her skills were honed but she knew if they managed to save Paedrus they had to get back to business.
She sighed â€śIâ€™ve done all I can do now. I know this old sod has the will to pull through though so donâ€™t worryâ€ť
â€śThank you Azaleaâ€ť
â€śYou all look worn, youâ€™re welcome to take a proper bath and rest. My husband and I can cook you something when youâ€™re all refreshedâ€ť
â€śHe wont be getting up for awhile then?â€ť
â€śNo, I need one of you to help me move him to a couch so he can rest more comfortablyâ€ť As Uailean and Torgan moved Paedrus Azalea said â€śwhy donâ€™t you go first princess, take a nice shower then you can take mine and my husbands bed. Youâ€™ll have to share with your friend here when shes clean thoughâ€ť
â€śthank youâ€ť This woman was surprisingly not hostile with her in the slightest so she guessed like Torgan, the kind and Uailean she knew she wasnâ€™t like her mother. Zinlya was quick in the shower, only taking as long as she had to to get clean then let Amaryllis jump in. When they entered her room Azalea said â€śIâ€™m sorry if my daughter disturbs you. Iâ€™m going to try to keep her outâ€ť
â€śDonâ€™t worry too much, this is your home after all. She wont annoy meâ€ť
â€śYou have important work ahead of you. Uailean has done nothing but think how to end this war so if heâ€™s with you I know youâ€™re doing something important. Thank youâ€¦I canâ€™t imagine how hard it must be to go against your motherâ€¦I dont know if my heart could take being at odds with my motherâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m ready, that woman in the castle isnâ€™t my mom anymoreâ€¦not to me. The woman she was died with my fatherâ€ť Azalea gave her a sympathetic look before leaving the room. Zinlya slipped under the covers and didnâ€™t even wake when Amaryllis joined her.
Torgan and Uailean stayed with Paedrus, both of then wanting to be there should he wake. They talked softly, trying to deduce why he had been poisoned. Had he helped with the murder of Zinlyaâ€™s father or had he been told about it? Perhaps he had been a consultant to the person without knowing. It was hard to tell and only Paedrus could tell them for sure. His breathing was shallow and pained, but at least he was alive and hopefully he would pull through. They were both woke early the next morning by whispered mumbling. Both of their eyes flew open and it took them a moment to realize it was Paedrus and he sounded distressed.
â€śPaedrus?â€ť Torgan said as he shook him. â€śCan you hear me?â€ť The manâ€™s eyes flew open and he gripped onto Torganâ€™s arm and he stared fearfully up at him for a moment before falling back into unconsciousness, his body going limp, his breathing evening out.
â€śLooks like he was having a nightmare.â€ť Uailean said as he swept his hair back.
â€śHe looked right at me, he was terrified.â€ť
â€śHe was looking through you at someone else, I donâ€™t even think he knew you were there.â€ť
â€śThank heavens we made it to him when we did . Any more delays and he may have perishedâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m still worried about loseing him yet. I have a plan b if he doesnt pull through but heâ€™s vital.Things will be a lot harder if we donâ€™t get the opportunity to talk to himâ€ť In the morning Azalea tended to Peadrus a little more but he still looked rough. Zinlya came down just as she was finishing â€śhow is he?â€ť
â€śbetter, heâ€™s doing well consideringâ€ť Azalea turned and continued speaking â€śdo you feel like helping me cook for everyone? My husband is busy with our little oneâ€ť
â€śIâ€™d be glad to helpâ€ť
â€śIs there anything you would like us to do?â€ť Uailean asked.
â€śJust keep an eye on him and let me know if anything changes.â€ť
â€śCould we borrow some clothes, to change him?â€ť Torgan asked.
â€śOf course.â€ť Azalea went and retrieved some of her husbandâ€™s clothes and handed them off, knowing he wouldnâ€™t mind.
They got to work changing Paedrus, then made sure he was comfortable. They could feel that he was feverish and Torgan went and found a rag, quickly wetting it in cold water then taking it back place on his forehead. He groaned in his sleep, shivering, and mumbling to himself at whatever nightmare haunted him. â€śAt least he made it through the night.â€ť He said as he sat down.
â€śIâ€™m hoping he wakes soon, even if itâ€™s for a moment.â€ť Uailean said.
â€śSo how has it been traveling, princess?â€ť Azalea asked.
â€śItâ€™s been good, Torgan and Uailean have been making sure Iâ€™m comfortable, even though they donâ€™t have too and now we have Amaryllis too.â€ť
Azalea smiled. â€śI would say Torgan thinks he absolutely believes he has to take care of you.â€ť
Zinlya blushed. â€śHeâ€™s very protective.â€ť
Azaleas smile only grew bigger which embarrassed Zinlya more. â€śwell Torgan is a very caring man, especially with people who mean something to him. Did you two click again when you started traveling? As in is it more like youâ€™re friends?â€ť
â€śyeah, Iâ€¦I donâ€™t know how I ever forgot about him or how I even let a distance start between us.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure youâ€™ve been told by the two of them itâ€™s understandable.â€ť
â€śwell, even when this is over thats never happening againâ€ť
â€śgood, hopefully this will all be over soon. Iâ€™m doing my best to make sure you donâ€™t lose Paedrusâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m mostly just worried about him. Uailean seems to be an endless supply of plans. Heâ€™s smart and resourceful, itâ€™s the life Iâ€™m worried about really.â€ť
â€śHe just wants this to stop. If heâ€™s coming off as insensitive, I apologize.â€ť
Azalea laughed. â€śNot at all, I get it. Heâ€™s not a bad man, heâ€™s just looking at the bigger picture.â€ť
â€śDo you think Paedrus will make it?â€ť
â€śHeâ€™s still alive, thatâ€™s a good sign. Uailean and your Torgan are watching over him so if anything changes at least Iâ€™ll know instantly.â€ť
They finished cooking, Azalea taking food to her husband and child while Zinlya and Amaryllis took food to Torgan and Uailean. Zinlya couldnâ€™t help the blush that tinted her cheeks when Torgan smiled and thanked her. â€śAny changes?â€ť She asked as she sat next to him.
â€śItâ€™s hard to tell. Heâ€™s still breathing, he has a pulse, and he seems to be dreaming, but thatâ€™s it. What about you, how are you holding up?â€ť
â€śMe? Iâ€™m fine, worried and a bit tired, but I canâ€™t really complain.â€ť
â€śDo you miss home?â€ť
Zinlya shook her head. â€śNot really. Itâ€™s so cold there, like itâ€™s dead. I prefer being out here with you.â€ť
Her heart stuttered. â€śAnd the others of course.â€ť
Peadrus began to truly wake around two am though he still seemed incredible weak â€śUaileanâ€ť his name woke the commander. â€śPeadrusâ€ť Uailean got up and soon Torgan followed â€śPeadrus, we came to speak to you and found you collapsed on the floorâ€ť
â€śI think someone knew thatâ€¦I donâ€™t know how I could be so stupidâ€¦what is it that you need to know. Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™m going to be okay so we need to hurry and discuss thingsâ€ť
â€śYouâ€™re in Azaleaâ€™s living room, I know youâ€™re going to be okay but yes, we need to speak urgently. Itâ€™s about the departed king, princess Zinlyaâ€™s fatherâ€ť
â€śPrincess Zinlya is here with us. You donâ€™t need to be afraid to speak. She, Torgan and I are putting an end to all this. You have to trust us. I know youâ€™ve only just come close to losing your life but what you may know is vital, please, the princess herself will even beg if necessaryâ€ť
â€śQueen Isranthae wont hear of it being anybody but your king. Is Zinlya sure she wants to go down this path?â€ť Zinlya hadnâ€™t been able to sleep so she had been listening. She came out of Azaleas room and down the stairs, having the attention of all three men â€śIâ€™m sure, Iâ€™m ready to do what it takes. My father wanted me to be queen and a true queen wouldnâ€™t cower before their motherâ€ť
â€śalrightâ€¦but Torgan, while we begin to speak will you get me waterâ€ť
“Of courseâ€™ Torgan said as he got up and left. Zinlya came closer and took Peadrusâ€™s hand â€śPlease speak to meâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ve worked for your family a very long time. I did things here and there for your father but Iâ€™ve worked much more for your mother. I donâ€™t really help her honestly but she trusts me because your father could trust me. Iâ€™d like to think Iâ€™ve saved lives not truly doing the things sheâ€™s requestedâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure you haveâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ve always thought your fathers death had something to do with the Ă‰idich familyâ€ť
â€śShould I know them?â€ť
â€śI think thereâ€™s a lot your father wouldnâ€™t want you to know about his time with a man named Creighton. Unknowingly your father kept bad company for a long time and I donâ€™t think any father, however unknowingly would want their daughter knowing about some of the things that happened during that timeâ€ť Torgan came back with a drink that Peadrus gratefully downed â€śItâ€™s time you sat down for a story. Listen closely incase I donâ€™t have a chance to repeat itâ€ť
Uailean found himself glad Amaryllis was sleeping for this. He still wasnâ€™t ready to trust her with information, especially now that someone had been poisoned over their investigation. â€śYour father and I were friends as teenagers. Thats about a thousand stories in itself though. I was suspicious from the start when I began receiving letters about the man but you know your father. He doesnâ€™t think ill of someone easily, no matter what anybody says. I will never say thats a bad traitâ€¦regardless of how your father ended up butâ€¦before I knew it your father was leaving that school his parents had sent him to and was following that man wherever he may lead getting real world experience were his words. Creighton promised him heâ€™d see things few knew existed and show him wonderful magic and countless other things that would help his kingdom once he sat on the throne.â€ť
The talking woke Azalea who was now in the room, offering him something â€śtake it, it will helpâ€ť he downed it trustingly â€śthank youâ€ť Peadrus said quickly before continuing his story. Zinlya had heard some of this already from Uailean but slowly they learned things about the men even Uailean hadnâ€™t known. She wasnâ€™t sure why he had gone so far back but she was happy to listen. Her attention became even more focused when the name finally came up “and thats when they met Goiridh Ă‰idich, barely older than your father at the time. He was star struck, Kilead could have never happened without young Goirdhâ€™s adoration and willingness to do anything for your father. Using Creightons own words to your devastated father when he finally saw the man for the evil he was â€śAll you need is to deceive a king and the world is at your feetâ€ť
The sun was now coming up, beginning to fill the room with light. â€śHe knew your father and his family had an amazing reputation and Creighton knew that in becoming such close friends with your father he could gain trust in othersâ€ť
â€śwhat happened to Goiridh Ă‰idich? Is he who poisoned you?â€ť
â€śNo, Goiridh Ă‰idich has been dead for a long timeâ€ť Zinlya struggled to keep composure. Another death, another familys loss, more pain caused by Creighton. More weight that had undoubtedly always hung on her fathers shoulders. He often took walks at night and now more than ever Zinlya wondered if he truly couldnâ€™t sleep because of guilt. She knew her father hadnâ€™t been a part of anything bad on purpose but he was too good of a man to truly live a guilt free life after everything she had been hearing.
â€śCreighton so easily twisted your fatherâ€™s and Goiridhâ€™s trust, it was who he was, so charming, always smiling and laughing, even going so far as to put himself between your father and another man, a man he had hired and killed to further cement his standing at your fatherâ€™s side. He manipulated Goiridh, telling him how he could further win your fatherâ€™s favor, that if he wanted to stay by the kingâ€™s side, all he had to do was follow orders and the king would surely love him for it. Who could say no to someone so loyal.â€ť
â€śWhat happened to Goiridh?â€ť
â€śHis murder was the catalyst that started this war. Creighton meticulously planned everything, using Goiridhâ€™s death as a way to turn the young manâ€™s family against the late king. Even after Creighton had revealed his true nature, your father thought nothing of an Eidich coming to visit, thought nothing of the man he brought with him. He wasnâ€™t even suspicious and only felt immense amounts of guilt over what had happened to Goiridh. His family didnâ€™t know that it had been Creighton who had killed him, who had looked into his eyes and watched his life slip out of him. He had outlived his usefulness after all.â€ť
â€śBut why were you poisoned?â€ť
â€śBecause of Goirdhâ€™s journal. Your father asked me to take care of it after he died, not wanting it to be burned with him. I didnâ€™t even know it held anything vital until I was laying on the floor dying, that assassin standing over me with a message from Creighton. He asked me about the journal, but I wouldnâ€™t tell him where it was.â€ť
â€śSo Creighton waited until the moment was right.â€ť Uailean said. â€śHe struck like a viper and used Kilead to manipulate a still grieving family. The bastard.â€ť
â€śWhat about the journal? Where is it?â€ť Torgan asked.
â€śIn my lab with my own journals.â€ť
We need to get it quickly if we can. Godâ€¦we didnâ€™t even think to leave one of us behind in case the assassin was still close, waiting for a chance to be alone in the houseâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ll be fine here with Azalea and her family, you all go. Assassins are crafty little bastards. The more of you the better if heâ€™s still hanging aroundâ€ť Zinlya spoke after Peadrus â€śare you sure thereâ€™s nothing else we must know. What if we lose you while weâ€™re goneâ€ť
â€śThe journal is all you needâ€ť He squeezed Zinlyas hand â€śGood luck princess, if I can join your efforts at some point I hope Iâ€™m welcomeâ€ť
â€śOf course you are, just find usâ€ť Peadrus looked at Uailean â€śwould five be too big of a group for your liking?â€ť
â€śFive would be just fine, donâ€™t you dare die on usâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m getting better as we speakâ€ť
â€śWe will be off then, Azalea, if Amaryllis wakes while we are gone tell her where we went and that we will be back for herâ€ť Zinlya almost said something about them leaving her behind but she knew it was urgent they hurried if the journal was even still there. The three rushed out, Zinlya hoping Amaryllis wouldnâ€™t be hurt by the fact they left her behind. She knew in her heart they could trust her and had seen for herself sheâ€™d be an asset if they got themselves into a fight.
They flew non stop until they reached the forest and had to run. The group was much better at getting through it this time but smoke stopped them in their tracks. It twisted around them, making their eyes water as they coughed. With horror they discovered a fire had been set, destroying Peadrusâ€™s home. Now they not only had no way of getting his journal but they had no way of knowing if the enemy had it. What else could her father had put in there and what else might it cause.
~ The End
Iâ€™m excited, exhilarated even as I run to see my father, the king that will soon step down as I am wed in a few days. Iâ€™m ready to run into his arms and tell him all about how wonderful my day was when Iâ€™m stopped in my tracks, a gasp caught in my throat so my mouth is just gaping open at the horror before me. He lays dead, his guards all around him. I run, in absolute disbelief he is truly laying lifeless on the floor. I shake him â€śfather! father please talk to meâ€ť Heâ€™s cold, his skin no longer warm and pink but pale. Thereâ€™s so much blood on the floor and within me I know he has passed on. This was the day my world fell apart. There was no time for weddings or any type of happiness. Whomever had done this had declared war and my mother, bless her misguided soul was fast to blame a kingdom we had been having some disputes with. They denied her claim but she wouldnâ€™t believe them so now, even years later we are stuck in a war that may or may not even be against the right people.
Iâ€™m not sure but I never married and when my dads life ended it left my mother to rule. She may have made a good queen under different circumstances but she is barely recognizable as my mother these days. Sheâ€™s hateful, even cruel even at times. I often wonder if she is still my mother at all. Iâ€™m tired of all this blood, all this hate. I long for the world of my fathers rule but there may never be any going back.
My once fiance isnâ€™t around any longer, my mother saw to that. She wants me to do nothing more with my life than to fight and scheme with her and she leaves me with no other choice but to do so. I feel as if my only escape will be my death one day but I have too much hope left that one day things can be normal again to commit suicide. I will fight and I will plan and I will do what it takes to survive all this so that one day I might find happiness again.
I havenâ€™t yet told you what I am besides a daughter of a king and queen so I suppose I should tell you more about myself. Iâ€™m a fairy with soft blue eyes and long, flowing magenta hair. Iâ€™m not incredibly tall but most fairies arenâ€™t. There was a time Iâ€™d tell you I often read and spent time with wildlife but you already know what my life has become. I, Zinlya, princess of a kingdom now known for its despotism invite you to learn my story.
I stand on the battlefield as smoke plumes around me, the smell of blood and burning wood permeate the air, soaking into my hair and skin. I grip the handle of the sword in my hand until my knuckles turn white and I swallow down the pain as I stare out over the scene of death. I hate it has come to this, I hate killing. I watch as my motherâ€™s soldiers pick their way through the dead, looking for survivors from both sides. None of them want this either. I let out a shuddering sigh as I sheath my weapon and join the search. These people, both friend and and enemy deserve so much more than death. I check for people still breathing, check for heart beats, the sorrow only growing as with each passing moment I find no one.
I stop at another, dropping down and letting my ear hover near his lips. I am surprised when I feel and hear his breath. I turn to yell for help and find myself being dragged back by my hair, slammed into the mud and blood, looking up at his face. The look in his eyes is wild and furious as he presses a dagger to my throat. â€śMove and I will kill you.â€ť His free hand clutches his side and I can see the blood soaking through his armor. â€śJustâ€¦donâ€™tâ€¦move.â€ť
I could find no anger in my soul for what was happening, especially if he realized who I was. He just wanted to live, just like I did and for whatever reason I felt he wouldnâ€™t kill me. Maybe I was too dangerously close to wanting to die that I was being stupid but I felt in the pit of my stomach this man simply didnâ€™t want the soldiers of my mothers employ coming after him. The soldiers marched on, not often worrying for my safety since I was a skilled fighter and normally wasnâ€™t one to be caught like this. Once they were far enough away he groaned, letting me go and getting up. My gut had been right about him â€śdonâ€™t make me regret not taking my chance Zinlyaâ€ť his words were filled with obvious pain from his wounds â€ślet me help you. You could have taken my life and chose not to, I owe you that muchâ€ť
He smiled at me and it left me confused. How could one smile in such a dismal world, especially when he should be in excruciating pain. â€śfine, I need it anywayâ€ť We found somewhere to huddle and he undressed enough for me to tend his wounds â€śso you knew who I was and didnâ€™t kill me?â€ť
â€śIn my circles I hear you donâ€™t want this, that you believe our side. If you were like your mother I would have killed you but I couldnâ€™t having any doubt you werenâ€™t willingly complicit in all thisâ€¦besidesâ€¦I may not be a person a princess would remember but I knew you before all this so I had a good feeling before hand you wouldnâ€™t want this for our worldâ€ť I blushed, I really didnâ€™t remember him. I felt like such an asshole. â€śprincess or not Iâ€™m sorry that I donâ€™t remember you like you do meâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ve grown a lot and am really dirty right now soâ€ť he groaned loudly but I was almost done and his wounds were worse than I had anticipated so I had been surprised he could talk and seemed to move so easily. I wanted to talk to him more, to learn how we knew each other. I wanted some normalcy in my life but I wasnâ€™t sure how long I should be absent like this. They knew I needed no babysitter but they were bound to question my absence sooner or later when I was supposed to be with them.
â€śThank you, princess.â€ť He started to get to his feet and fell back down with a groan.
â€śLet me help you up.â€ť
He waved me off with a breathy laugh. â€śGo, wouldnâ€™t want all your hard work to go to waste should your men find me here. Go, Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ll meet again. Another day, another battlefield.â€ť
â€śYou donâ€™t have to worry about them hurting you. Theyâ€™ll listen to me.â€ť I stood then bent down and helped him stand. â€śFollow the river out of here.â€ť
â€śI know, thank you.â€ť
â€śAnd get rid of your colors, just in case.â€ť
â€śGo, Iâ€™m a big boy, no reason to worry your sweet little head.â€ť He reached up and tussled my hair, wincing in pain. â€śSorry, go on.â€ť
I nod and head away from him, looking over my shoulder only once. He waves, smiling and I wonder again how he manages it. I wanted to go back and make him tell me how he knew me, I wanted to meet him again somewhere other than a blood soaked battlefield.
I rejoin the soldiers without skipping a beat, they seem as if they hadnâ€™t worried at all which I was relieved for. Another day it pays off to have never been a defenseless princess. I had always trained, my father had wanted me to take his place one day since I was twelve. Iâ€™m not sure what I did then but that was the year he had decided he wanted to train me to take his place when he felt like retiring from his post. He had told me he wanted me to marry first but that did nothing to hurt my feelings. My father had always been a romantic. He was the kind of person who thought people couldnâ€™t live their best life until they found their partner so even if I had been a boy Iâ€™m sure he would have felt the same. Iâ€™m sure it was mostly to make sure I found the time for marriage.
Ruling, even in a peaceful world was time consuming so most likely it was the romantic in him not wanting me to ever be alone. I suppose Iâ€™m reminiscing again, Iâ€™ll try not to do that too much. It can be hard at times not to lose myself to the past, especially when memories of my father were stirred up. I wouldnâ€™t be as strong, capable and smart in battle nor trusted as much by these soldiers if it werenâ€™t for him so thank you dad, thank you for giving me one normal moment with that man I apparently once knew in peaceful times. Thanks for giving me that by not making these men think I need to be babysat.
None survived but that resilient man whom I know kicked myself for not asking his name. Maybe I did pick up a slight case of being self absorbed as most princessâ€™s do. I suppose I may not be like most but nobody is perfect. We took flight, making our journey home. Soon Iâ€™d be back with my mother and who knows what crazy things sheâ€™d be talking about next. I hoped she might just let me go to my room. I didnâ€™t want to be with her and I certainly didnâ€™t want to go look at more dead bodies any time soon.
I am exhausted by the time I make it home, so much so that I remember nearly falling right there on the front steps, wanting nothing more than to sleep, but one of the men helps steady me and I thank him. â€śPrincess?â€ť I sigh as I meet the eyes of my motherâ€™s maid. She was a nice girl, sweet and kind, a bit nervous, but gentle all the same.
My mother, of course. I hold up my hand and she trails off. â€śI understand, but I need to get clean so tell her I will come to her later.â€ť
There was a time when I adored my mother, when I sat on her lap, when I laughed with her. To me she was the most beautiful woman in the world, but the loving light in her eyes had faded, had been replaced by hate and coldness. Her face had become ragged with it and though I regret not trying harder for her, for not forcing her to see what she had become sooner, at the time I avoided her as much as possible.
I took my time cleaning myself since rest came so rarely anymore. My mind almost drifted to the man again but I knew if I allowed my mind to wander to him again I might lose too much time in this bathroom. When my bath water felt more like melted ice than the comforting heat it had once been I dried, throwing on something loose and comfortable before going to my mothers room. I see her maid again, waiting in front of the door with an awkward smile. She bows to me then opens the door so I may step through â€śZinlyaâ€ť my mothers voice was far from warm but there was a difference in how she spoke to me than how she spoke to anybody else so I knew, technically, there was warmth there.
â€śNone, I got a bit dirty thoughâ€ť
â€śI guess even the best trip sometimesâ€ť
â€śmaybe Iâ€™ve been sending you out too muchâ€¦youâ€™re just the only one here I can fully trust to give truthful reportsâ€ť
â€śI know, Iâ€™m fineâ€ť
â€śHm, well, I have something to speak to you about thenâ€ť
â€śI think itâ€™s high time we weakened themâ€ť
â€śThe river Gaila flows into the water supply they use for their main city. If we poison that, weâ€™re sure toâ€ť
â€śMotherâ€ť The reprimand in my voice was clear and I didnâ€™t care that she heard it. Poisoning people, children possible, I wasnâ€™t going to do that, not even for my mother”
â€ślike those pigs deserve anything more Zinlya? They took your father from usâ€ť
â€śMom, children will drink that. You have to realize weâ€™d hurt childrenâ€ť
â€śNo, no motherâ€ť I stood my ground, feeling proud of myself, like the queen my father had seen in me. â€śZinlya you wont even listen to meâ€ť
â€śMom, please listen to me. I seldom stand my ground with you but I cannot do this. I just cant, we arenâ€™t those type of peopleâ€ť I wanted to ask her what father would think of her if he heard her now but even in my anger and repulsion I just couldnâ€™t. There was a long silence between us before she finally said â€śfine Zinlya, have some tea with me and Iâ€™ll think of something elseâ€ť
â€śthank you momâ€ť she didnâ€™t respond and I left the subject alone. I hope she hadnâ€™t given in too easy, that she wasnâ€™t just planning to do it behind my back.
Sitting and drinking with my mother is awkward. When I was a child, she was always so happy as we chatted. She spoke of my father, how proud of me she was, and how excited she was for me to marry. I miss those simple, sweet moments with her, I miss just being her little girl. Talk of war fills the silence, questions of our enemy, about how they moved, about how many men we lost. She speaks to me like I am a soldier, rather than the child she so loving brought into this world. I worry, about her changing her mind and poisoning innocent people, about being thrown back out onto the blood soaked battle field, about having to kill more people who hate this war as much as I, and lastly about him, about the man who says he knows me. I donâ€™t want to fight him, I donâ€™t want to hurt him, I want to know everything.
â€śZinlya, youâ€™re distracted.â€ť
â€śHmm? Sorry, just tired mother.â€ť I truly am, but I want to be alone to think.
â€śthen I will see you at breakfast tomorrowâ€ť My mother kissed my head but I still felt no love. I knew she must still care for me but it is awkward and unpleasant all the same. She has taken so much from me and this kingdom and I wish I had it in me to take more drastic measures with her. She needs to be stopped, I know that but she is my mother and not only that she is not a helpless damsel either. My father wasnâ€™t into helpless women that needed to be protected. If I challenged my mother and she was enraged enough to kill me there would be nobody to talk her down from crazy plans like poisoning an entire water supply. Maybe Iâ€™m a coward making excuses but at the same time, what if my concerns when it comes to taking drastic measures are warranted. When Iâ€™m finally alone in my room I open my window, needing some air. Iâ€™m tired but my mind is so busy Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™ll sleep tonight.
Torganâ€™s Point of View
My mind is still in daydreams about my time with her when an ally finds me â€śfuck man, youâ€™re alive. I knew it.â€ť it was a joyous whisper â€śI amâ€ť
â€śyou seem dazed, hurry this way. We just made something to eat and Borba can check those wounds.â€ť I follow, excited for a meal. I sit, wanting to eat first but Borba seems to be having none of that. She begins removing clothes and I sigh â€śI really want to eat firstâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m putting ointment on it, last thing we need is you getting an infectionâ€ť
â€śalright momâ€ť I tried to say it teasingly, we did often call her mom since she fussed over everyone constantly but she heard my irritation â€śthat hungry or did something happen?â€ť I never lied, especially not to them and they knew just like me, Zinlya wasnâ€™t like her mother â€śI talked to Zinlyaâ€ť
â€śyou spoke to her? How?â€ť
â€śshe was checking the dead and I pinned her, scared sheâ€™d call out to the men with her that I was livingâ€ť
â€śwoahâ€¦you didnâ€™t have toâ€¦â€ť
â€śno, I didnâ€™t have to hurt herâ€ť Borba looked sympathetic now â€śhow is sheâ€¦is she like she wasâ€¦â€ť
â€śyeah, she actually did this original bandagingâ€ť Borbaâ€™s smile was gentle â€śIâ€™m gladâ€¦â€ť Borbaâ€™s long pause gave way to Ikkath saying â€śyeah, man, I know you two could have never been together but we both know how much you used to like herâ€ť
â€śshe didnâ€™t remember meâ€ť
â€śsheâ€™s been through a lot of hellâ€¦and its been yearsâ€¦and wellâ€¦â€ť
â€śIâ€™m fine, lets just eatâ€ť Borba wrapped his wound again and they dropped the subject of Zinlya.
We made camp there that night, putting the fire out even though the night might become chilly, just in case someone spots it. I canâ€™t sleep, so I lay there staring up at the night sky. I want to see her again, to look into her eyes, to see her smile. I frown at the look on her face when I had her pinned beneath me. So much sadness. I hate this, that she is so close, yet so far away. I want to see her and I could if I really wanted to, I could sneak away and go to her, but I donâ€™t want to worry the others and I get caught, her mother could have me executed then we would never meet again.
â€śZinlya.â€ť I whisper her name. â€śStay alive, Iâ€™ll find you again, I swear it.â€ť
I wake feeling sore and groggy, groaning as I push my covers away. I hadnâ€™t slept until the early morning hours, my mind too focused on what my mother might do and on the man I had met. I tried to remember who he might be, where I had met him. I wished I could ask my mother, but she would tell me worrying about me right now was idiotic. I sigh as I get up, knowing if I donâ€™t get ready now then my mother will send someone up to get me out of bed.
Iâ€™m barely down the hall when I hear commotion, it sounds like West and he doesnâ€™t lose his cool over just anything. My heart starts racing as I rush towards his loud voice â€śwhatâ€™s going on?â€ť
“there was a surprise attack, a fire somehow broke loose during battle and itâ€™s absolutely out of control. It might take down the entirety of Swaying Forest. ” Swaying Forest, my dad had taken me there many times when I was little. It was gorgeous and a neutral place before all this. We shared it with the very kingdom we were warring with now. Iâ€™d hate to see it go â€śmother we must stop thisâ€ť
â€śwhy? Let it be there problem. They are the ones who sprung an attack thereâ€ť
â€śMom, dad loved it thereâ€¦for himâ€ť She seemed annoyed Iâ€™d use him against her but she relented and I could see relief even on Wests face. That place meant a lot to many people for so many different reasons. My mother gave in and I rushed to help. How could she even for a second consider letting such a beautiful place burn. Then again, when it comes to my mother now, why should I be surprised.
The fire is truly out of control when I rush there with all the help the castle could spare. We try our damnedest to put it out but our efforts seem to somehow be making things worse. Just as I was thinking this might be fed by magic I feel something pierce my stomach. I look down in disbelief as I see a magical sword protruding through my stomach, covered in my blood. Suddenly electricity goes through my body and itâ€™s then I understand. Somehow they knew Iâ€™d come and what better way to hurt the queen than to manage to take her daughter.
As the pain stops and I begin to fade Iâ€™m not fearful. I am no damsel in distress. I am a queen and Iâ€™ll for once gladly kick someones ass once Iâ€™m awake again. I wake in darkness, my wrists and ankles obviously chained. I summon my magical energy and easily break them. Itâ€™s almost insulting they didnâ€™t use something better to contain me. Even wounded they should know that not much can truly hold me prisoner. They would have been smarter to kill me while they had the chance but thats not what they wanted. I could tell even as the sword was in my stomach they had missed vital things within me on purpose.
I get up slowly, wincing at the pain in my stomach and I lift my shirt to see itâ€™s been bandaged. I hold out my hand, calling on my magic again, lighting up the darkness with an orb of light. I can see Iâ€™m in a small room and I stand silently for a moment, holding my breath and listening. Itâ€™s surprising quiet so I move toward the only door and peek out the small barred window. â€śHello?â€ť I say, but I donâ€™t see or hear anyone. They must have left me here, maybe they were discussing my fate, or hadnâ€™t expected me to wake so soon.
It feels good to be clean and pull on fresh clothing. I stretch, the pain in my side reminding me I am still wounded as I do. The others and I had left for the larger encampment the moment we woke and our commanding officer had ordered us to rest after what had happened. I could see the strain on his face, the worry, and even regret. I knew the orders he had to give weighed on him, sending our companions off to war, only to have them slaughtered. I step outside, letting my eyes take in the men and women milling about, large tents, and even the broken keep we had found to call our temporary home. It was old, abandoned and long forgotten.
My commander seems to come out of nowhere, obviously wanting to talk to me more â€śHowâ€™s your side? You might should let someone look at it again. Youâ€™ve really grown to be one of the men I depend on most. Hell or high water you come back from anythingâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ll ask Borba again a little later. The ointment she put on me still stings a bit so I know itâ€™s still doing what it needs to doâ€ť
“Battle blades are the worst, often filthy, especially with this constant fighting. We talked awhile and I indulged him. Not only was he my commander but I could tell he was genuinely worried about me.
Zinlya: I donâ€™t make much effort to get out. The anger I felt when I was fading was completely changed into curiosity as to why they simply wanted to capture me. My mind had gone to hostage but if I were to be used as leverage against my mother, certainly Iâ€™d have guards. They truly couldnâ€™t think me this weak after all these years of war. Suddenly there was light and it hurt my eyes since they had been working so hard in the dark â€śwow, you really are up. Things they say about you are trueâ€¦â€ť there was a long meaningful pause before he added â€śI hope that includes the fact you doubt we are to blame for your fatherâ€ť
There it was, why they had done this. They had wanted to talk to me â€śthere are nicer ways you could have gotten me aloneâ€ť
â€śperhaps, we also donâ€™t know if a lot is true about you soâ€¦forgive usâ€ť
:I only see you”
â€śIâ€™ll go get my commanderâ€ť
â€śwho are you?â€ť
â€śhis second in commandâ€ť
â€śdid your kind ask for my capture or are you two being rogues?â€ť The fairy shrugged but I didnâ€™t press further. Soon an incredibly tall man, at least when it came to their kind walked in. His face much more serious than the younger seeming fairy beside him â€śI donâ€™t plan to torture you or any sort of nonsense. I just wanted that clear and on the table. Forcefulness and pain havenâ€™t done a damn thing to help anybody. Iâ€™d just like to talk. He says you seem openâ€ť
â€śI know my mother is bat shit. We werenâ€™t on good terms butâ€¦I just dont see your king ordering my father assassinatedâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m sorry for your lossâ€¦and not just out of selfishness. Your father was a good man and it seems he raised a wise daughter.â€ť
â€śPlease tell me you have proof someone else did itâ€ť
â€śI have suspicions I wanted to speak to you aboutâ€ť
â€śIâ€™d like to ask you something first and Iâ€™d like you to answer truthfullyâ€ť
â€śhow did you know Iâ€™d come to put out that fire?â€ť
â€śbecause you and your father spent so much time thereâ€ť
â€śHow would you know that we didâ€ť
â€śYou used to frustrate Kite, a noble boy of our kingdom. You didnâ€™t like him but you liked his friend of less stature. Drove him mad, every time his family was at the castle we heard about it. Not that it would be your fault but their friendship did not survive you. Kiteâ€™s a little shit to be honest so it was good Torgan didnâ€™t stick around him. Besides, with all that newfound free time he started following around the guard and heâ€™s made quite a man of himselfâ€ť
â€śTorganâ€ť I can almost hear myself as a child say the name and my heart skips a beat as I remember those eyes, the way he had looked at me. That couldnâ€™t be, no. I could remember now, playing with those two boys. More so Torgan than Kite. There was no way Torgan had grown into the man she had seen. How was it so easy to forget things from childhood like that. Those two boys hadnâ€™t crossed her mind in such a long time.
â€śI see those are memories you had forgottenâ€ť
â€śI suppose I didâ€¦I guess my life became about getting ready to be queen and then my arranged marriage andâ€¦wellâ€¦my fathers deathâ€¦I justâ€ť My words stopped there and after awhile he said â€śyour wound should heal soon. Iâ€™m sorry if it was cruel to use memories of your father but this war needs to stop. There has been too much loss on both sidesâ€ť I nodded â€śyeahâ€¦â€ť I couldnâ€™t stop thinking about that man again, comparing his face to the little boy but I did my best to snap out of it. This could possibly be one of the most important conversations of my life.
I follow the commander, who I learn is named Uailean. He leads me out of the musty darkness and upstairs to a rundown keep. â€śIâ€™ve never seen this place.â€ť I say as I look around curiously.
â€śItâ€™s quite old, but we are thankful for it.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m surprised I never came across it.â€ť
â€śWe stumbled upon it during a scouting expedition.â€ť He leads me to what used to be the dining room and I my eyes are drawn to the maps and books covering the large table. â€śPlease, make yourself comfortable princess, Iâ€™ll have someone get you something to eat and drink.â€ť He gestures toward a chair. â€śWe donâ€™t have much Iâ€™m afraid.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s fine really.â€ť
â€śbefore we begin talking would you like someone to look at your wound again?â€ť
â€śIâ€™m not worried about it. I could tell how careful you were not to do any fatal damageâ€ť He opens a book, flipping pages until he obviously finds what he was looking for â€śDid your father ever tell you anything about the years he spent away from the castle when he was a teenager?â€ť
â€śYes, he was sent to Coalfell by his parents when he was fourteen to be taught there. He met a man named Creighton who traveled the world doing various things wherever he went. The man and the lifestyle intrigued my father so he followed him a few yearsâ€ť
â€śup until he realized Creighton was badâ€ť
â€śYes, my father, especially when he was young struggled to see bad in beings. With him you were always innocent until a flashing sign said otherwise but he told me about everything. I heard every story and I honestly think, in that situation it might have taken anybody until what happened at Kilead to see what Creighton truly was. He seemed to at least try to keep his act together around the then princeâ€ť
â€śtrue, but your father remained in his company for four years. Four years very long ago but there are fairies who let things simmer within them and decide to lash out a ridiculous amount of time later so I began looking into any wrong doing Creighton did while your father was following him around, including the Kilead incidentâ€ť
â€śyouâ€™re worried about guilt by associationâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m willing to look down every single avenue to clear my kingdoms name with yours so this ends. Iâ€™ve spent at least a year of this war studying your fathers lifeâ€¦Zinlyaâ€¦I didnâ€™t want to lead with saying this but there is more than one reason I brought you here the way I did. I want you to help me nab the real culprit. With the way I took you your mother would believe you were kidnapped if she ever caught up to us. Ive already prepared my story for her in such an eventâ€¦please princess Zinlyaâ€¦come with me to truly investigate my suspicionsâ€ť My heart slows a bit but without skipping a beat I answer â€śof course I will help you but I wont allow you to take the fall in the event my mother catches up to us. My fatherâ€¦â€ť sometimes I still struggled to talk about him to others â€śMy father saw a queen in me and a queen would never allow someone else to take the fallâ€¦a good one wouldnâ€™t anywayâ€¦I hope if I ever sit on the throne we can call our bad blood overâ€ť
Uailean stood and I soon realized he had done it just to bow â€śyou already have my respect princess Zinlya.â€ť I had almost forgotten anybody else was here until I noticed them bow with him. I donâ€™t know how to feel in this moment. I do love my mother, even still but I canâ€™t sit idly by when I have a real chance at ending this war she started. Iâ€™ve already lost her, who she was died with my father. If I lose her completely in the name of justice and bringing peace I can live with that, I know I can”
I strolled around the base, checking on the others, helping where I could. I went to Borba to have my wound checked, not wanting to worry anyone. â€śItâ€™s seems to be healing fast.â€ť She said. â€śYouâ€™ll have a scar, but as you know women love them.â€ť
â€śI wonder if it will impress Zinlya.â€ť I wanted her to know I was alive, to get the chance to give her some sort of peace of mind in these dark times.
I go over the evidence with Uailean, using a pen to mark things I found interesting or suspicious. I was astounded just how much he had truly gathered on my father and it felt like I was seeing the man who had helped raise me through fresh eyes. â€śShould we start in Coalfell?â€ť I asked.
â€śWe can if you wish, perhaps there is someone still there who remembers your father and Creighton, but I would also like to visit Kilead. I feel with you with me, perhaps we will get more information.â€ť
I nod. â€śI agree. When will we be leaving?â€ť
â€śAs soon as you are up to traveling princess. Your woundâ€¦â€ť
I hold up my hand. â€śIâ€™m fine, thereâ€™s no need to delay. We should head out as soon as possible before my mother does something horrible.â€ť I sigh. â€śShe threatened to poison the river.â€ť
â€śYou should send someone to warn your King, tell him to keep people away from the main water source.â€ť
â€śI will, thank you. Iâ€™ll do it right now then we can prepare.â€ť
â€śMay I ask something of you first?â€ť
â€śI want Torgan with us. Is that a possibility?â€ť
I see a grin which tells me the question amuses him â€śYes, Iâ€™m sure that can be arranged. Heâ€™s a bit of a trip away though. In keeping to being honest with each other heâ€™s probably going to be pissed at me when he finds out I hurt you to bring you here but I did what I felt needed to be done to end thisâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ll make sure to tell him Iâ€™m happy you did. I want my old kingdom back. I want to see everyone happy againâ€ť
â€śwell, let me make sure my king knows about the water. You just try to relax before we head out.â€ť Uailean leaves me and I feel relieved my mother brought that up before his plan to bring me here was set in motion so I could warn them. Whatâ€™s happening is bad enough. Was there truly a need to ruin an entire water supply? Her telling me that the innocent children and wildlife that would be harmed by that truly meant nothing to her was also the little nudge I needed to fully be ready to completely lose my relationship with her to end this. She had to be brought back to her senses and Uailean was my best chance.
It is a couple of days after returning to the base camp that a messenger from our main camp comes running up to me. He hands me a letter and I give it a questioning look when I see Uaileanâ€™s crest pressed into the bit of wax holding the envelope closed. I pop it open, wondering for a moment if I am being reprimanded. Iâ€™m surprised to find that it is orders for me to prepare myself for travel and to meet him and another at the halfway point. I read it again: he and another? It is oddly cryptic.
â€śEverything alright?â€ť Ikkathâ€™s voice pulls me out of my examination of the letter and I turn handing it to him.
â€śApparently I am to head out and meet Uailean.â€ť
â€śWhat does one other mean?â€ť
I shrug. â€śI have no idea, but I should prepare, I would hate to be late.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re heading out alone? Shouldnâ€™t I or Borba go with you?â€ť
â€śBorba is needed here and itâ€™s best you take my place while Iâ€™m gone.â€ť
â€śJust dont go getting yourself killed. I expect to see you come back with all your limbs. Uailean doesnâ€™t seem to have any sort of reasonable amount of fear in himself to keep him from anything. Heâ€™s impressive butâ€¦you know youâ€™re like a brother to meâ€ť
â€śall fingers and legs and all that will be accounted for when we see eachother again. Donâ€™t let Borba work herself too hard and you be mindful yourselfâ€ť I hug my long time friend tightly. The days of brief hugs long since being over since you never knew any more when a parting would be your last with someone. I then hurry off to get ready, actually excited he has called me even though itâ€™s confusing. At the risk of sounding immodest I am an asset to a team but I by no means see myself as high enough up there for something Uailean would handle. Heâ€™s one of the kings most trusted commanders. He goes on all the most dangerous things and nearly all he does is secretive. Itâ€™s intriguing so I quickly pack the bare essentials, pull my best boots on then find Borba to say goodbye so she isnâ€™t angry at me.
We hug as well and exchange similar words to what I shared with Ikkath before I leave the safety of my camp to find Uailean and this mysterious person he has with him. The journey is anything but peaceful since I have to be careful not to be spotted. Even when things seemed like I could relax I didnâ€™t, knowing it was foolish in the times we lived in. One second of allowing my mind to be in the clouds could be the one second Iâ€™m spotted by an enemy.
â€śI hope you donâ€™t mind walking princess.â€ť Uailean says as we trek through the forest, taking an old deer trail.
â€śNot at all, itâ€™s safer.â€ť I respond, doing my best to ease his worry.
I wave my hand and with it push away his concern. â€śI barely even notice it. If I start having trouble, I wonâ€™t hesitate to say so. We should both be well rested and ready for anything.â€ť
â€śOf course, thank you.â€ť
â€śFor not telling me Iâ€™m being an idiot and for being so forgiving. I expected at least a punch, thoughâ€¦â€ť he rubs his jaw, â€śI may receive one regardless.â€ť
â€śYou act as though weâ€™ve remained good friends all this time. I even forgot about our time togetherâ€¦I hardly deserve to be fussed over by himâ€ť
â€śYouâ€™re a princess, one who was training to be queen, lost her father then has had to live in the hellish place your kingdom has become. I think you can be given a break for forgetting a childhood friend. Iâ€™m sure most of your childhood hardly crosses your mind unless itâ€™s directly related to the late king. Times like these does that to people, especially when you have to deal with it every single day. You meant a lot to Torgan and we all know youâ€™re the being youâ€™ve always been. If things hadnâ€™t gotten so bad I have no doubts Torgan would have reentered your life at his earliest opportunity.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m happy Iâ€™ll be seeing him againâ€¦Iâ€™m happy both of you have survived all thisâ€ť
â€śHopefully with us working together this will all end soonâ€¦that fiance you hadâ€¦that wont still be a thing will it?â€ť
â€śNo, he may have only left because of my mother but it really didnâ€™t take much. We barely knew one another. My dad just thought weâ€™d make a good match and I didnâ€™t mind an arranged marriage. Especially not when my father had chosen him. All my dad ever wanted for me was happiness. Why do you ask though?â€ť Even I felt like that was a stupid question. The clues were all over Uailean that he felt Torgan was in love with me. He may be wrong but it was clear Uailean felt we were a love connection missed. Uailean shrugged and I didnâ€™t push for an answer I already knew.
Iâ€™m still struggling with the idea that boy was the same man I recently encountered when we arrive where we are meant to meet up with him. It was true some people changed quite a bit from child to adult but he had gone from small and rather gangly to, well, incredibly attractive, rugged and covered in muscle. Uailean checks my wound after we eat. It seems to be mostly healed so I still donâ€™t worry. Iâ€™m not even sure Torgan will realize Uailean hurt me to get me somewhere to talk unless Uailean readily gives the information. He may be incredibly attractive but I donâ€™t plan to just strip naked in front of him. I blush at the thought and Uailean chuckles â€śwhatâ€™re you thinking aboutâ€ť
â€śmy woundâ€¦we donâ€™t have to tell him you knowâ€ť
â€śIâ€™d rather get my jaw punch out of the way. Besides, heâ€™s going to ask how I pulled this off. There isnâ€™t any way he isnâ€™t. I am going to make sure I very quickly tell him though that it was in part to give you an out with your mother should she catch usâ€ť
â€śStill, you shouldnâ€™t be hurt on my account.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s alright, Torganâ€™s nice enough not to kill his commander.â€ť
I sigh. â€śMen, such a handful.â€ť
Uailean actually laughs. â€śYes we are, but you have to admit, women compliment us with their mischievousness.â€ť
â€śPerhaps.â€ť I smile, thinking back to my childhood, back to Torgan and Kite. I did have to admit, that I may have been a little mischievous when I was with them.
I pick up the pace as I come to the last leg of my journey, wanting to meet Uailean and his companion there as soon as possible. I wonder who it could possibly be, who was so important he couldnâ€™t write it down. I knew sometimes information was omitted or made more cryptic just in case opposing forces managed to get their hands on correspondences between camps, but we didnâ€™t have anyone but royalty who would be that important and the military tried to keep our king and his oldest son out of it as much as possible. It hadnâ€™t made the prince happy, he didnâ€™t want to sit by and watch his people be slaughtered, but the king had assured him that he felt the same, but it was important they stay safe, just in case. I hear soft chatter as I get closer and as I step into our meeting place, both Uailean and the woman with him stand. My eyes are drawn to her as if by a magnet and I feel my heart stutter when I realize itâ€™s Zinlya.
I look to Uailean who smiles and speaks â€śIâ€™ll catch you up to speed on the situation. It wasnâ€™t safe to explain in a letter and I have to admit I wanted this to be a surprise.â€ť
â€śHey Torganâ€ť Hearing her say my name and with such familiarity I hardly feel like a hardened fighter in a war. â€śdo you remember me?â€ť I had to ask. When she nodded my heart stuttered again. I wanted to hug her but it had been so many years. Sheâ€™s kind and warm but I still donâ€™t know what all is welcome. Iâ€™m eager to know how and why this is happening so I prompt Uailean to fill me in. How happy I was feeling melted away the second he told me how he got to her though I tried to understand when he explained his reasons. I wanted to scold him, to ask him what he would have done if he messed up. I knew how expertly he handled swords but still, there were so many variables. He could have killed her and not only made this worse but he could have taken the only woman from me I had ever been in love with. Zinlya owned my heart, she had from the very first time she smiled at me and at this point, I donâ€™t think I could ever fall for another.
Zinlya: So here we are, the start of my journeys, hardships and battles with two of the most amazing living men I know. My story will be filled with pain but with Uailean and Torgan I know we can reach a happy ending if youâ€™re willing to stick this through to the end and hear my entire tale.
~ The End ~
Lao sat on the edge of Tirâ€™s bed, admiring the young prince as he slept. He let his fingers drift over his cheek, pushing his hair back and he leaned down to kiss him. Tir started to push him away in his half asleep state, but Lao laced their fingers together and pinned his hands next to his head. He felt Tirâ€™s skin warm and he pulled back with a grin. â€śGood morning my prince.â€ť
â€śLao, what are you doing?â€ť
â€śWaking you, I thought I was allowed.â€ť He rubbed their noses together, getting a blush of embarrassment from Tir. â€śWeâ€™re supposed to be heading out.â€ť
â€śThatâ€™s right.â€ť Tir tried setting up, but Lao kept him in place. â€śCome on, you promised you would take me with you and you already let me sleep in.â€ť
â€śI was honestly hoping you would forget all this assassinâ€™s school nonsense. I am only going as a favor to my mentor.â€ť He let his lips brush Tirâ€™s, a barely there touch that had the younger man shivering. â€śI donâ€™t like the idea of having you around all of those assassins.â€ť
â€śBut youâ€™ll protect me, wonâ€™t you?â€ť
â€śOf course, no one there could touch you.â€ť
â€śThen letâ€™s go.â€ť
â€śI should have left while you slept, but I hate the idea of being dishonest with you.â€ť He gave Tir another kiss then let him go. â€śAlright, get ready then.â€ť
Tir found himself admiring Lao as he got out of bed. He looked so elegant and put together. His shirt hung open to his waist where it was held closed by a red sash. Lao cleared his throat and Tir blushed as he hurried to get his clothes and bathe.
Lao grinned, who didnâ€™t love the adorable look on their significant others face when they became embarrassed? He hoped this trip went well. Heâ€™d have to kill someone in front of Tir because they dared to hurt him. He wasnâ€™t sure why they would, but assassins work could attract some very unsound minds and sometimes it was figured out too late. Lao decided he would just concentrate on the positive so he wouldnâ€™t ruin this trip for Tir. Since Tir was determined to go he wouldnâ€™t have to go without him, which had been something he hadnâ€™t been looking forward to in the slightest. He also would get to introduce his mentor to the love of his life and he enjoyed showing him off.
Tir sat with his father and Lao through breakfast, listening to his father reminding him to stick with Lao and only eat and drink what Lao had tested out first. Tir was sure none of the other assassinâ€™s would dare cross Lao, but he understood his fatherâ€™s worries. He hugged him when it was time to go and he and Lao headed out to the carriage waiting for them. â€śHow long are we going to be there?â€ť Tir asked as their driver let them in.
â€śA week, my mentor was quite insistent I give him at least that long. The old man is quite pushy.â€ť He sat close to Tir, his arm draped over his loverâ€™s shoulders.
â€śOld man? Thatâ€™s a little surprising.â€ť
Lao chuckled. â€śYouâ€™re thinking elderly arenâ€™t you?â€ť He let his nose brush over Tirâ€™s cheek, causing goosebumps to rise on his skin.
â€śMy mentor is not human. Heâ€™s been a part of the school for a long time and is one of the best.â€ť He pressed a kiss to Tirâ€™s temple. â€śI want you to stay near while I teach, donâ€™t take anything that anyone tries to give you save for myself and my mentor, he can be trusted.â€ť
â€śOkay.â€ť Tir enjoyed the affection as his mind played through what he imagined the school and Lao’s mentor would be like. Lao’s constant touch and his imagination might have lulled him to sleep, but the occasional bump from the road kept him wide awake. It was sweet how Lao never seemed to tire of touching him. He had learned not to tease Lao about it because it only made him tease right back by getting more sexual with it. â€śWould you like me to tell you more about the school my love? I can tell your mind is busy.â€ť
â€śWell you have to give me a kiss first.â€ť Tir wasnâ€™t surprised to hear that and moved happily to kiss him. Lao made the kiss long, but they had a long ride so Tir wasnâ€™t in any rush. Who would be when they were lucky enough to have an amazingly skilled, incredibly attractive and sweet assassin in love with them who also happened to be an incredible kisser.
Lao grinned at Tirâ€™s red face and heavy breathing when he pulled back. â€śWhy must you be so tempting my love? If we were homeâ€¦â€ť
â€śLao, stop, what if the driver hears?â€ť
â€śPretty sure I could keep you quiet, I have my ways you know.â€ť
â€śLao youâ€¦youâ€™re supposed to be talking about assassins.â€ť
Lao chuckled. â€śAlright, if you insist, but once weâ€™re alone, you wonâ€™t be safe.â€ť He gave him another kiss before starting. He started with the schoolâ€™s history before moving onto describing the building itself. It had been built circular to accommodate the obstacle course in the middle where an assassinâ€™s strength and agility could be honed and tested. It had a sheer cliff behind it and on the other sides a forest. Mentors encouraged their students to practice sneaking through the school itself and even trying to assassinate their teachers.
â€śDid you try killing your mentor?â€ť Tir asked.
â€śOf course, I failed, but I tried many times.â€ť
â€śNot for us, it helps us realize what we need to work on.â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t think I could ever do something like that. Killing the person who trained you. Are you going to let those students attack you?â€ť
â€śOf course, youâ€™ll get to see me show off for you.â€ť
Tir was a little worried, but he didnâ€™t voice it. Lao’s entire life was risk so he felt it would be silly to ask him not to. Lao could see the anxiety in Tir so he took his hand, knowing if he kissed him again he might lose all self control. â€śWith you to impress and protect none of them will touch me Tir.â€ť They continued talking the entire ride there. There was so much history when it came to the school and teachers, not to mention all his own memories. Lao could probably fill days with conversation about his time there. Before they got out Lao had to warn his love again, â€śPlease, be careful. I donâ€™t want you afraid but I want you mindful. This school is good at weeding out the lunatics but that doesn’t mean itâ€™s impossible for one to slip through and do something stupid.â€ť
Lao smiled. â€śSo obedient, itâ€™s a bit surprising.â€ť
Tir blushed. â€śI just donâ€™t want to have to take care of you because you went and got hurt on my account.â€ť
â€śI think you just like me bossing you around.â€ť
Tir crossed his arms and Lao pressed a kiss to his cheek, causing his skin to heat further. â€śIâ€™ll get our things.â€ť
Lao chuckled as Tir started pulling their bags out and reached around him to take one grinning at the heat coming off of Tirâ€™s body. â€śCome on, wouldnâ€™t want to keep my mentor waiting.â€ť
Tir fought down his blush and took a couple of deep, calming breaths to get his heart under control. Nervousness replaced his embarrassment when they made their way from the front gate and past the arena. There were a few young men and women on the obstacle course and some of them had stopped to watch the two of them pass. Lao didnâ€™t seem to notice them or maybe he was ignoring them so Tir tried his best to do the same. â€śDonâ€™t worry, theyâ€™re only curious.â€ť He gestured around. â€śPretty impressive right?â€ť
â€śYeah, more than I could have imagined. So this is where all of those amazing skills were honed huh?â€ť
Lao nodded. â€śThere are many different kinds of classes here, ones on poisoning and stealth, ones on combat and seduction and even on the best materials for ease of movement.â€ť
â€śEvery assassin learns everything, but some are better at certain skills. Seduction is for those who arenâ€™t as good at hand to hand or knife play. The ones who prefer that method often pair it with poisons.â€ť
â€śAnd what about you?â€ť
Lao chuckled. â€śYou should know by now, that I am good at everything.â€ť He winked and Tir felt his face heat again.
Lao could be intense, but it was an amazing part about being with him. Tir knew how loved he was, he could see Lao’s devotion all the time. Soon they were standing before Laoâ€™s mentor who instantly seemed to be looking Tir over, Lao stepped a little in front of Tir, protective as always, even with his mentor. â€śYou brought him here, he must be special. I canâ€™t help but examine him.â€ť Nenyoâ€™s eyes were now on Lao. â€śThank you for finally coming. Is he whatâ€™s kept you too busy for your mentor’s request? I thought youâ€™d be eager to come back. You always were a show off.â€ť
â€śBefore him I would have been in a hurry, but a prince surrounded by assassins, it wasnâ€™t something I was comfortable with.â€ť
â€śIf anybody can keep him safe itâ€™s you, but I understand, come.â€ť
The interior of the school was beautifully crafted, every pillar and mural, every statue was gorgeous. Lao gestured to the walls. â€śNotice anything strange?â€ť
Tir looked around. â€śNot really.â€ť
â€śThe walls have hand and footholds built in.â€ť
â€śBecause, young prince, this is a school for assassins.â€ť Nenyo answered. â€śThey are always welcome to try their hands at sneaking up on and killing one of us.â€ť He suddenly stopped and looked up at the large chandelier. â€śNice try, come down young lady before I knock you down.â€ť
Tir was surprised when someone dropped from the ceiling and rolled, coming up on their feet in front of Nenyo. The woman pulled her hood back, frowning. â€śSir.â€ť She said.
â€śYou are still too heavy footed. I could see the chandelier shaking.â€ť
â€śYes sir, Iâ€™ll practice harder.â€ť
â€śSee you do.â€ť
Lao just smiled. â€śStill a hard ass I see.â€ť
â€śWould you like to try your hand?â€ť
â€śOf course, after weâ€™re settled in and you have introduced me to the students. I am sure fighting you would be a good way to show them what real assassins look like.â€ť
â€śThat eager to be beaten in front of your lover?â€ť
â€śJust that eager to be admired by him.â€ť
Nenyo grinned approvingly at his once student. He was looking forward to Lao being back around and seeing how much better he was than when he left here. Being that these were students he didnâ€™t often get a real challenge and Lao had brought just that into the school. Tir just kept admiring everything, looking at the walls, furniture, decorations and floors for anything else out of the normal. There were some places that even looked like they might be small doors, just big enough for a fit person to get through. It made Tir slightly more nervous, but he was still more interested in all this than afraid to be here.
Nenyo lead them up to the top floor where he pulled a key out of his pocket and unlocked a door. â€śI thought you might want your own room away from the dorms.â€ť He pushed the door open and gestured inside.
â€śNo secret passageways I hope.â€ť Lao said with a chuckle.
â€śI didnâ€™t think youâ€™d appreciate it. Perhaps if you were alone. I am sure you can handle one of the students coming through the window?â€ť
â€śOf course, it wonâ€™t be a problem.â€ť
â€śThank you.â€ť Tir said with a smile.
â€śI hope itâ€™s comfortable enough for you, prince.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll be fine, I know I live in a castle, but Iâ€™m not picky and as long as I have Lao with me, anythingâ€™s fine.â€ť
Nenyo chuckled. â€śI have to say, Lao, youâ€™ve chosen well.â€ť
â€śDespite his shyness, Tir is quite strong.â€ť
â€śGet settled in then and meet me in the arena. Iâ€™ll gather the new students.â€ť
Lao gave a small nod then Nenyo left them, allowing the two to set their stuff down and have a few moments. â€śWhat do you think so far?â€ť Lao asked and was happy to hear his love say, â€śItâ€™s amazing, Iâ€™m happy you didnâ€™t leave me.â€ť
â€śIf you havenâ€™t changed your mind by the time we leave then weâ€™ll come back more. Maybe I can come back every now and then as a visiting teacher. I know being one permanently is out of the question since you donâ€™t have any siblings to rule after your parents.â€ť
â€śYeah, but youâ€™re fine with that right? Iâ€™m not holding you back from anything?â€ť
Lao grinned, moving closer. â€śThe only thing you keep me from is making love to you as much as I want. Iâ€™m an incredibly happy and lucky man Tir, donâ€™t ever think otherwise.â€ť
Tir wound up having to push Lao back with one hand when he started trying to push his shirt off. He didnâ€™t want to be rude to Nenyo and wound up using the other hand to push the bedroom door open, stumbling out and only not falling because of Laoâ€™s quick reflexes. He found himself pulled into Laoâ€™s arms, blushing when Lao started laughing. â€śThat eager to get away from me huh?â€ť
â€śNoâ€¦not at all, I just want to see you show off is all.â€ť
Lao gently tipped his head back, grinning at him. â€śOh? Then Iâ€™ll have to make sure to put on a good show.â€ť
â€śJust donâ€™t get too hurt.â€ť
â€śI have you to tend to my wounds my love, so Iâ€™m not worried.â€ť He rubbed their noses together. â€śCome, letâ€™s go down before he comes back up.â€ť
He took Tirâ€™s hand and they walked back down to the arena. Lao smiled when he saw Nenyo and his students, the young men and women so eager to learn seemed excited at the prospect of getting to witness their mentor fight. All of their eyes were suddenly drawn to Tir and Lao, studying both of them, perhaps even looking for weaknesses. â€śTook you long enough.â€ť Nenyo said.
â€śCan you blame me, I mean look at him. Such an attractive distraction.â€ť Lao shot back with a teasing smile.
â€śLao, come on.â€ť Tir said embarrassed. â€śWhere do you want me?â€ť
â€śKarthan.â€ť Nenyo said and a young woman stepped up to stand next to him.
â€śYou are to sit with the prince and ensure his safety and comfort. He is off limits to all here. If anyone tries to lay a hand on him, you have permission to defend him.â€ť
Karthanâ€™s smile was friendly. â€śCome along prince Tir.â€ť She guided him to a good place to watch and soon all the others took seats, purposefully giving Tir and Karthan a lot of room to try to keep from getting into any trouble. â€śYouâ€™re in for a good show. Weâ€™ve been eager for this.â€ť Karthan whispered. Tir was interested himself, interested and hopeful Lao didnâ€™t get hurt trying to show off.
â€śKarthan is my best student currently so I donâ€™t want to hear anything about being distracted with worry over Tir when I beat you.â€ť Nenyo said confidently.
Lao lightly chuckled. â€śStop stalling, are you ready?â€ť
It startled Tir when Nenyo moved. He was so fast, almost too fast, and he was amazed that Lao managed to block the blades in Nenyoâ€™s hands. Lao grinned as he shoved his mentor back and struck out at him with lightening fast slashes. He looked around at the students, at their captivated gazes and then back at Lao, his heart thumping in his chest as he watched his loverâ€™s dance like movements. â€śA dance of death.â€ť Karthan said softly. â€śI have never see something this amazing. You are truly lucky prince, to have Lao by your side.â€ť
â€śI know.â€ť He had never seen Lao move like this since there was never anyone who dared come after either of them. He knew Lao was fast and silent like a cat, that he had been an incredibly talented assassin, but truly seeing it for the first time, was astounding. He jumped up when the tip of Nenyoâ€™s blade nicked Laoâ€™s cheek and had to stop himself from moving forward. He couldnâ€™t be a distraction right now.
Everyone gasped when they both lost a blade and Lao was suddenly on his back on the ground. Nenyoâ€™s blade pressed against his throat and the tip of Laoâ€™s was at Nenyoâ€™s solar plexus. Everyone was frozen as they waited to see what would happen next when Lao chuckled and Nenyo grinned, standing up and offering Lao a hand up. â€śAmazing as always, you actually had me.â€ť Nenyo said.
â€śAnd you me, butâ€¦â€ť he wiped at the blood on his cheek, â€śpoison? Really?â€ť
â€śMy blades stay coated.â€ť
â€śWere you testing my immunity?â€ť
â€śIt still burns.â€ť
â€śWell Iâ€™m glad youâ€™re staying sharp in all ways. Itâ€™s nice to see students leave here and become something to be proud of.â€ť The students all began running down in excitement, all except Karthan who took her task seriously.
â€śAre you ready to go down there and talk to them?â€ť She asked Tir who answered, â€śYeah, lets go.â€ť
They walked down and Lao broke away from them to kiss Tir before he whispered in his ear, â€śMaybe when we are in our room next time you won’t resist me after seeing this.â€ť Lao moved back and winked, causing Tir to blush. It really was sexy how amazing he had been out there, but it filled him with immense embarrassment that Lao knew it all too well.
â€śWhen shall my first class start?â€ť Lao suddenly asked Nenyo who said, â€śYouâ€™ve had a long journey, the students got their demonstration. That will be enough for the day. Just enjoy your prince and the school until tomorrow.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll meet you all out here straight after breakfast.â€ť They seemed to light up and before Tir knew it Lao had lifted him off his feet. As they walked away they could hear Nenyo talking to the students about what they had just witnessed. He was walking them through every single move, every single choice that was made and could have been made instead. He seemed to be a good teacher.
â€śShouldnâ€™t we explore a little?â€ť Tir asked and Lao let out a chuckle.
â€śTrying to avoid me?â€ť
â€śNo, itâ€™s just umâ€¦well itâ€™s not every day a prince just walks in here, soâ€¦I do want you, but I also want to see everything.â€ť
Lao grinned as he pressed a kiss to Tirâ€™s cheek then whispered in his ear, â€śWhy donâ€™t we have both?â€ť
Tir swallowed. â€śWhat do you mean?â€ť
â€śI have a secret place here.â€ť
â€śThatâ€™s almost hard to believe.â€ť
â€śI told you this place is very old and Iâ€™m sure the original architects still have many things hidden away. I just found one of them. The only one who could possibly know is Nenyo, heâ€™s even older than the school. So, want to see?â€ť
Lao grinned, theyâ€™d both be getting what they want. Tir could experience more of the school and he would still get to make love to Tir. It was actually an added bonus to make love to him in his old secret place. He had never brought anybody there for sex before and there was nobody heâ€™d rather pop that places cherry with. Lao continued walking, it almost seemed like they were going to leave campus when suddenly Lao pushed into a wall that had seemed solid, but it seemed they were now inside it, walking down a flight of stairs, â€śWoah.â€ť
â€śMy thoughts precisely when I ended up finding this place.â€ť
â€śHow did you find it?â€ť
â€śItâ€™s a bit embarrassing.â€ť
Lao let out an exaggerated sigh as if the memory was truly that bad. â€śI may have happened to lean against it playing a bit of cat and mouse with another student and I may have fallen through and part way down the stairs before I could stop myself.â€ť Tir grinned then covered his mouth as he started laughing. â€śSee? This is why I said it was embarrassing.â€ť
Tir took a deep breath, but couldnâ€™t keep the smile off his face or the amusement out of his eyes. â€śWere you hurt?â€ť
â€śJust my pride, but at least there was no one around to see how ungraceful I was.â€ť
â€śI bet the look on your face was, dare I say, adorable?â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure I could make you take that back.â€ť
Tirâ€™s heart felt like it was about to jump out of his chest, his skin flushing, and his mind whirling with what Lao might do to pay him back. â€śIâ€™ll be good.â€ť He knew Lao would never hurt him, but he blurted it out anyway, receiving a grin from the ex assassin.
Lao chuckled. â€śToo late now my sweet prince.â€ť He let out another little laugh. â€śI never thought my little escape artist would be so nervous.â€ť
They made it to a a surprisingly nice room beyond the fact it was dusty from lack of use. â€śIt looks as if truly nobody else has found this.â€ť Lao said as he set Tir down.
â€śIt looks so nice.â€ť
â€śI found it this way for the most part. I only brought different bedding in. I imagine an original person that used this school used this as a room and I didnâ€™t want to be sleeping in someone elseâ€™s sheets. I might change it out again if we come here a lot.â€ť Lao kissed Tir’s shoulder as he slid his hands up Tir’s torso. Tir blushed, this time just enjoying his lovers touch instead of trying to get away. There had been many reasons up until now to push him away, but now they could just enjoy each other.
Lao continued to slowly press feather light kisses until he had kissed across his right shoulder, all the while caressing him. Sometimes touching him could be addicting, especially after having to try so many times to get his prince to stay still long enough to let them have a moment like this. Lao licked up Tir’s neck before gently biting it. Tir moaned, his heart racing with anticipation. He could tell Lao was going to tease him more than normal and he supposed that was hisÂ punishmentÂ for laughing at him.
Laoâ€™s hand moved to Tir’s face only to move him so they could kiss. Their tongues were soon moving against each others as Lao began to play with and rub Tir’s nipples. Lao grinned when he felt Tir harden against him. â€śI love you.â€ť Lao whispered. Tir whispered it back before finally beginning to touch Lao as well. Lao began to feel his own length start to grow hard so he stripped Tir. Tir did the same so soon they were both naked, kissing and touching one another.
Lao began backing Tir up and suddenly he found himself against one of the walls, Lao licking and biting at his neck and shoulder again. â€śOh god Lao.â€ť Tir moaned, growing harder with need for release. Tir didnâ€™t know how Lao did this for so long, especially since he was hard as well, but he almost sighed with relief when Lao began kissing down his chest then stomach, soon taking Tir in his mouth. The sucking and licking he had been experiencing before was intensified now, causing Tir to almost shake with pleasure.
Lao knew there werenâ€™t condoms or lube in this room so he began working Tir as he sucked him, bringing the prince to the edge before stopping. Lao grabbed a piece of clothing from a nearby drawer then turned his lover so he was facing the wall and entered him. They came almost together, Lao inside Tir and Tir into the piece of clothing Lao had given him. Lao however wasnâ€™t done with him yet and Tir didnâ€™t suspect heâ€™d be anytime soon.
Lao pushed Tir far past his limit and Tir could only lay there panting and letting out little whimpering moans. He was so sensitive that he shuddered every time Lao touched him. â€śLaoâ€¦Iâ€¦itâ€™s too much.â€ť
Lao leaned down, his lips pressing against Tirâ€™s as he pushed into him a little harder, delighting in the way the prince clung to him, at the little whine that welled up in his throat. Their lips parted on a moan and Tir went limp with exhaustion, breathing heavily, his eyes damp with tears. Lao pressed kisses to his lips, smiling lovingly down at him. â€śDo you have any idea how much I love you?â€ť He rubbed their noses together.
â€śYeah.â€ť He said softly. â€śI love you too.â€ť
Lao nibbled at his chin, grinning when Tir let out another little whine. â€śI love seeing you like this, I canâ€™t help but tease and take advantage.â€ť
â€śI canâ€™t anymore today, Iâ€™ll die.â€ť
Lao chuckled as he moved off of him and moved Tir to lay on top of him, his head resting on his chest. He let fingers trail up and down his spine, getting a little shiver and goosebumps in response. He smiled when Tir fell asleep and let him rest for a bit. â€śTir, my love?â€ť He gently woke him a little while later and Tir let out a little groan as he opened his eyes.
â€śIs everything alright?â€ť He asked sleepily.
â€śOf course, but we should probably get clean and find something to eat. Iâ€™m sure youâ€™re hungry.â€ť
Tir blushed. â€śItâ€™s your fault.â€ť
Lao tilted Tirâ€™s head back and kissed him, grinning at how hot his skin was. â€śYou know I canâ€™t help myself, youâ€™re just so hard to resist.â€ť
Tir slowly got out of the bed then the two dressed before Lao took Tir in his arms again to carry him. Tir just relaxed into Lao’s arms, feeling both embarrassed and happy. The two returned to the room Nenyo had shown them, took a long shower then went to see what they could eat. The next morning Tir and Lao returned to the stadium for Lao’s first day of class. The students were already there, once again looking awe struck that they would soon be taught by Lao. Tir took a seat himself, but away from the students, not wanting to be in the way of anything they might do for the lesson.
Lao seemed to look them over then said, â€śCome here.â€ť Tir couldnâ€™t tell who he had said that to, but apparently to the students it was clear. A man who looked maybe a little younger than Tir stood and approached Lao. â€śAnd you.â€ť He said to another student who got up, it was the woman who sat with him the other day. â€śKarthan right?â€ť
â€śWhatâ€™s your name?â€ť He asked the man.
â€śIâ€™d like to start this class by really seeing where you all are with your skills. Iâ€™m not going to tell any of you the reasoning behind my pairings today, not yet anyway, but Iâ€™m going to have two on two matches until everyone has faced off against someone. Thereâ€™s an odd number of you so whomever impresses me most will go twice.â€ť
Tir watched as Karthan and Thacese fought, Karthan favoring the same type of blade Lao did while Thacese preferred his bare hands. Even so, he could see much of Nenyoâ€™s style in their movements. It was the way Lao fought as well, a mix of grace and aggression. There was something else in their movements though, almost like they were playing with each other and when he looked closer he could see Thacese grinning. Lao called a stop to the fight when Karthan knocked him to his back and landed on top of him, the tip of her dagger beneath his chin. â€śVery good, Karthan.â€ť Lao said and she stood, helping Thacese up.
â€śThank you sir.â€ť
â€śThere is a problem however.â€ť
Lao grabbed her arm and held up her wrist where Thacese had scratched her. He could see her veins through her skin. â€śHis nails are coated in poison.â€ť She looked surprised. â€śYou need to get the antidote, all that moving around only made it pump through your veins faster.â€ť
â€śDonâ€™t be upset, you did incredibly well, but you must expect the unexpected from a man who uses no actual weapon. Thacese, take her to get what she needs then both of you hurry back here.â€ť
Tir couldnâ€™t help but smile at how amazing he was. He was so patient. He called on the next two students and Tir just admired him, unable to keep his eyes off of him. Laoâ€™s eyes met his for just a second, a grin pulling at his lips that caused Tir to blush. â€śItâ€™s quite something seeing him so captivated by another person.â€ť Nenyoâ€™s voice next to Tir startled him. He hadnâ€™t even heard him.
â€śUhâ€¦Iâ€¦if anyoneâ€™s captivated itâ€™s me. Heâ€™s very magnetic? Alluring?â€ť
Nenyo chuckled. â€śHeâ€™s always been like that. He was a natural you know, picked up everything almost immediately.â€ť
Tir couldnâ€™t help but think of Laoâ€™s fall and had to stop himself from laughing. He turned his eyes back to Lao. â€śHe really is perfect, isnâ€™t he?â€ť
Nenyo chuckled. â€śWell thank you for coming. I can see even more now how much you mean to him so I know if you had been against it these students wouldnâ€™t have him here. He may have learned from me, but he has picked up a few things of his own. I feel this school and itâ€™s assassins will truly benefit from him coming to teach every now and then.â€ť
â€śWell, Iâ€™d never try to tell Lao he couldnâ€™t do something anyway.â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t think you would, but I doubt he would go do something regardless of if you actually said anything if he could tell it would upset you. He has keen senses, especially for a human. You donâ€™t seem like the controlling type so I hope you know that is not what I meant in the slightest.â€ť After a short pause Nenyo asked, â€śHow is your father?â€ť
â€śWell, though with how heâ€™s always been I imagine heâ€™s at home worried about me.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re his only child, itâ€™s understandable. Nothing will happen to you here, not with both Lao and I watching. Besides, they idolize Lao so much I doubt theyâ€™d want to be on his bad side.â€ť
â€śAre these all the students here?â€ť
â€śAre you the only teacher?â€ť
Nenyo shook his head. â€śThere are others, but their classrooms are inside.â€ť
â€śLao said everyone learns how to make poisons and umâ€¦seduce people.â€ť
Nenyo chuckled. â€śAre you curious about the things Lao has had to do?â€ť
Tir blushed. â€śNoâ€¦not really, it just explains a lot.â€ť
â€śHe was naturally charming when I met him, a natural at manipulation. He played the other students with ease and tried it with me, though he failed. Just to let you know, his feelings for you are genuine.â€ť
â€śI know, but thank you all the same.â€ť
They continued to watch each match, Tir noticing that both Karthan and Thacese had returned. Thacese was surprised when he was chosen to participate in the extra fight, but Lao explained it was for his trickery. Afterwards, he pointed out mistakes he had noticed or skills he thought needed improvement and things he believed certain students should focus on. They listened with rapt attention, truly absorbing everything he said.
Lao ended the day with that, wanting to give them time to absorb everything he had tried to teach them. â€śIâ€™m all yours again.â€ť Lao said with that ever charming smile.
â€śIâ€™d like to grab something to eat then see more of this place if you want.â€ť Lao kissed Tir’s forehead, causing Nenyo to chuckle and walk away. It was surprising how even here Lao acted just as he did at home, like it was just the two of them in any given room. Lao hadnâ€™t seen his old teacher in years yet his focus seemed to still fully be on him.
â€śLets go find some food then.â€ť He turned to the assassins, â€śSame time tomorrow.â€ť They nodded and Lao left with Tir, taking his hand as soon as they were out of the arena. â€śYou liked watching me again?â€ť
â€śWhat was my old mentor saying to you?â€ť
â€śHe thanked me for you being here and we talked a little about how natural this all came to you.â€ť
â€śHmm, only good things I hope.â€ť
â€śHe said you were quite charming.â€ť
â€śYou know you are.â€ť He blushed. â€śEspecially with me.â€ť
Lao grinned. â€śYou like how charming I am, admit it.â€ť He brought Tirâ€™s fingers to his lips, kissing and then nipping at them.
Lao grinned as he lead him through the school to the large kitchen. He was happy to see the same family still working there. The cook had been in his thirties when Lao had come to train there and was always kind to the students. His wife and children worked with him and they all smiled when they saw Lao. He hugged them then introduced Tir. â€śSo youâ€™re going to be a queen then?â€ť The son said in a teasing tone.
â€śThe most beautiful if I do say so myself.â€ť Lao shot back.
â€śMake sure to buy him plenty of pretty dresses, prince.â€ť
Tir chuckled at the banter. â€śYou know, Lao would definitely look good in anything, even dresses.â€ť They almost forgot they were hungry as they continued talking.
It was the cook who said, â€śWell you obviously came here to eat. I have the perfect recipe. I discovered it after you left and my first thought once I tasted it was how much youâ€™d love it Lao. I can even bring it to your room so you donâ€™t have to sit with everyone else going in and out of the dining room.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m actually enjoying getting to know everyone around here so we can sit out there.â€ť Tir said and Lao nodded. â€śThat’s fine with me too.â€ť
â€śAlright.â€ť The chef and his family began working and Lao guided Tir to where they could sit together. There was only one other student there reading but it wasnâ€™t a meal time so they hadnâ€™t expected it to be full of people.
Lao couldnâ€™t help but flirt with and tease Tir as they ate, grinning at how red he was by the time they took their dishes back into the kitchen and left. â€śEnjoying yourself?â€ť Lao asked as he laced his fingers through Tirâ€™s.
â€śOf course, this place is amazing and Iâ€™m here with you, anywhere with you is perfect.â€ť
Lao smiled as he pressed a kiss to Tirâ€™s temple. â€śIâ€™m glad, thank you for insisting I bring you. My time here would have been so boring and lonely without you.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m not, I need you with me always. Since you became mine, I canâ€™t fall asleep without you, I feel restless.â€ť
Tirâ€™s heart did a little flutter. â€śIâ€¦I feel the same. Having you close to me, makes me feel safe and loved.â€ť
â€śYou are the safest person in the world.â€ť Lao said then gave Tir another kiss. The days flew by as Lao continued to teach the students lesson after lesson. Tir even found himself absolutely comfortable here and enjoyed watching the students slowly improve. It would be incredibly tempting to just stay here and let Lao become a permanent teacher if he didnâ€™t have to rule. It would be nice if they were lucky enough to be immortal like Laoâ€™s old mentor. He could be king for awhile, maybe adopt a kid with Lao and raise them to rule one day so they could come back here but they didnâ€™t have enough life for that. Lao even had sixteen years on him. By the time their child could rule he probably wouldnâ€™t feel like teaching. Lao may have endless energy now, but we all got old one day. Itâ€™s the curse of being a mortal.
Tir was grateful for any life with Lao though. He just couldnâ€™t help but be a little selfish sometimes and want entire lifetimes with him like immortal beings could have with their loved ones. They could just live any kind of life then switch one day and live an entirely different one. It was endless possibilities when you werenâ€™t racing time and your body breaking down. His mind more so drifted to them ruling together, the kind of life they would have.
After another day of lessons and once Lao had finished talking to the students, Lao headed straight to Tir. â€śYou seem to be in deep thought lately, my love.â€ť He said as he took Tirâ€™s hand and pulled him close.
Tirâ€™s heart skipped a beat. â€śHave I?â€ť
Lao nodded. â€śCare to share?â€ť
â€śUmâ€¦wellâ€¦â€ť he sighed. â€śIâ€™ve just been thinking about our time together.â€ť
Lao cocked his head to the side. â€śYou havenâ€™t been feeling neglected have you?â€ť
â€śNo, not that, I mean our lifespan. I mean youâ€™re already so much older than me andâ€¦and weâ€™re both human soâ€¦â€ť
Lao smiled and pressed a kiss to his forehead. â€śYou had me worried for a minute, I thought maybe you had been feeling lonely or something.â€ť
â€śThatâ€™s impossible, youâ€™re always so attentive.â€ť
â€śAlright,â€ť he looked over at Nenyo who was talking to his students about their lessons, â€śthen Iâ€™ll talk to Nenyo, Iâ€™m sure heâ€™ll help.â€ť
Tir felt excitement rush through him. He hadnâ€™t even thought they could ask Nenyo. He just assumed theyâ€™d be human forever since they were born that way. Nenyo could say no, but Tir’s hope burned all the same. Lao waited for Nenyo to be done with the student before asking Nenyo if they could talk alone. â€śOf course, where?â€ť
â€śAnywhere that’s away from the students.â€ť
â€śWe will go to my office then. They know better than to be in there.â€ť
Tir and Lao followed Nenyo to his office, waiting for him to lock the door before saying, â€śTir has apparently been thinking about our mortality.â€ť
â€śAnd you want my help to not be mortal?â€ť
â€śPerceptive as always.â€ť
â€śHm, what would I get in return?â€ť
â€śAn amazing teacher that could always come back.â€ť
Nenyo nodded. â€śYou really would?â€ť
â€śYes, Tir seems to enjoy himself here and if we were immortal there could possibly be a day heâ€™s not tied down to being king.â€ť
Nenyo chuckled. â€śAlright, but tell me something first, you keep pairing Karthan with Thacese, is it for the reason I think it is?â€ť
â€śHeâ€™s in love with her. I wanted to see if he would hesitate during training. Sometimes weâ€™re forced to face off against people we considered our friends, you and I know that better than any of them.â€ť
â€śWe do.â€ť He nodded again. â€śAlright, immortality it is. Do you have a preference as to what youâ€™d like to be?â€ť
Lao grinned. â€śHmm, perhaps a vampire, so I have an excuse to nibble on Tir all the time?â€ť
Tir went red from head to toe and grew even more embarrassed when Lao started laughing. â€śYouâ€™re so mean.â€ť
Lao hugged him tightly. â€śOut of love.â€ť He pulled back to look at Tir. â€śWhat do you think?â€ť
â€śWhat choices do I have?â€ť
â€śMany.â€ť Nenyo explained. â€śIâ€™ve been around for a long time and Iâ€™ve met many beings. Dragons, demons, vampires, werewolves, you name it and Iâ€™ve either spoken to it or killed it. I can give you a list and you can research in the library if you like. Living forever is a big decision.â€ť
â€śGive us a list and we will probably get back to you about it soon.â€ť Lao said then Tir added, â€śThank you.â€ť
â€śWe need a teacher like him at this school. I was hoping heâ€™d ask one day. It would be irresponsible of me to simply try to talk people into it I wanted around forever. The timing is perfect since heâ€™s found his life partner.â€ť Nenyo pulled out a clean sheet of paper and began jotting down the names of creatures that came to mind until he couldnâ€™t pull another name off the top of his head. â€śIf none appeal to you there are many more.â€ť He said as he handed the note to Lao.
â€śIâ€™m sure one of these will do.â€ť
Lao and Tir left Nenyo’s office with one last thank you then headed for the library to look into them. â€śSo this is mainly up to you Tir.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™ll have to be whatever it is too.â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t care as long as we always get to be together.â€ť
Tir blushed and nudged him. â€śStop that.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re purposefully over sappy to make me red.â€ť
Lao chuckled. â€śI mean every word I say though.â€ť
They went through the whole list together, researching each one and Tir finally settled on the kanima. He had Lao in mind when he chose it, knowing him being a jaguar would be perfect for his skill set. Plus, a feline matched him perfectly. â€śAre you sure?â€ť Lao asked.
â€śYeah, I think being a cat would be interesting. I could be the jaguar king.â€ť He answered and Lao chuckled as he pressed a kiss to his lips.
â€śHow cute. Alright, a jaguar it is then.â€ť He rubbed their noses together. â€śI do have to admit, Iâ€™m glad you chose a shifter.â€ť
â€śOh you know.â€ť He gave him a wink and Tir flushed.
â€śMâ€¦maybe something else.â€ť
â€śToo late now my love, youâ€™ve already sold me on it.â€ť He rubbed their noses. â€śI love you and honestly no matter what you chose, I would still be unable to keep my hands off of you. Besides, now Iâ€™ll be even better equipped to keep you safe. More speed, more flexibility, heightened senses, I dare someone to even think of harming you.â€ť He gave him an even bigger smile. â€śOr any children we may adopt.â€ť He stood, pulling Tir with him. â€śCome my prince, letâ€™s tell Nenyo.â€ť
â€śYou want children?â€ť
â€śI want everything.â€ť
Tir’s heart danced in his chest. This was really going to happen, they were going to live forever and have children. Nenyo smirked at their choice. â€śIâ€™ll get my friend here as quickly as possible. Itâ€™s been awhile since he and I spoke but we parted on good terms. Youâ€™re not in any rush to return to your castle right prince? Iâ€™d just like to know if I need to rush himÂ at all.â€ť
â€śMy father has everything, he told me to enjoy my time away and only come home when I was ready. I think he wants to pass the crown soon so wants me to get any cabin fever out.â€ť
â€śGood, Iâ€™ll make sure you two know the second he is on his way here. Enjoy your final days of being humans.â€ť
Lao lifted Tir, much to his embarrassment, thanked Nenyo and left, taking Tir up to their room. He tossed him on the bed then crawled up him and rubbed their cheeks together, then their noses, making Tir laugh. â€śWhat are you doing silly?â€ť
â€śPracticing being a cat.â€ť Tir laughed again and started to push him back, but Lao grabbed his wrists and pinned them down, grinning at him. â€śEverything we read said they love scenting their mates.â€ť
â€śBut youâ€™re not a jaguar yet.â€ť
â€śPractice makes perfect.â€ť
Tir smiled, let out a happy little sigh and lifted his head to kiss Lao. â€śI love you.â€ť
â€śI love you too.â€ť
The shifter came right away when Nenyo reached out. He was kind and eager to help out, even making sure to talk them about every detail so theyâ€™d be prepared for the change. Lao didnâ€™t have a shred of nerves, he never did and it made Tir feel more confident about them going from human to jaguar. When it was all over it seemed the both took to their new form well, but Nenyo’s friend insisted they should rest their bodies anyway so they did. Lao was teaching classes again the very next day with Tir still happily watching. They would be leaving soon, they had talked about that when they went to lay down. Tir wanted to tell his father and he didnâ€™t think this sort of thing should be shared over a letter.
On their last day, Nenyo and his class all came to see them off, the students obviously disappointed that he was leaving. â€śYouâ€™ll be back, right?â€ť Nenyo asked.
Lao shrugged. â€śPerhaps, weâ€™ll see.â€ť
Nenyo chuckled. â€śI guess Iâ€™ll have to bother you again then until you have no choice.â€ť
Lao held out his hand and Nenyo shook it. â€śDonâ€™t worry, weâ€™ll be back, Tir is far too interested in this place for me to stay away and I actually enjoy teaching.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll hold you to it.â€ť
Tir and Lao climbed into the carriage, Lao immediately wrapping him in a hug as it pulled away from the school. He pressed a kiss to his lips, causing him to blush and reveled in the fact he could heart Tirâ€™s heart. â€śWhat do you think your father will say?â€ť
â€śI think heâ€™ll be happy because Iâ€™m happy.â€ť
â€śI think so too.â€ť He smiled as he pressed their foreheads together. â€śI love you, Tir, forever until the end of time.â€ť
â€śMe too, forever.â€ť They cuddled as the carriage carried them home and into a future with more possibilities than they could ever imagine.
Sylvie laughed with her cousins as they continued to play their game. She was out to celebrate one of them getting married soon while Jarius was out with one of his Uncles. The old dragon had come wanting Jarius to help him with some artifacts he had found. Doing something like that was hard to do with a four year old, especially a little girl as wild as theirs so one of Sylvies brothers had offered to take care of little Xeja. Jarius had almost taken a break from working with his Uncle so Lefan wouldnâ€™t have to watch her but at the last second changed his mind. He felt it would be better to try to finish so it wouldnâ€™t take time from his family any more since his wife was out anyway. Lefan had watched her a few times before so they could have some time alone so they trusted him today.
Suddenly Sylvie had a bad feeling and her cousins could read it on her face â€śSylvie, whats wrong?â€ť
â€śI think I need to go homeâ€ť
â€śis something wrong with Jarius?â€ť
â€śNo, I know itâ€™s not that. I just, I feel like I need to check on Xejaâ€ť
â€śOkay, donâ€™t ignore those mommy senses. I understandâ€ť
â€śI really am sorry thoughâ€ť her cousin waved her off â€śgo if you feel like you need to check on her. Just find us if everything is okayâ€ť They figured it would be. It wasnâ€™t like Sylvie spent a ton of time away from her daughter so they chalked it up to separation anxiety. Sylvie shifted, flying home as fast as she could. She burst through her door, startling Lefan who had been reading one of Jariusâ€™s old books â€śwoah, whats up?â€ť
â€śWhere is Xeja?â€ť
â€śI ran her around outside, I wore her out so sheâ€™s nappingâ€ť
â€śem, in her roomâ€ť her brother said in a confused tone then walked with Sylvie to find Xeja wasnâ€™t in there â€śI swear she was just here. Iâ€™ve been checking on her every time I get to a new chapterâ€ť
â€śXeja?!â€ť Sylvie called, trying not to panic. To her horror she saw the room Jarius worked and stored things he wanted near by but Xeja couldnâ€™t touch was opened â€śLefanâ€¦â€ť
â€śoh my godâ€¦I thought I locked that back I swearâ€ť Sylvie ran into the room, her brother behind her. Once inside Lefan was shocked by how far they could run in it, their home didnâ€™t seem this big. Sylvieâ€™s ears caught her daughter laughing and she ran to it, loseing her brother in all that was stored here. â€śSylvie!â€ť she heard her brother yell but finding Xeja was more important so she rushed on. Her daughter was messing with something on her finger â€śXeja, babyâ€ť Sylvie was tearful and just as she noticed it was a ring it began to glow. She grabbed it, wanting to take it off but next thing she knew she felt twisted, sick to her stomach and then she suddenly wasnâ€™t home anymore.
Sylvie felt like she couldnâ€™t breath so she was gasping as she clutched her little girl to her chest. She wondered if she was just panicking so she concentrated on calming down and taking in her surroundings. It was dark and nothing was around besides trees and the stars above. She wondered if she was even in her world anymore because it certainly shouldnâ€™t be night. Her daughter pushed away so Sylvie let her go, starting to apologize for possibly hurting her when her little girl began vomiting. It made her even more sure they had gone to a completely different world.
Sylvie pulled her daughters hair back, holding it until she finished. She then lifted her again, determined to find somewhere to now clean her up. Xeja began softly crying â€śYouâ€™ll feel better soon Xejaâ€ť
â€śwhere are we mommaâ€ť
â€śI dont knowâ€ť the girl started pulling at the ring but it wouldnâ€™t budge â€śits stuckâ€ť she whined, no longer amused â€śthen dont tug at it for now. Iâ€™m sure some being lives here. Maybe I can find someone who can help us get back to daddy and Uncle Lefanâ€ť
Lefan spun in circles, searched the room, looking under tables and behind shelves, but they were both gone. The sudden silence had been so shocking and now they were gone. He ran his fingers through his hair, starting to panic. What should he do? Jarius, he had to get Jarius.
â€śWell that looks pretty.â€ť The voice startled Jarius and his uncle, causing the former to sigh a roll his eyes.
â€śPaimon, can I help you?â€ť Jarius went back to the circlet he and his uncle were examining.
â€śNo, not really?â€ť
â€śThe prince out?â€ť
â€śWhat does that have to do with anything? Maybe I just missed your angry face.â€ť
Jarius huffed. â€śSure. Well if youâ€™re here, might as well make yourself useful.â€ť He pointed to some of the artifacts they had already examined. â€śWhy donâ€™t you take those and sort them onto the tables and shelves.â€ť
Sylvie didnâ€™t want to walk aimlessly so tried to put her nose to good use to search for water. She couldnâ€™t smell any in any particular direction but she was determined to just keep walking and scenting the air until she found that or a person. Sheâ€™d give anything right now to have wolf in her bloodline. Maybe they wouldnâ€™t be able to find any either but they had a much better chance than her. â€śI can walk momâ€ť her daughter said about a half hour later â€śare you sure?â€ť
â€śyeah, I know you donâ€™t mind butâ€¦if something tries to hurt us or if I really need it later I dont want to have already worn you outâ€ť
â€śdo you promise to tell me if you need a break?â€ť
â€śI promiseâ€ť with that assurance Sylvie set her daughter down â€śstay near me okay. I know nothing about where we areâ€ť
â€śyes mommaâ€ť Xeja took her mothers hand. Sylvie held on tightly, ready to protect her. Sylvie considered turning into a dragon so she could soar over these trees but that could potentially be risky and she certainly didnâ€™t want to draw the wrong attention to her and her four year old.
Mommy are you scared?â€ť
â€śA little, how about you?â€ť Xeja nodded. â€śWell thatâ€™s okay, everyone gets scared.â€ť
â€śAnd uncle Paimon?â€ť
Sylvie actually cracked a smile at Xeja calling Paimon her uncle. Jarius would probably have a heart attack. â€śIâ€™m sure he does.â€ť Sylvie wished she could discern where she was going. In this world of night everything looked the same, even the stars.
Lefan bursting into the room nearly made Paimon drop what he was holding and both Jarius and his uncle twisted around, ready to fight. All three of them became confused when they saw how terrified Lefan was. â€śJariusâ€¦Jarius, my sister andâ€¦and Xejaâ€¦â€ť
Jariusâ€™s heart jumped in his chest as he crossed over to Lefan, grabbing his shoulders. â€śWhat happened?â€ť Paimon was suddenly standing there next to him and Jariusâ€™s uncle had crossed over, a mask of worry on his face.
â€śIâ€™m sorry, itâ€™s all my fault. Xeja got in your storage room andâ€¦and then they were gone, just gone.â€ť
Fear gripped Jariusâ€™s heart and he opened himself up to Sylvie. When he worked and felt there was no reason to worry he blocked the part of himself that could feel what she was feeling. She could so easily take his attention he normally couldnâ€™t get anything done if he could feel her and now she was in danger and it took him however long it took her brother to come for help to be aware of it. There was a reason that room stayed constantly locked, many reasons to be more exact and there was no possible good explanation for his family vanishing in there. He could now feel her fear and worry so he said â€ścome! I need him to show me about where they were when they vanished. I know everything in there. I just need a place to startâ€ť
They still hadnâ€™t found a single thing by the time Xeja needed to rest. Sylvie decided just to stop for now â€śwhy donâ€™t you take a little nap sweetieâ€ť
â€śI donâ€™t know if I canâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ll tell you a story like I do at home for bed timeâ€ť
â€śBut daddy isnâ€™t here to sing to me afterâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ll just do the singing tooâ€ť Xejaâ€™s lower lip trembled â€śBabyâ€ť Sylvie said in concern. â€śI just miss dadâ€ť
â€śweâ€™ll see your father again soon. I wont rest until weâ€™re back with him and I bet you anything heâ€™s already looking for us. I still feel him and I can tell heâ€™s worried, he knows we are missing. Heâ€™s almost as old as time itself and his Uncle is even older. Between them and my side of the family they are going to figure out where we areâ€ť Sylvie began to rub her daughters face and stroke her hair to comfort her. â€śIâ€™ll tell a really happy story okay?â€ť
â€śOkayâ€ť Sylvie retold one of the happiest fairytails she knew and the poor thing was so exhausted from fear and the travel here she was out before Sylvie could even sing. Sylvie didnâ€™t rest there long before carefully lifting her daughter and walking on. She didnâ€™t think it was wise to rest any longer than she absolutely needed since she didnâ€™t know at all where she was.
It was almost an hour later when she finally found a lake â€śthank godâ€ť she whispered before setting her daughter down and testing the water to make sure it was safe for Xeja. Now that she had found water and her daughter was resting anyway Sylvie took another chance to lay down and regather strength for anything that may occur. Jarius had been completely spoiling her over the years so she wasnâ€™t as used to just walking constantly like this.
â€śMom?â€ť her daughters voice woke her some time later â€śyeah baby?â€ť
â€śyou found waterâ€ť
â€śsee, Iâ€™ll make sure we have everything we need until I figure out how to get homeâ€ť
â€ścan I go wash in it please?â€ť
â€śrun right in, give me your clothes and Iâ€™ll clean themâ€ť Xeja stripped down then ran into the water while Sylvie opened her senses up to any perverts or potential dangerous animals. Once their clothes and Xeja were clean they were off again, Sylvie now keeping her nose out for potential food. She could tell her little one was hungry but besides this lake there still didnâ€™t seem to be anything. It seemed impossible that a place could truly just be trees.
It was just as those thoughts were passing through her head a womans voice caught her ears but it was obviously another language. Sylvie pulled her daughter behind her protectively and said â€śIâ€™m sorry, I donâ€™t understandâ€ť saying that may have been completely pointless but she felt it would be better than being silent or trying to run. They had been hoping to find someone after all. The woman tilted her head, seeming to think hard. Her voice came out unsure, like it took great effort but what came out this time was English â€śyouâ€¦lost? You smell ofâ€¦elsewhereâ€ť
Relief rushed through Sylvie for many reasons. Though it would be hard to talk she could in fact talk to this woman and the fact the woman was even trying made her feel more comfortable. A person trying to harm them likely wouldnâ€™t care if they understood what they were saying. That may or may not be true but it was comforting logic â€śIâ€™m very lost, I came to this world by mistake. I want to go home but I donâ€™t know howâ€ť Xejas stomach loudly growled which had the little girl blushing, especially when it made the woman notice her. She motioned for them to come so Sylvie picked up her daughter and hoped she wasnâ€™t making a huge mistake by following this woman. She might never get home if she didnâ€™t put her trust in anyone here.
The woman lead them only a short ways off from where they had been headed before she stopped and held her hand in front of her, palm facing the ground. Sylvie held her daughter tighter again, wishing they could communicate more easily. Sylvie guessed the reason they had walked in complete silence was due to the fact english seemed to be hard for her to speak and Sylvie couldnâ€™t even begin to try hers. She had learned so many from her husband but of course she didnâ€™t know the one she needed now.
When they managed to get home she was going to have Jarius teach her more. A door appeared in the grass. The woman motioned for them to follow again as she opened it. Sylvie had expected to drop into a home but it was almost as if the world tilted so they could walk right in. It was honestly a little trippy and had Sylvie confused â€śMyâ€¦homeâ€ť The strange woman strained again. Sylvie wondered if the difficulty was from how different her home language had sounded. Her mouth and tongue were probably nowhere near used to the movements it took to speak to her.
â€śAre we safe?â€ť Sylvie asked.
The woman nodded and gestured toward a pile of animal hides. Sylvie sat down with Xeja in her lap, finding the makeshift couch incredibly comfortable. The woman moved off and Sylvie heard things being moved around. â€śHunâ€¦hungry?â€ť The woman asked.
â€śYes, thank you.â€ť She didnâ€™t know if it would be rude to say no and the woman had been so kind, she didnâ€™t want to hurt her feelings.
The sound of sizzling and the smell of meat soon filled the silence and after a few minutes, the woman came back with some meat and steamed vegetables on a large plate. She sat down across from Sylvie and Xeja and put the plate between them. She gestured to it, then her mouth, then to all three of them. â€śShare?â€ť Sylvie asked and the woman nodded. â€śThank you so much.â€ť
Jarius felt almost frantic, he couldnâ€™t figure out what his daughter could have possibly gotten into. So much had been knocked over between Xeja getting in here and Sylvie running around that things were mixed up â€śJarius, you need to breathâ€ť his Uncle Saeran said seriously â€śweâ€™ve been in this room for hours, hoursâ€ť
â€śyes we have but you need to keep a clear head. You need to think as your daughter does. Think of what she likes, colors, toys, everything and that will help you decide what is missingâ€ť as Saeran finished speaking Paimon interjected â€śItâ€™s honestly a little surprising you still have this habit. I guess dragons hoarding is a thing that dies hardâ€ť
â€śitâ€™sâ€¦itâ€™s my faultâ€¦Jarius having all this hasnâ€™t been a problem until I wanted a book from hereâ€¦â€ť Lefan said sadly, still spending most his time looking at the floor. Jarius sighed â€śPaimons a pain in my ass Lefan but what heâ€™s getting at is right. I shouldnâ€™t have something that could harm my family near our home, especially not while Xeja or any other children we may have are here. Sylvie is an intelligent woman who will listen when I tell her about things but a child canâ€™t be expected to always do the sameâ€¦you are not the only one responsible Lefan.â€ť
â€śever noble, Iâ€™ve never seen you so distressed. Othersâ€ť
â€śPaimon not right nowâ€ť Jarius cut off the speech before it got away from Paimon. He needed his family back and he feared every moment they spent gone was a moment he could lose them forever. Paimon also took Saerans advice and started thinking â€śJarius, sheâ€™s been wearing rings a lot lately.â€ť Paimon suddenly said and Jariusâ€™s normally pale skin actually turned whiter. â€śNoâ€¦â€ť he walked over the area again, even looking inside things â€śyou know what Xeja did donâ€™t you Jarius? Just tell us and stop looking for whatever youâ€™re looking for. We need to help your familyâ€ť
Jarius held a hand over his mouth, looking as if he might cry then shook his head hard â€śtheyâ€™re not there, theyâ€™re not there. Iâ€™ll find it and itâ€™ll be something elseâ€ť
â€śJarius, you know, I know how much your family means to you and thats why you need to admit what you already knowâ€ť
â€śdo you remember the book I wrote about Casisâ€ť
â€śThe cannibalsâ€¦â€ť Saeran said knowingly and Lefanâ€™s horrified voice asked â€śwhat?â€ť Jarius cried â€śtheyâ€™re in a world of cannibals. Its so bad they actually hide from one another there. Their homes are all cleverly put into the ground and mountains and such. They seem normal when you meet themâ€¦she might follow one homeâ€¦â€ť
â€śwhy on earth would a portal to that be here Jariusâ€ť Saeran reprimanded â€śwhen I first met Sylvie I had gone on another trip there for the fruit. They have the most amazing fruit and I gave her some. She loved it â€¦ I wanted her to like me. I kept making trips back so I could give her some and I just never took it out of hereâ€¦I forgot it was in here until Paimon mentioned ringsâ€ť
â€śHowâ€™re we going to get there?â€ť
â€śI dont know, thats the only portal I know ofâ€ť
After they ate the kind stranger put a hand on her chest â€śGazitâ€ť Sylvie felt that was her name so she touched her daughters head â€śXejaâ€ť then touched her own chest â€śSylvieâ€ť
â€śYou stay here in my homeâ€ť
â€śdo you know how to get me back where Iâ€™m from?â€ť Gazit shook her head and Sylvie slightly frowned â€śa little bit then, I really need to get home as soon as I canâ€ť After a few hours passed with little talking or indication this kind woman could be any more help Sylvie said â€śwe should go, I need to find my way homeâ€ť
â€śwhy?â€ť The woman just stared at her and Sylvie felt shitty about it after she had been so kind but it creeped her out. She hoped maybe she just didnâ€™t know how to explain and wasnâ€™t trying to be creepy. â€śdo you have maybe a friend I could meet? Maybe they can helpâ€ť still nothing and it just made Sylvie want to leave worse. The next time Gazit went to the bathroom Sylvie picked up her daughter and walked back to the door or where the door should have been because it was gone. Dread filled her but she didnâ€™t want to panic Xeja so she kept walking, acting like she was just toting her around until Gazit came back out. â€śits rest timeâ€ť she informed them then motioned to her couch â€śOkay, thank youâ€ť
Sylvies heart was pounding but she worried if she yelled, asked about the door or did anything that let Gazit know she was panicking she might make the situation worse. She also still didnâ€™t want her four year old to know there was any reason to be scared. Sylvie just settled down with her daughter and Gazit left them, closing herself in her bedroom. Sylvie had intended to stay awake and figure something out but it was almost if something was dragging her eyelids closed and her mind to rest. She fought the urge, she had to get out but next thing she knew Gazit was kneeling beside the couch, her face inches from Sylvies and it took every ounce of self control not to jump.
Once again she prayed this was a misunderstanding since it was hard to commuincate and they were from different worlds. For all she knew it was normal for their doors to vanish, maybe it wasnâ€™t so weird to stare creepily here and maybe personal space wasnâ€™t a thing here either. These among other things Sylvie kept telling herself for comfort as they sat at Gazitâ€™s table. She had already made breakfast and was just putting in onto plates. â€śwhy lap?â€ť Gazit asked since Sylvie was holding Xeja â€śsheâ€™s homesick for her dad. Iâ€™m trying to comfort herâ€ť It wasnâ€™t a complete lie, Sylvie could see how sad her daughter was.
â€śIâ€™ll be okay mommy, thank youâ€ť Xeja got out of her lap and sat on the chair next to her. Sylvie wanted her little girl as close as possible but at least she was still closer to her than their host. Sylvie went to tie up her hair with a band she had in her pocket when she noticed one strand was much shorter than the others suddenly. Maybe she shouldnâ€™t have but her eyes went to Gazit, who the hell else woudl have cut off some of her hair. Gazit sipped from her cup, her eyes once again locked on Sylvie which now Sylvie could only see as predatory due to how scared she was. There was no door any longer, Gazit was insistent they stayed and she knew she wasnâ€™t crazy, someone had cut off some of her hair last night.
Keeping her voice as calm as possible Sylvie said â€śGazit, we really need to leave after this meal.â€ť Gazit was silent and next time her mother spoke Xeja heard the fear in her voice”Please, I dont want to stay any more”
â€śMommy, is everything okay?â€ť Xeja asked. Gazit began eating again and that was all this panicked mother could take. Gazitâ€™s focus seemed to be on her but if this woman was crazy she was capable of anything. Sylvie shifted into a dragon in the small home and it obviously scared the hell out of Gazit who was pale, trembling as she looked up at the crampt dragon that had destroyed multiple things in the dining room just by shifting. â€śweâ€™re leaving if I have to eat you to do itâ€ť Sylvie threatened and suddenly, there was the door again. Xeja shifted too and they both left, flying away as fast as they could.
Jarius had Paimon, Saeran, and Lefan help him collect all of his books from storage and take them over to one of the tables. Maybe, just maybe he could find something in them. â€śPaimon, take Lefan and gather all of the books from the library on other worlds and spells for making gateways.â€ť
â€śYes sir.â€ť Paimon grabbed the dejected Lefan by his arm and pulled him out of the room. Jarius was surprised Paimon was being so helpful. He always seemed to revel in Jariusâ€™s loss of control, but now he was working hard to help. He didnâ€™t know what to make of it, but he wasnâ€™t going to question it to much right now.
â€śJarius, you must lock up that ring once you have it back.â€ť Saeran said as he started going through books.
â€śI donâ€™t even want it in the house.â€ť
â€śThen Iâ€™ll take it.â€ť
â€śI think that would be for the best. Iâ€™m such an idiot, an irresponsible idiot. I should know better at my age.â€ť
â€śWe all make mistakes, Jarius.â€ť
â€śNot like this, not with Sylvie and Xeja.â€ť
â€śSylvie has a good head on her shoulders Jarius. Youâ€™ll see them again so stay calm. You picked an amazing mate and your daughter, I see so much promise in her futureâ€ť
Sylvie and Xeja flew until Xejas little wings could carry her no further. Sylvie began to descend right away and was grateful that where ever they were now seemed nice. They shifted back into humans bodies and Xeja hugged her mother â€śMom, what happened?â€ť
â€śthere was something off about her baby. I realized it the night before but I didnâ€™t want to scare youâ€ť
â€śwhat are we going to do now?â€ť
â€śIâ€™m going to gather firewood, make you a nice fire and weâ€™re going to relax. You should have said something sooner baby. You look so exhausted. After the fire is made I want you just to lay downâ€ť
â€śokay mommyâ€ť Sylvie shifted back into a dragon and pushed over a tree to make wood small enough for their fire. Once it was burning Sylvie was in her human body again and patted her lap so Xeja would lay her head down. Sylvie hoped her following words would bring her daughter any comfort â€śthere has to be some sort of city sweetheart. Once youâ€™re feeling rested I will find itâ€ť
â€śwhat if itâ€™s underground, Gazitâ€™s home was undergroundâ€ť
â€śwhile you sleep Iâ€™m going to be sitting here thinking about all the ways we could possibly handle this. Donâ€™t stress okay baby, trust your mommy and close those beautiful brown eyesâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m sorryâ€ť She almost couldnt bare to hear her daughter apologize. A four year old breaking a rule shouldnâ€™t have these type of consequences. â€śdonâ€™t you be sorry about anything. Iâ€™m not madâ€ť Sylvies eyes were damp but she was still trying not to cry. She knew she needed to stay strong and she didnâ€™t want to waste her energy crying. â€śI promise to always be good when we get back to daddyâ€ť
â€śshhh sweetheartâ€ť Sylvie began lightly rubbing her daughters face and arms, grateful when she finally went to sleep so she wouldnâ€™t fall apart.
â€śYou said Casis correct?â€ť Paimon asked.
â€śYes, have you found something?â€ť Jarius moved to look over Paimonâ€™s shoulder.
â€śIt looks like the information is old, but old is probably good.â€ť He tapped the part of the page he had been reading. â€śIt looks like opening it takes a few things, namely the blood of the one opening it, but itâ€™s not impossible.â€ť
â€śI wish I could just open it damn it.â€ť
Paimon shrugged. â€śSo weâ€™ll each take a part of the list and gather what we need. You might have some of it around here. Just know, Iâ€™m definitely coming with you, wouldnâ€™t want you getting eaten before you can rescue the girls.â€ť
â€śAlright, weâ€™ll split up and try to gather everything, but hurry, I need to get to them.â€ť
As Sylvie sat there she noticed the ring again on her daughters finger. It could obviously change in size since it still didntâ€™ come off when Xeja shifted into a dragon. Sylvie rubbed the hand that wore it, wishing she knew how to work this ring. She was half afraid if she tried to do something with it, without knowledge of how it worked they could end up further down the rabbit hole in a whole new place. They could end up even further from home with less hope of returning to her husband. Sylvie sighed, her eyes now going to the fire as she asked nobody in particular â€śwhat do I doâ€ť Things remained peaceful until Xeja woke.
â€śyou ready? I can carry you if you want to wake up more before walkingâ€ť
â€śNo, I can walk mommaâ€ť
â€śOkay sweetheart, donâ€™t let yourself get that tired again. I still donâ€™t know where to begin so truly, we can rest all you needâ€ť Xeja nodded and Sylvie put out the fire before taking her daughters hand and walking on in the direction she had already determined theyâ€™d try. They found some fruit along the way and it clicked with Sylvie, she remembered eating this a lot with Jarius when they first met. She wondered what besides this he got up to in a place as odd as this one.
They couldnâ€™t have gone another full hour before Xeja gasped â€śbaby whatâ€ť she started to ask when she saw a dart in her daughters neck and heard another coming for her. Sylvie shifted after jerking it out of her daughter , hoping her scales would be too strong for the darts to get through. She heard deranged cackling â€śa dragon, I can deal with youâ€ť the voice was creepy and even more startling her little girl passed out.
Sylvie roared at the top of her lungs, beyond pissed at this point. The cackling started again and in her rage she started spreading fire indiscriminately. Normally sheâ€™d care about possibly hurting things that had done nothing to her but she was scared, she was exhausted, she was hungry, and she wasnâ€™t about to let some crazy make her feel trapped again. The fire caught quickly and Sylvie took Xeja in one of her claws for safety.
Sylvie flew straight up, glad when nothing else happened. I can deal with you she scoffed as she remembered his words. He was going to be dealing with the grim reaper if he came near her child again. It didnâ€™t hit her until she had flown a fairly good distance the being had used English easily. Maybe some people here did speak her language. Sylvieâ€™s current plan was to fly as long as possible so that hopefully her daughter would stay out of harms way until she woke up.
Jarius felt his wifes fury and it terrified him as to what may have caused it. She was far from an angry person so he worried what might be happening to his daughter. Suddenly it was as if she slammed into an invisible wall. It disoriented her and she slightly plummeted before lifting herself back up. â€śwhat?â€ť she was confused, why couldnâ€™t she fly further. She was too scared to land with her daughter still recovering from whatever drugs were in the dart so she tried to fly in another direction but to her horror she hit another wall, she was being boxed in somehow.
She roared as she hovered there. â€śI will burn this entire world if you donâ€™t let us go.â€ť It was a bluff, but she didnâ€™t want anything else to happen to Xeja. The laughter seemed to be coming from all around her and her heart danced fearfully in her chest.
â€śItâ€™s only a matter of time, dragon.â€ť The voice said. â€śArenâ€™t you tired? I wonder how long your wings will carry you.â€ť
â€śHow much more do we have?â€ť Jarius asked as he looked down at the things everyone had gathered.
â€śLefan is off gathering a couple of hard to get plants and your friend went off to find this amulet.â€ť Saeran answered.
â€śSheâ€™s scared uncle, angry, something bad is happening and I need to get to them.â€ť
â€śI know, but you must stay calm, keep a clear head.â€ť
â€śIf I lost them I would go mad. Even Paimon understands.â€ť
â€śTalking about me behind my back?â€ť Paimon asked as he stepped in and Jarius shot him a glare. â€śI got it.â€ť He held up the amulet.
â€śHow did youâ€¦you know what it doesnâ€™t matter, thank you.
Sylvieâ€™s wings began to ache, she knew they might give out and there was obviously some sort of trap waiting below. She figured it was best to rush down and try to escape than to simply let herself get exhausted and fall right into whatevers clutches. She took a deep, mind clearing breath then said calmly to her unconscious daughter â€śI love you so much Xejaâ€ť before flying down. She flew straight as soon as she was able and just as she went straight a large, metal contraption tried to clamp down on her foot, almost taking off one of her toes but she had managed to evade it. The wound stung and blood poured down onto the earth but she still kept forward until something wrapped around her neck, instantly tightening so that she could barely breath. She tried to roar in fury again but it was too tight, having no give whatsoever.
She wrapped herself tightly around Xeja as she hit the ground, taking trees down with her massive body and kicking up dirt. Her vision swam, her body aching all over, her blood soaking into the ground. She couldnâ€™t breathe, but she refused to shift back to her human form. She knew if she did, they would take Xeja. Her mind was a whirlwind of emotion and Jarius could feel everyone, could feel the pain reverberating through her and he growled, wanting to kill whoever had dared touch her.
â€śIâ€™m back, Iâ€™m sorry, there wereâ€¦complications.â€ť Lefan said as he came running in, one hand holding a bag, the other clutching his shoulder. He was scraped and bruised pretty bad, but he had managed to get the plants they needed.
â€śWhat happened?â€ť Paimon asked.
â€śJustâ€¦it doesnâ€™t matter.â€ť Paimon opened his mouth to argue and Lefan interrupted, â€śPellegrinoâ€™s back, heâ€™s probably heading this way.â€ť Paimonâ€™s eyes went from concerned to dancing with delight in an instant, something that he quickly shoved down.
Lefan handed Jarius the bag. â€śAre you sure youâ€™re alright?â€ť Jarius asked.
If Sylvie wasnâ€™t obviously getting hurt he would have insisted to check his wound but Lefan felt he was fine and they needed to hurry to Sylvie. By the time Pellegrino got there they were almost done â€śJust in timeâ€ť Paimon said â€śI had to finish taking care of the thing that attacked Lefan. It was a persistent son of a bitch. Iâ€™m happy I made itâ€ť Lefan looked awkwardly at the floor, hating he could seem to do nothing recently but cause trouble. What was he going to do if his carelessness cost his sister her life? He couldnâ€™t imagine telling their parents or their other siblings or even the rest of the family.
As Sylvieâ€™s vision began to get hazy she told herself over and over in her mind â€śdonâ€™t let goâ€ť hoping sheer will would keep her claws clutching her daughter when she was no longer conscious. Xeja regained consciousness as frustrated men tried to get to her â€śwhat the fuck! The damned mother passed out!â€ť Xeja gasped, pushing herself as far away from them as he confined space allowed. They seemed to be struggling to get her mothers claws open â€śmommyâ€ť
â€śdont whine, I cant stand whining children and Iâ€™m already frustrated kidâ€ť
Though Jarius was impatient he and his uncle made sure everything was placed perfectly and that the plants they had all collected were perfectly measured and mixed. He put the amulet around his neck and sat down in front of the circle of items. The bowl was placed in the center, the book open in front of him. â€śMake sure you get enough in there to soak the ground up plants.â€ť His uncle said as he handed him the dagger.
â€śI know.â€ť He sliced his palm open and held it over the bowl, his eyes moving over the spell, lips speaking the words clearly as he called the doorway that would take him to his wife and child.
Xeja screamed when they managed to get one of her motherâ€™s claws pulled back far enough that they could reach an arm in. She pressed herself further back, but one managed to snag her clothes. She bit whoever it was and they yelled as they released her. â€śYou little bitch!â€ť Another arm reached in and she moved away from it, crying for her mother and father.
She closed her eyes, still pushing herself back as hard as she could when suddenly she heard her father. Xejas eyes snapped open and she cried harder at the sight of not only her dad but her Uncles and Pellegrino. She knew they were safe now so she crawled out of her mothers claws and began to try to wake her â€śmommyâ€ť Xeja grabbed the lasso around her mothers neck and tried to break it â€śmommyâ€ť she whined. Paimon suddenly appeared on top of Sylvie, pulling out some sort of dagger and easily breaking the enchanted rope. Xeja noticed they had the men that were trying to hurt her unconscious on the ground so they were all coming over to help Sylvie.
Lefan lifted Xeja into his arms â€śthey have her okay, your mom is going to be alrightâ€ť
â€śwe need to get this bleeding stopped firstâ€ť Saeran said. They did their best with her toe, they could get her proper help back at home. â€śsheâ€™s not awake yetâ€ť Xeja whined and Lefan held her a little tighter. They took Sylvie home, they didnâ€™t know how much blood she had lost so far and Jarius didnâ€™t care where they landed at home. They could buy new things, he couldnâ€™t get another Sylvie. By the time Sylvie woke days had passed and her little girl, much to her relief was the first to greet her. She had been refusing to leave her mother so Jarius was currently gone getting them something to eat. â€śOh my babyâ€ť
â€śweâ€™re home momâ€ť Sylvie noticed she was in human form again â€śthey were able to make you shift back and they got the ring off, seeâ€ť Xeja wiped tears away then showed her mom her hand â€śOh thatâ€™s such wonderful news honeyâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m sorry mommy.â€ť
â€śOh baby, itâ€™s okay.â€ť She hugged her daughter. â€śWhereâ€™s uncle Lefan?â€ť
Sylvie knew her brother had to be beating himself over what had happened and was probably ashamed. She wanted to see him and tell him it was alright, that she wasnâ€™t mad. â€śWe should go see him, let him know weâ€™re okay.â€ť
â€śYou need to stay in bed, my love.â€ť Jarius said as he stepped into their room. â€śYouâ€™re too weak to go wandering around. Iâ€™ll bring him here.â€ť
â€śJarius.â€ť She could see and feel he was exhausted and scared and once Xeja had her food, she held out her arms. He said his own plate down, forgetting his food and just gathering her into his embrace. He buried his face in her hair and his relief and fear washed over her, his tears dripping onto her shoulder.
â€śI love you Jariusâ€¦we both missed youâ€ť Sylvie said softly, trying to bring him comfort. It only seemed to make him struggle more to keep tears at bay. â€śIâ€™ve already started clearing that roomâ€¦Iâ€™m so sorry I was soâ€¦something like that should have never been in there. I am so so sorry, I feel all your misery in that world is my faultâ€ť He wanted to apologize a million times over. â€śI was never mad at you or my brother. Neither of you would ever lead us to harm on purpose. I hope you werenâ€™t mean to himâ€ť Jarius shook his head â€śas I said, I feel itâ€™s more my fault than anybody elses. I told him as much but heâ€™s your brother, he loves you and little Xeja immensely. Iâ€™m glad I didnâ€™t scold him because heâ€™s punishing himself enough as it isâ€ť
â€śas it seems you are Jarius. However, Iâ€™m happy to hear youâ€™re getting rid of the dangerous thingsâ€ť
â€śitâ€™s irresponsible until Xeja is grown. Iâ€¦I canâ€™t even think of what I was thinkingâ€¦a locked door or not she was bound to get in there unattendedâ€ť He held her a little tighter then made himself let go â€śare you hungry? I was going to eat light anyway so take my plate if you are. Iâ€™ll grab something else while I go get your brother for youâ€ť
â€śare you sureâ€ť with damp eyes he nodded. Jarius handed Sylvie his food, kissed her forehead then made himself leave again. He had been dyeing to talk to and hold her while she was actually conscious but she wanted to see her brother. Now, of all times, he would not be selfish. He at least knew at this point she wasnâ€™t angry at him and that in itself lifted the weight of worlds off his shoulders. As soon as Lefan came to the door Jarius said â€śsheâ€™s awake and wants to see youâ€ť
â€śsheâ€™s not mad, at me or youâ€ť Lefan gave a sad sigh â€śstill herself I guessâ€¦shes never held a grudgeâ€¦Iâ€™ll get my shoesâ€ť Lefan was ready in a few moments then the two of them headed back to the waiting Sylvie.
Sylvie smiled when Lefan came in and her brother looked about ready to cry. â€śCome here, silly.â€ť
He sat down on the bed and he really did start crying when she and Xeja hugged him. â€śIâ€¦Iâ€™m so sorryâ€¦I should haveâ€¦â€ť
â€śHush now, weâ€™re both fine and Iâ€™m not mad.â€ť
â€śI should have known better.â€ť Jarius said. â€śI filled my home with dangerous things and paid for it.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s really okay uncle Lefan.â€ť Xeja said.
Once Lefan was able to calm down, he sat and chatted with them. He was relieved she was still her old self, that what had happened hadnâ€™t traumatized her or Xeja and if it had, they werenâ€™t showing it. He stayed until he noticed his sister getting exhausted and promised her he would stop worrying so much. â€śYou should get some more rest, baby, both of you.â€ť Jarius said as he sat down on their bed and gave Sylvie a kiss.
â€śYou need it, I can feel it. Rest, okay? Iâ€™ll stay here with you two.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll go to my bed. I missed my bed and my stuffed animalsâ€ť Now Sylvie felt a little emotional. Her mind had definitely gone to what all that may have done to her daughter but she was still her bright, beautiful little girl â€śyouâ€™re welcome back in here if you need it honey.â€ť she gave Jarius a gentle nudge â€śgo tuck her in, she missed you singing to her. I promise to lay downâ€ť Jarius had to kiss her again before he stood and lifted his daughter. Sylvie sighed, looking around her bedroom. They were home, she was really and truly home. Paimon suddenly appeared and she smiled â€śPaimonâ€ť
â€śYou doing okay?â€ť
â€śYeah, just tiredâ€ť
â€śHowâ€™s my little niece?â€ť Sylvie weakly giggled â€śyou know she called you her Uncle while we were thereâ€ť He smiled, it seemed to bring him immense joy â€śgood, I love that little girl and despite what you may think I do have a heart in hereâ€ť
â€śI know you doâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ll let you restâ€ť
â€śtalking to Lefan I learned you helpedâ€ť He looked like saying this made him uncomfortable â€śI feel like I have a familyâ€¦I wasnâ€™t about to have that family broken upâ€ť Sylvies eyes grew even heavier as she smiled again, he could see it so he vanished, especially since he felt awkward anyway. Awkward was far from a feeling he was used to but family was far from something he was used to. Sylvie laid down, falling asleep before her husband returned. Jarius was quiet when he returned to their room,still worried over her.
He continued on clearing out the room he worked in then refilling it with treasures that were safe over the next months. He could have lost his beautiful mate and his wonderful little girl and he wasnâ€™t sure heâ€™d ever get over the shame of being so blind and selfish, no matter how forgiving Sylvie and Xeja was. They meant to much to him to forgive himself too quickly and no amount of time would have him forget the lesson he learned.
~ The End
Mae put the key in the lock and turned it jiggling it slightly, being told my the owners that the old thing could be quite finicky. The door opened and she kicked the box of belongings inside with a smile on her face. This was going to be the prefect place to set up her law firm.
Lincoln was running down the street with police cars whirling after him sirens blaring. He ducked into an alleyway to catch his breath,trying to remember what it was that happened last night but the only thing that came into his mind was the ripped up body that he woke up beside in the mountains.
Mae proudly hung her diploma on the wall and decided it was time to take a break and go to the coffee shop down the street. Just as she gathered her purse and keys back up she heard footsteps outside the door,she opened it and looked at the blood soaked man standing there. â€śI need some helpâ€¦people are after meâ€¦â€ť the man said. â€śWell if you need legal help which it appears you just might be looking for come insideâ€ť Mae replied stepping out of the doorway of her office.
Lincoln hurried in, hoping she could help him. It seemed nothing could stop these shifts but maybe she could help people understand he truly had no control over what happened during them. Better yet maybe she had connections with people that could help contain him during the nights his wolf took over. She had him take a seat and she took her own in front of him â€śfirst off, why are you covered in blood?â€ť
â€śIâ€™m not sure what happenedâ€¦I canâ€™t rememberâ€¦I just woke up next to a dead body and now the police are after meâ€ť
â€śwere you drunk?â€ť
â€śNoâ€¦Iâ€™m a werewolfâ€¦the kind that canâ€™t control themselves during a shift. I also dont retain memories from when I shiftâ€ť She sighed, this was quite a case for her first real one. She had expected to start with something much smaller but sheâ€™d take it anyway â€śalright but youâ€™re going to have to answer a lot more questions and weâ€™re going to have to talk to police as well. I wont lose my license for harboring a criminal but I promise you weâ€™ll get this figured outâ€ť
Prison terrified him but heâ€™d end up there anyway at this rate so he agreed to talk to her and let the police come. When they arrived at her office she let them know she was his lawyer and reminded Lincoln not to answer questions unless she told him it was okay. He had already given her all the information needed and she wanted to choose what they knew until she figured out what to do for this man.
â€śWhy donâ€™t you go over what happened last night Mr. Storm.â€ť The officer across from them asked and Lincoln looked at Mae who nodded.
â€śMy memory is spotty at best. I remember I was looking for someone. I donâ€™t know why I was out on a full moon night or what I was doing on that mountain. Maybe I was working.â€ť
â€śMy client chases demons.â€ť Mae answered.
â€śAnd do you think the victim may have been a demon?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t know. My senses get a little overloaded when I wake up, itâ€™s like a shock to the system. I was dazed.â€ť
â€śYou saw the body, is that correct?â€ť
â€śIt was about a foot from me.â€ť
â€śIt was torn apart, claw marks, teeth marks.â€ť
â€śYou donâ€™t know if my client did it.â€ť
â€śWith all do respect maâ€™am, heâ€™s a werewolf, an out of control werewolf.â€ť
â€śWho chases demons.â€ť
â€śIâ€™d give you a card if I could find my wallet.â€ť Lincoln said then shut his mouth when Mae gave him a look.
She leaned forward, feeling her heart stutter a little. â€śHe could have been hunting and come across that body, the victim could have been a demon who attacked him first, or it could have even been a set up.â€ť
â€śHeâ€™s covered in blood.â€ť
â€śWhich you havenâ€™t determined the source of. It could be his for all you know.â€ť
The officer had hoped this would be easy since Ms Mae Anderson was a new face but it was seeming she had done well in school and was going to be one of the larger thorns in the police departments side when it came to cases but he respected good lawyers so while it was a little frustrating the officer welcomed the challenge of convicting this man while dealing with an obviously intelligent lawyer. â€śI suppose youâ€™re right. We will just need a sample of the blood. I imagine youâ€™ll let him cooperateâ€ť
â€śyes, you can take your sampleâ€ť She was going over ideas on how to approach this no matter what the results turned up. â€śThank youâ€ť
â€śI expect to know those results right awayâ€ť
â€śOf courseâ€ť The officer shot her an obviously flirtatious smile and Lincoln had to hold back a growl. He was shocked at himself, hopeing that wasnâ€™t a sign he was the monster he expected himself of being. He was at least glad he caught it before the cop heard him and had more reason to think the worst.
â€śAnd I would appreciate if you would lend my client a sweat suit. Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ll want his clothes as evidence and he needs a shower.â€ť
The officer left and Mae sighed, leaning back. â€śAsshole, heâ€™s lucky I donâ€™t have a reputation yet or Iâ€™d have slapped him.â€ť
â€śHe likes you.â€ť
She huffed. â€śAre you alright?â€ť
â€śNo, youâ€™d think Iâ€™d be used to this, but what ifâ€¦â€ť
â€śDonâ€™t say anything else. Someone could be listening from the other side of the glass or something. Weâ€™ll talk once weâ€™re out of here.â€ť
â€śWhat if they put me in a holding cell?â€ť
â€śThey donâ€™t have any proof it was you, only that you found the body. You running was stupid, but understandable.â€ť She lowered her voice. â€śTo be honest if I woke up next to a corpse Iâ€™d be screaming and running.â€ť
It truly felt like this woman was on his side and it helped him not be quite so panicky about everything. She believed in him and for whatever reason that meant the world to Lincoln. They were released about an hour later and Mae asked â€śwhere do you live?â€ť
â€śI suppose in a hotel for awhile so they donâ€™t think Iâ€™m fleeing. I chased this last demon a long wayâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ll drive you to a good one, the one i recommend when family or friends donâ€™t want to stay with meâ€ť Mae drove Lincoln to a nice hotel, helped him get a room then walked him to it. â€śI have the number to your rooms phone. If you remember anything at all or just need to talk to me please call. Donâ€™t let the cops talk to you without me as wellâ€ť He nodded and she asked â€śdo you need anything else before I go home?â€ť
â€śNo, thank youâ€ť
â€śI guess my first case may as well be big and I know people arenâ€™t always what they seem but you hardly seem like some crazy murderer. Iâ€™ll make sure you get more clothes too. Youâ€™ll need some nice things to wear. It shouldnâ€™t affect anything but how you look does make things easier or harderâ€ť
â€śwhen will you come back?â€ť
â€śtomorrow, we can talk more over breakfast about your life and the information you have on this demonâ€ť She waited until he was in his room to leave, going straight to a nearby clothing thrift store that always had nice clothes. She had gotten a lot of her own clothes from there.
Lincoln tried to stay awake and rack his brain for answers. He hated he couldnâ€™t remember, hated that the memories were always so disjointed. His mind and body were so exhausted from everything, from the forced change, from the stress of thinking he may have hurt someone. He knew he had been hunting, but what had happened after the change. Had the wolf tried tracking his prey or had it found someone else wandering through the woods. He sighed as he switched on the TV and laid down, his eyes growing heavy.
Images flashed through his mind, broken into tiny, confusing bits. The smell of blood and cologne filled his nose. The flash of a grin. Screams brought sweat to his brow. He jerked away, panting, the smell still in his nose. He glanced at the clock sitting on the table next to him and saw it was three a.m. He let out a breath and draped an arm across his eyes. His wolf whined as if telling him he was missing something and it took him a moment to realize he could still smell that scent. His wolf nose had locked onto everything that night, not that it mattered, it didnâ€™t mean he could find whoever had been out there.
The next thing he knew Mae was knocking, he must have fallen back asleep thinking. She held out two bags of clothes “they were having a sale and I went kind of crazy. ”
â€śIâ€™ll find something and quickly changeâ€ť
â€śyou donâ€™t have to rush, I have nothing else to do. Youâ€™re my only clientâ€ť He hurried anyway, putting on the first outfit he saw. â€śperfectâ€ť she said when he came out of the bathroom. â€śI didnt even tell you my size, Iâ€™m surprisedâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ve always had a good eye for peoples sizes. Men are particularly easyâ€ť
â€śHow much do I owe you?â€ť
â€śNot a penny, I got them at this clothing thrift store I like. Itâ€™s no big dea. What do you like to eat for breakfast?â€ť she said quickly â€śis there a waffle house close?â€ť
â€ścan we talk there?â€ť
â€śif youâ€™re worried we can pick up food and come back to this room. I mean you were hunting a demon so that may actually be wiseâ€ť
â€śyeah, lets bring it backâ€ť They went to her car and soon arrived at Waffle House. It seemed busy but it was a breakfast place and it was breakfast time. â€śI already know what I want so just tell me when you know Lincolnâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ll have what youâ€™re having, Iâ€™m not picky. Shifting makes me ravenous so anything is fine.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re so easy.â€ť She smiled and his heart skipped a beat.
â€śWell, Iâ€™d rather not give you anymore trouble than I already am. Not many people would so readily take in a possible nutcase covered in blood.â€ť
She laughed. â€śYouâ€™re far from crazy, I can tell.â€ť
â€śIt was the look on your face when you ran into my office.â€ť
â€śI could have been pretending.â€ť
â€śTrue, but you werenâ€™t. Your shock, confusion, and fear were so genuine I could practically feel them radiating off of you.â€ť She shrugged. â€śBesides, if you had wanted to kill me then that would have been the perfect time. Youâ€™re actually a really good boy.â€ť
He chuckled. â€śDog jokes?â€ť
â€śSorry, I just couldnâ€™t help myself. Iâ€™ll make that the last one, promise.â€ť
His wolf wagged its tale, perking up. â€śI donâ€™t mind.â€ť
Mae seemed in good spirits as she ordered their food and drinks, double checking to make sure he liked orange juice â€śthere are people who donâ€™t like orange juice?â€ť Lincoln asked as they walked out and she laughed â€śyou never know, Iâ€™m sure there areâ€ť He held their to go plates in his lap and Mae set each of their cups in her cup holder before taking them back to the hotel. There was a small table in the room but only one chair “we could sit on the bed together ” Mae suggested so Lincoln put their plates down and sat with her. â€śso, anything come up last night?â€ť
â€śI had a nightmare about what happened but nothing was clear beyond the type of cologneâ€ť
â€śwell thats useful, let me know if you smell it againâ€ť
â€śIt didnâ€™t belong to the dead guy. He smelled of the woods and blood.â€ť
â€śDid you get a look at what he was wearing before you ran?â€ť
â€śJeans and a t-shirt.â€ť
She took a bite of her food. â€śNo jacket?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t think so, but I didnâ€™t really stay to exam him.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s been cold out, no one would go out there without a jacket, at night, unless they were nuts. Even if itâ€™s not cold. Getting lost up there without warm clothes is a death sentence.â€ť
He nodded as he ate. â€śYouâ€™re right and I had fur.â€ť He sighed. â€śWhat if it was me, Mae? What would you do?â€ť
â€śIâ€™d still fight for you, especially since you have no control over your shifting.â€ť She patted his back and he felt it tingle through him. â€śYouâ€™re my client, Lincoln.â€ť
He smiled. â€śThank you. Iâ€™m not usually like this, but the idea of me accidentally killing someone terrifies me. It makes me feel like more of a monster than I already am.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s because you have a good heart. Anybody with a soul would be unsettled right now. Your genuine concern is part of what makes me believe in you so much. You wont be wrongfully convicted under my watch, I swear to it and that also goes for the case of your shifting, if you did do it on accident weâ€™ll make sure the court sees thatâ€ť She wanted to be sure her words sunk in. She knew he couldnâ€™t help but be stressed but she hoped to get him as relaxed as possible. They finished their meal then cleaned up â€śare you going again?â€ť he asked and she said â€śI need to go to my office for a bit but if you want to come please do.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll just think everything to death sitting in here by myselfâ€ť her smile was kind â€śplease come then, that way Iâ€™ll be right there if you remember anything else and youâ€™ll be right there if the police contact meâ€ť They left his room and headed for her office, a place he could actually take in this time. He could tell her office was new, it was one of the cleanest places he had ever seen. There wasnt even a small amount of dust on anything he took in.
â€śHow long have you had this place?â€ť
â€śa week, how does it look to you?â€ť
â€śI like it, youâ€™ve made it your own but it isnâ€™t filled with too muchâ€ť
â€śJust wait, Iâ€™m sure after awhile itâ€™ll be total chaos. You wonâ€™t be able to find me in all the papers and files.â€ť
â€śOf course I would,â€ť he tapped his nose, â€śnothing can hide from this once I get its scent. I could find you in a mountain of papers.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m kind of curious, what do I smell like?â€ť
â€śPaper, lavender and honey. Is that your body wash?â€ť
â€śYeah, thatâ€™s amazing.â€ť
â€śHave you never spent time with a wolf before?â€ť
She smiled. â€śNot that I know of.â€ť
â€śWell, maybe once this is all over with, barring me going to prison, maybe we could hang out or something.â€ť
Her laugh was like music to his ears and his wolf whined at him. â€śIâ€™d like that. Youâ€™ll have to treat me to dinner for being such an amazing lawyer.â€ť
â€śOf course, whatever you want.â€ť
He let Mae get to work, watching her while hoping he wasnâ€™t getting in the way at all. Everytime her phone went off he tensed. He still held worry about what the evidence was going to say since he couldnâ€™t remember things clearly. It took a few days for the police to call them back over and while Lincoln didnâ€™t want to be imprisoned he also was grateful to finally be one step closer to all this being over, to knowing his fate. Before they went in Mae said â€śdonâ€™t speak first, let them tell us what they want us to know then Iâ€™ll ask questions. I want you to cooperate but I also donâ€™t want to give them more than they needâ€ť
â€śOkayâ€ť They went in and were soon back in the very same interrogation room. â€śthe results came back on your clothes Mr Stormâ€ť
â€śand?â€ť Mae inquired. â€śIt was his own blood and someone elses but surprisingly enough, not the victims. He must have hurt whomever was killing our victimâ€ť Lincolns wolf perked up, he wasnâ€™t a murderer after all. â€śIâ€™m guessing there was no match for the other bloodâ€ť
â€śNot in our database. Are you sure you canâ€™t remember anything Mr Storm?â€ť
He looked to Mae who nodded. â€śJust flashes. The scent of cologne, a grin, just bits and pieces.â€ť
â€śThat doesnâ€™t give us much to go on.â€ť
â€śYou said the blood on his clothes wasnâ€™t from the victim.â€ť Mae interjected. â€śLincoln is a wolf which means if you let him scent his clothes, then he should be able to track the killer.â€ť
â€śWe wouldnâ€™t have to take him back up the mountain and thereâ€™s no guarantee heâ€™d pick up the scent.â€ť
â€śAre you saying youâ€™re willing to let a killer get away because of a little hike and the possibility of not finding anything?â€ť
The officer frowned. â€śThatâ€™s not what I said.â€ť There was a bite to his voice that nearly had Lincoln baring his teeth.
â€śThen it shouldnâ€™t be a problem.â€ť
The officer seemed to be growing increasingly annoyed but by the looks of him he probably never did things like hiking by choice. In general Lincoln nor Mae imagined this was a police force to be reckoned with but she wasnâ€™t about to let them be lazy and in consequence let the true killer run around free to strike again. Even if it was the demon Lincoln had already been after it would be killing two birds with one stone. The most recent case would be solved and Lincoln could return to where ever he would need to go after all this. The officers reluctantly retrieved the clothing evidence and handed them to Lincoln so he could take in the scent.
Lincoln took his time, making sure he really knew it before handing them back. â€śIâ€™m guessing you would like us over at the mountain today?â€ť
â€śYes, as soon as possibleâ€ť Mae answered and the man nodded, agreeing to meet them over there. Once they were back in Mae car she sighed â€śsometimes I donâ€™t understand why people take jobs they donâ€™t seem to want to do correctly. I mean, for a cop to be so pouty about a hike, ridiculousâ€ť
â€śOn the bright side for people like me I wouldnâ€™t be needed if all the police officers wanted to do their job all the time. There are a lot of beings willing to bring the particularly bad to justice when the law canâ€™t seem to do itâ€ť Lincoln was glad when that made her smile, even if half heartedly. As a lawyer he knew there would be a lot of disappointment in her future when it came to judges, cops and others that were supposed to go above and beyond to inforce the laws.
Mae and Lincoln went straight to the mountain, not surprised in the least when the cops made them wait nearly two hours. She chided them in her head as they began the hike â€śIâ€™m so glad the peopleâ€™s safety means this much to youâ€ť Mae would have loved to speak those words but she reminded herself this was her first real case and it would make for a hard future if she got on their bad side right out the gate. Mae was a little relieved to see their attitude about the hike seemed at least somewhat improved from when she first brought it up at the station.
â€śI canâ€™t believe you walked all the way down with nothing but torn clothes.â€ť Mae said.
“I was pretty fresh off the change and full of adrenaline.”Lincoln replied. â€śBesides, Iâ€™m a wolf, we love walking and hiking.â€ť
Mae laughed, suddenly tripping and Lincoln quickly steadied her, his arm around her waist. His heart did a flip when their eyes met and his wolf urged him to rub his scent on her. He let her go, surprised at the sudden realization. â€śLincoln, are you alright?â€ť
â€śYeah, sorry, weâ€™re almost there then Iâ€™ll see if I can follow him.â€ť
â€śAre you sure?â€ť
â€śYeah, letâ€™s talk about it later, okay?â€ť
He was relieved she didnâ€™t push. The last thing he wanted to confess in front of these officers was that she was his mate and on top of that he needed to focus on finding the one who had tried to frame him.
Mae kept herself from talking unless the officers spoke first. He seemed even more determined than before and she didnâ€™t want to be a distraction. She could almost see it in his demeanor when he picked up on the scent. This demon was either cocky, wanted to be found or simply hadnâ€™t thought of the fact Lincoln would be coming back. Maybe it had assumed they wouldnâ€™t give Lincoln a fair shot, just assuming that of course the werewolf with hazy memory did it. Beings were railroaded all the time by lazy departments that simply wanted to shut cases. He had been lucky when he found Mae to stick up for him. He felt so terrible he may have just let them had he been caught.
â€śI found it, I am going to chase it downâ€ť Mae gave a small, understanding nod. They wouldnâ€™t be able to keep up and they would probably just be in the way once Lincoln did find this demon. â€śHe made us come up here just to leave us?â€ť one of the men asked â€śwell you may have been needed and this is a crime scene stillâ€ť
â€śwhatever, just let us know what happens. We will walk you back downâ€ť
â€śthanksâ€ť she barely attempted to sound like she meant it, she was too busy worrying now to think about her future dealing with these men. This demon was obviously capable of terrible things and Lincoln was running right for the being. She didnâ€™t want him to die or even get hurt again and these cops still didnâ€™t seem to care much about the situation.
Lincoln zeroed in on the scent, the smell of his prey becoming stronger and another joining it. Female and human. He wasnâ€™t surprised to find the demon crouched over a bound and gagged woman, taunting her and he growled as he tackled the demon off of her. They rolled away, sliding down a hill and away from his next victim. The demon kicked him in the stomach so he slid away and they both came up, Lincoln crouched low to the ground as they circled each other.
â€śSurprised to see you free.â€ť The demon said. â€śI thought for sure they would put you down like the rabid dog you are.â€ť
â€śBastard.â€ť Lincoln snapped.
â€śItâ€™s okay, Iâ€™ll just kill you myself and then the girl and maybe Iâ€™ll visit the woman who belongs to the scent on you.â€ť
He snarled as he sprung at the demon and he felt his canines lengthen to sharp points as he grappled with the demon. His wolf came to his defense even if he couldnâ€™t control it, jumped at the opportunity to protect its mate. The brief thought nearly distracted Lincoln, but he quickly pushed it away as he sank his teeth into the demonâ€™s shoulder, using his weight to bear the monster down.
The demon was pissed off but he had threatened the wrong woman. Adrenaline was coursing hard through his veins and the wolf inside was lending all itâ€™s strength with its need to protect Mae. Lincoln could feel the wolf urging him to end this creatures life but Lincoln didnâ€™t want to become a murderer and he wanted to clear his name. He could never fully do that unless he brought this thing to the police. He just hoped they werent complete idiots and could handle maintaining him. Lincoln knocked the demon out then unbound the woman who shool as she asked â€śare you sure heâ€™s outâ€ť
â€śyes, come with me.â€ť he put the demon over his shoulder then continued “weâ€™re headed to the police station. The girl was slow as she walked behind him but he knew she had probably been being tortured awhile before he got there. He was patient, ready to knock the demon out again if he came to. Once they arrived the police at the station seemed in shock he had actually brought someone back â€śthis is your murdererâ€ť he said as he dropped the demon the the floor then added â€śand he was probably going to kill this poor woman too. You should take her statementâ€ť
â€śDid my job, yes. Be sure to put him somewhere he canâ€™t use magic or break the bars. Heâ€™s a demon, not some drunk or you regular low life.â€ť
Two of the officers lifted the unconscious demon and a female officer guided the woman away, her arm wrapped around her shoulders as she cried. Lincoln sighed, but brightened as soon as Mae came to him. â€śMy goodness are you okay?â€ť She looked at his torn shirt and the blood that had dried on his face and arms.
â€śYeah, just got a little scraped up, but everythingâ€™s healed.â€ť
â€śHe looks more than roughed up. What happened?â€ť
Lincolnâ€™s heart jumped. How could he tell her she was his mate? â€śWell he had that woman and thenâ€¦well he threatened to come after you and I lost my cool.â€ť
Mae felt her cheeks heat. â€śOver me?â€ť
Lincoln rubbed the back of his neck. â€śMaybe we should discuss this after weâ€™ve cleared all this up.â€ť
â€śOkayâ€ť she almost stuttered. She composed herself as they dealt with what little more the cops needed of them then left â€śwhere would you like to talk?â€ť she asked, eager to hear why her safety had meant so much to him. â€śYour place would be fineâ€ť Lincoln answered, happy she brought up the talk since his nerves about it were rising. She drove them to her home in relative silence. Once inside she asked â€śsoâ€¦do you want to sit on my couch?â€ť
â€śyeahâ€ť They took a seat beside eachother, silence once again falling since he wasnâ€™t sure how to tell her. â€śLincolnâ€ť she urged, causing even his wolf to urge him to tell her â€śdo you know much about my kind?â€ť He decided was a good lead in to the conversation. To his relief she said â€śyeah, I took some classes in law school about different types of beings. I thought it would help me once I got into a careerâ€ť
â€śsoâ€¦you know that our wolves tell us when weâ€™ve found the person weâ€™re meant to be withâ€ť her heart was thumping now, slamming against her chest as she put two and two together. He was so nervous, so protective â€śareâ€¦are you trying to tell me Iâ€™m your mateâ€ť
â€śyeah, I realized it when I caught you earlierâ€¦â€ť
â€śI dont expect you just to move or to be my girlfriend or anything butâ€¦do you think you could give me a chance?â€ť
â€śof course, Iâ€™ve really liked getting to know you andâ€¦well, instead of paying for a hotel you can stay hereâ€¦you can take my couch at nightâ€ť Relief swept through him, clearing out how nervous he had been. “thank you, Iâ€™ll make sure to go elsewhere when the change is coming. I promise, Iâ€™ll never hurt you. ”
â€śI know you wont and let me look into some things that can be done okay. There must be a way to help you with thatâ€ť
â€ścould I hug you?â€ť she smiled and moved to hug him. Lincoln held her to him, almost in disbelief he could actually feel so purely happy. His life so far had been mostly work or feeling guilty over things he had done when he wasnâ€™t in control. He hadnt spent his life miserable but now that he was holding Mae he knew he had never felt true happiness until this moment. He hoped he didnâ€™t mess this up because he already knew he needed to be at her side for the rest of his life.
~ The End