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Antia & Andrej 2

Chapter One

“Do you think they had trouble on the road?” Antia asked as she and Andrej waited at the front door of their home for her brothers.

“I’m sure they’re fine my love.” Andrej couldn’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. “They’re grown men and I am sure capable.” read more

Keltie & Kepu

Chapter One

Keltie had gotten cabin fever again and insisted they all go on an adventure. As always Kepu took little convincing and their adult children were just as adventurous as their mother. They all took just two changes of clothes each, medicines and a few spices for food they were to kill and eat on the journey. When they were ready Keltie and their children couldn’t get out the door fast enough which lit up Kepu as it always did. He was honestly happy none of their children had left home yet because he knew both he and Keltie would miss them once they decided it was time to live on their own.

Once on the red dirt path Kepu lifted Keltie and set her on his shoulders. She smiled happily and just enjoyed the view. He planned to keep her there until they got into town and could rent horses for their journey. Keltie had talked a few times about them actualyl buying or taming their own but they still hadn’t gotten around to doing it. Regardless Kepu liked carrying his wife for a small portion of the journey when they decided to go somewhere so he wasn’t in any hurry.

Keltie looked down at her husband and smiled warmly. She couldn’t believe how lucky she had been to find such a gentle man. Every day they had been together, he had made sure she felt loved. He had given her three beautiful children, all of them just as amazing. She kissed the top of his head and he tipped his head back and smiled up at her. “Kiss me.” He said softly and she happily pressed her lips against his.

“Love you.” She said once she parted their lips.

“I love you too.”

“Next thing you know we’ll have another brother or sister.” Zavier teased, making both Keltie and Kepu blush.

Umiko put her brother in a headlock. “And what would be wrong with that, at least we’d have someone cute to look at.”

“Come on now, I’m pretty cute.” Ozuru joked.

“As a mule.” Umiko shot back as her brother finally managed to pull his head free and they all three laughed.

Keltie and Kepu both smiled. “What do you say papa bear, should we have another?” Keltie asked softly.

“As many as you like my love. We’ll have a hundred if you want.”

“You really are the sweetest man in the world.”

His smile grew wider, almost becoming ridiculous since he was feeling so much joy. “so when are we going to buy horses again so we dont have to walk to town before going anywhere?” Zavier asked. “Maybe after we get back unless we see a wild one we can convince to come home with us. Will be hard to find another for your father and Ozuru but its doable.”

“I’ll find the elf I got my last one from” Kepu said. “Its a shame we cant make our horses immortal as well” Umiko added sadly. “have any clue where you want to go mom?” Ozuru asked. “where ever the world leads us” she answered, her children and husband used to her odd answers.

Keltie was happy it didn’t take them too long to get to town. With her on Kepu’s shoulders and he and their children’s longer strides, it took a lot less time. They went straight to the stables, renting horses for Keltie, Umiko, and Zavier. “But Kepu, I don’t want to ride if you’re not.” Keltie said with a frown.

“It’s okay my love, I’ll just lead yours until we get to Dion’s.” He looked at Ozuru. “Reassure your mother.”

“We’ll be fine mom, dad and I could walk for ages.”

“As long as you’re sure.”

“We are love.” Kepu replied, looking at her adoringly. She smiled warmly back and kissed him. “What was that for?” He asked when she parted their lips.

“Being the most amazing, perfect husband in the world.” He stroked her cheek and kissed her cheek then grabbed her horse’s reigns and lead it through town. Their children followed, talking happily and teasing each other.

Keltie felt relief when she could finally see Dions up ahead. Though it was true her husband and oldest son could seemingly walk without end she would feel much better when he could ride with them. When Kepu knocked Dion recognized it as his right away so opened the door already looking up “Hey there, visit or finally need a new horse?”

“my wife wants to go on another adventure so we decided it was time”

“I see you’ve already gotten a few, why not let them rest for a time and have some tea with me before we talk business. I could even whip up a nice snack if you’d like”

“I’m in” Zavier quickly answered and Umiko shook her head “He mentioned food, of course Zavier is in” Keltie chuckled “thanks Dion” They let their horses run with the others then went inside. Kepu and Ozuru having to be mindful their heads didnt hit anything since this houses doorframes were only just high enough for them to clear.

“Mint tea okay?” Dion asked as he disappeared into the kitchen.

“That’s fine, do you need help?” Keltie replied.

“Just relax with your husband, I won’t be long.”

Kepu grabbed her before she talked Dion into letting her help and pulled her onto his lap. She giggled and kissed his cheek. “Alright, alright I’ll relax.”

“Sorry, I just really like holding you.”

“You’re too sweet.” They waited patiently, listening to Dion humming as he made tea and sandwiches. He bought everything out on two trays and sat them on the coffee table before taking a seat.

“I hope this is okay.” Dion said with a warm smile.

“It’s perfect Dion, you didn’t have to make so much though, peanut butter and crackers would have been fine as well.” Keltie said as she lifted her cup of tea.

“It was no problem and besides, with a husband and kids like that I’m sure peanut butter and crackers simply wouldn’t do.”

“This man knows what he’s talking about.” Zavier said then took a big bite out of his sandwich.

Keltie smiled and grabbed a sandwich for herself and Kepu “you have a horse for me then?” Kepu asked “oh yes, you have four to pick from. I had quite a nice heard of them going but somthing decided to come along and eat a few of the poor dears. I’m going to see about finding me a few more so the gene pool wont be so small.” Dion answered. “where do you find them?” Umiko asked. “Some i actually do find. Horses take a likeing to me easy while some I get from some respectable dealers in animals. I’ve only bought from a bastard once and I made sure my transaction was his last. I noticed quick the poor horse was used to being abused.”

“Is he something we should worry about?” Umiko asked.

“No, after I bought the horse from him, I put the word that he was an abusive monster. Because I have such
a spotless reputation, he was immediately ruined.” He smiled warmly at Umiko. “You should know by now that I will not stand for animal cruelty.”

“Well yeah, of course.”

Dion turned his attention back to Kepu. “Of the four horses Agrius and Tityos are the best, they’re the biggest and strongest. You can decide for yourself if you like them of course.”

“You always recommend the best.”

“Breeding draft horses for your family has been a delight. If you wish to keep the horses afterwards then please do, I know with you they will be very well taken care of.”

When they were done Dion took them out so they could examine his horses. Kepu bought the two Dion had recommended then asked ‘which one do you want Ozuru?”

“Tityos if you want Agrius.”

“That’s fine with me. Thank you Dion”

“No problem, thank you for coming to me again” They all saddled up and set out on the road again with Keltie leading. She began humming a gentle song as they rode which her family enjoyed. It was a peaceful and scenic trip until rain started pouring. The horses picked up the pace as they attempted to find cover. Eventually they saw an area of thick woods and hoped it was thick enough so they wouldn’t all get so drenched.

Kepu got down from his horse once they were all settled under the trees and pulled Keltie down from hers, holding her in his arms as he sat down against the trunk of one of the trees. “I better keep you warm.” He said lovingly and she smiled up at him. “Figure out where you want to go or would you just like to wander?”

“Do you remember that valley we found on our honeymoon?”

A light blush tinted his cheeks. “The one with the rainbow grass and weird leopards?”

“Yeah, I want to take the kids there. I mean how many times do you get to see a cat that can change colors?”

“Or rainbow grass.” Zavier injected.

“Exactly, I think they’d love it.”

“Then we’ll go.”

They all sat close to eachother to wait out the rain and began talking to pass time “when the rain stops maybe Umiko and I can go hunt somthing for us to eat”

“yeah and I’ll make a fire” Zavier answered ‘sounds good, we’ll all change and our clothes too and I’ll take care of washing them next time we find a river”

“No mom, one of us can do it. We want you and dad to just have fun” Umiko answered then Keltie spoke again. “we’ve always been a team”

“yeah but you and dad do enough. We’ve got this” her brothers nodded “no complaints here honey, just let them” Kepu said and Keltie just relaxed against him. When the rain stopped Umiko and Ozuru went hunting then Zavier went to find sticks dry enough that he could start a fire with. “what type of food do you want sister?’ Ozuru asked. She shrugged “whatever we find first”

“Think we’ll get another sibling soon?”

“Now that the idea is in their heads I’m sure. I really hope that if I find a husband I have what they have”

“Oh you will Umiko” she gave him a look “I’m freakishly tall as far as girls go Ozuru. You yourself have knocked some teeth out because of ass’s”

“You don’t want a man who cares about that shit anyway Umiko. You’re awesome and beautiful. You’ll get married one day and if he doesnt treat you like dad treats mom Zavier and I will beat him until he does” Umiko laughed and punched his shoulder “love you too” Between the skills they each had they caught dinner almost effortless then began their walk back to their family.

“oh look, you didn’t fail at making a fire” Ozuru said teasingly to his brother who sarcastically laughed.

“And you managed to keep up with our sister on a hunt, I’m so shocked I might die.”

Ozuru put him in a headlock and both Keltie and Kepu couldn’t help but laugh as they wrestled. “Alright children food first, play later.” Umiko said.

“Spoil sport.” Zavier said with a smile as he and Ozuru broke apart. With the three of them working, it took know time at all to clean and cook their food. Kepu was proud of his children and how capable they had become at hunting. He knew he never had to worry about them.

“I kind of hope we have another girl so Umiko has a sister.” Keltie said and Kepu smiled down at her.

“I’ll be happy either way.”

“Is that dad for please ye gods don’t give me another beautiful daughter because I would hate to have to kill someone?”

“Exactly.”

“We can hear you two.” Umiko said.

“Yeah, you’re not very good whisperers and besides, there is no way any sibling of ours will have to worry about anyone hurting them, we’d kill them first.” Zavier added.

“Plus, Umiko is really strong, so any female sibling we have will be too.”

Chapter Two

“that she is” Kepu acknowledged proudly. The next day they were off again, the only sounds being nature and their three children joking around as usual. The weather held that day and the next, only trouble with the third day was the wind but it was more of annoyance than real trouble. When they arrived all three of their childrens eyes widened at the site. There was many beautiful and amazing things about their world but this place was astounding. Umiko quickly dismounted followed by her siblings then parents.

“I think they like it.” Kepu said with a big smile.

“I knew they would.” Keltie replied. Kepu lifted her onto his shoulders and she laughed, loving being carried by him. She loved how tall he was, that she was able to see everything from the safety of his shoulders. He walked leisurely through the beautifully colored grass and they watched their children enjoying this new part of their world.

“Why have we never been here?” Umiko asked her parents.

“We just never thought of coming here again. We’ve just been enjoying being a family.” Keltie answered.

“Look at that leopard.” Zavier said excitedly and everyone followed where his finger pointed. The big cat stopped to look at them for a moment then seemed to vanish, its coat becoming the same color as the grass around it.

“Wow, I’ve never seen anything that cool.” Ozuru exclaimed.

“Are they dangerous?” Umiko asked.

“No, they just startle easily, if you ignore them they’ll come to you after awhile.” Kepu explained.

“What about the horses?” Zavier asked.

“They won’t be bothered, the leopards can smell human and elf on them and won’t hurt them.”

They decided with that information they were set for the area and went off. Kepu took Keltie to a pond they sunk their feet in and relaxed by last time they were there. He set her down right on the edge “woo, it’s colder this time” Keltie said and Kepu smiled “Yes but it’s nice to be back. We should have brought them sooner”

“good thing we’re immortal and have all the time in the world to do everything” Kepu took his wifes hand and sighed happily “I really love you Keltie”

‘I love you too, always”

“want me to get us a Snopit for dinner again?”

“that was so delicious. Definitely”

“I’ll take Umiko later and show her how to properly kill them and remove their poison”

‘The boys and I will see about finding some fruit somwhere. Didn’t we manage to gather some last time?’

“yep, cant be too far” It was Kelties turn to sigh ‘what’re we going to do when our babies decide to leave home. It’s fun going on these trips with them”

“they are too close to eachother and us to go too far. We’ll still go on trips. Plus we’ve already decided to have more.”

‘I wish we had tents so we could start tonight” Keltie wink and Kepu smiled “maybe we could sneak away after dinner” Kepu suggested and Keltie laughed “I like the sound of that” they enjoyed the romance of the area until theri stomachs started rumbling for food. They walked and called for their children until all were rounded up. “Umiko, I am going to teach you to catch and kill a Snopit. They have multiple poison sacks so you must do just as I say so we dont ruin the meat” Umiko looked as excited as she always did when it came to learning a new skill. “and boys you’re coming with me to find some fruiit” Keltie said cheerfully.

They seperated and Zavier asked ‘is there any new fruit around here? It would be kick ass to have a new meat and fruit tonight”

“If we can find what your father and I found”

“I’m sure we can, Ozuru can tote us if need be”

“Yeah right, maybe mom but not you lazy” Keltie laughed as the boys started playfully bickering. “Mom look!” Zavier said excitedly when bushes seemingly covered in deep purple fruit appeared in the distance. Ozuru could have sworn it wasnt there a second ago but before he could voice his concerns his mother and younger brother were already running “guys!” he tried to call but they ignored him, planning on listening to what he had to say when they arrived.

Everything seemed fine as his mother and Zavier picked fruit so he thought maybe he just missed them the first time until Keltie yelped. His mother had been just arms length away but now as he looked over at her she was further with a dagger pushed so hard into her neck a small amount of blood was sliding down the silver. Ozurus voice was already drenched in anger “you would be wise to give me my mother” in a swift, wordless movement the blade left Kelties throat and he stabbed her in the side before letting go with a cackle. He went to run but Ozuru had already drawn his bow and loaded it with two arrows. They both shot just where he was aiming and would kill the creature in minutes. He still laid cackling as Keltie went to stand.

Ozuru turned to tell Zavier to get their father but he and the bushes were now nowhere in sight “Zavier” the cackle seemed to come from all around and the creature on the ground said “oh we already got our real target. Nice distraction eh?” his laughter continued and Keltie angrily screamed as she clutched her side ‘wheres my baby!”

“my breathen have taken him bitch. You elves think you’re so great but once again we outsmart you”

“Your so called outsmarting has cost you your life and will cost the lives of who has taken Zavier” Ozuru said as he lifted his mother. The creature just cackled until the death rattle left his lungs.

He ran from that place, Keltie crying from the loss of her child rather than the pain in her side. Ozuru screamed for his father and sister as he neared their campsite and his father and sister soon came running, their faces full of worry. When Kepu saw Keltie covered in blood and crying, his heart nearly exploded from his chest. He had her in his arms in an instant. “What happened? Where’s Zavier?” He asked angrily.

Ozuru knew it was not directed at him and quickly explained what had happened, describing every detail of their attack. His father’s face paled. “Do you know who took him?” Umiko asked as she dug in her bag and tore the side of her mother’s shirt. She poured the potion on the wound, relieved when it began to close.

“They sound like yaomo, evil demons with a deep seeded hate for elves.”

“What are they going to do to our baby?” Keltie asked, gripping tightly to his shirt.

“I don’t know, I’m sorry.”

Keltie buried her face in his shirt and continued to weep. “We’ll get him back mom.” Ozuru said.

“Zavier’s tough, you know he can stand up to whatever they do to him.”

“But we don’t even know where they took him, they used an illusion to fool us and when we looked away, they took him. Why did they take him, he’s done nothing wrong.” Keltie interjected.

“I wish I had any insight as to why they’d specifically want him but we’ll find him somehow. There has to be someone who knows this area and if not we’ll look as long as we have to”

“lets get going. We need to find him. They hurt me so quickly, I dont want to think what they will do to Zavier” Keltie pleaded. “Umiko, Ozuru, gather our horses. Your mother is riding on mine with me so I can hold her” she was tempted to say ‘my wound is healed” but knew it would make no difference to her husband. “I’m sorry Kepu. i should have thought more. I’m the mother I”

“sh, why on earth would you think somthing was trying to hurt us? I cant take you saying sorry for it. We will get Zavier back and those stupid little shits will regret harming my family. I will break them” Umiko and Ozuru brought the horses and they all got on. Kepu held the reins with one arm while he had the other secure around his wifes waist.

Zavier glared angrily at the humanoid creature standing on the other side of his cell door, wishing he could reach through the bars and kill it, but an iron collar was locked around his neck and chained to the wall. They had terrorized his mother and brother before taking him and to him, that was unforgivable. “What are you staring at little elf?”

“What do you want with me monster?”

Black eyes blinked back at him from a pale face framed by long red hair. “You elves act like you are gods of the earth, you drive us to the darkest parts of the earth and then forget we exist. Not even your mother and brother knew what we were. We’ll show them.”

“What do you plan on doing with me?”

“You will play for us until we are bored.” The creature left and Zavier glared at him until he disappeared. A few moments later he heard footsteps. He expected another like the creature who had left him, but instead it was a young woman. She had the same pale skin and black eyes and red hair that fell to her calves. She was tall like the creatures who had taken him, maybe two inches shorter than himself. The biggest differences were the pointed ears sticking out of her hair and the two horns atop her head. He believed she was a half breed.

Kepu groaned with frustration as the night was almost giving way to sunrise and they couldn’t find a single clue as to where they had taken Zavier. They hadn’t even found other people of any race as they searched. They wanted to keep going but knew their horses had to be tired so were now just sitting around a fire eating a kill Umiko had obtained. “dad?” Umiko tried hesitantly. His eyes looked angry and scared as he looked at her “yes?”

“If we find a demon maybe we could pay them to follow Zaviers scent.”

“use a demon when demons are the ones who took Zavier”

“well they didn’t all call a meeting and come to a unanimous decision among their kind they were going to take Zavier. I’m sure one might help us”

“That is a good idea” Keltie said, still laying her head on Kepus shoulder. Kepu sighed “I guess but you need to eat Keltie. You barely touched your food” She lifted herself to sit up and grabbed her plate to finish eating for her family.

Zavier stared back at the woman who had been staring at him for hours. She hadn’t moved an inch from her place on the floor, she just stared. He sighed, “What are you doing?”

She cocked her head to the side, seeming surprised he had spoken to her. “I was told to keep an eye on you.”

“Why would they send a woman, not that women aren’t strong, but I don’t understand their logic.”

“Because if you try to escape, you won’t hurt me.”

He rolled his eyes. “If a woman tries to attack me, I’m going to defend myself.”

“You would hit me?”

“Only if I was forced to.” He gave her a small smile. “You’re not like the others, you don’t act like I’m the scum of the earth.”

She looked at her hands. “I don’t even know you, why would I hate you? I don’t hate any of you.”

“And your look is different.”

Her eyes jumped to his face. “My mother was a satyr.”

“Hmm, how strange. They seemed like the type that care only for their own kind.”

“My father is leader of this clan and he loved my mother dearly. No one would dare go against his wishes, so I get to stay and even though I don’t share his views, I still love him.”

He smiled again. “A child’s love is unconditional.” He sighed. “I may make life hard for you uh…”

“Sera.” She said.

“I may make life hard for you Sera, I’m going to have to escape, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, I already knew you weren’t the type to give up.”

Chapter Three

“You going to stop me?’ She shrugged “I’ll have to put some effort into stopping you” her voice went lower “but honestly you havent done anything so why should I try to force you to stay. They plan to punish you for a crime you havent committed and thats not fair atall is it?”

“you could just let me go then”

“My father loves me but he will punish me if I do that. He is a vicious man when you defy him”

“even to you?’

“even to me. I wouldn’t call him abusive but his punishments are if that makes sense”

“hes still abusive if he overly punishes you”

“You are not a demon, you couldn’t understand. Your race is far more docile”

“I don’t care what race he is, he has no right to abuse you”

“he doesn’t, just punishes me severely when I disobey” Zavier sighed and decided to drop it. This was a point he obviously wasn’t going to get across. He needed to think about escaping anyway. Zavier knew his family must be in turmoil over him being gone. He didn’t want them to have to worry any longer than they had to.

Being worried and stressed had finally taken its toll on Keltie and she fell asleep in her husband’s arms not long after she finished eating. Kepu hated how distressed she looked even in her sleep and kissed her forehead. “Umiko, you and your mother are going to stay here while your brother and I continue searching for help.”

“Dad, we need to stick together.” Umiko replied.

“Listen, she’s exhausted and upset, she needs to rest. I need you to watch over her for me. I know she can take care of herself most of the time, but right now she doesn’t need to worry about fighting.”

Umiko sighed. “Alright, I’ll stay.”

“Thank you.” He laid Keltie gently on the ground, using his bag as a pillow for her head. He kissed her forehead once more then got to his feet. “Come on Ozuru.”

“Yes sir.” They left the camp they had made and headed out into the woods, keeping their eyes and ears open. They found their way back to the path that lead to the valley and walked down it. Neither of them said a word, both of them too angry and worried for small talk. It was a couple of hours later that voices caught their attention and they both came to a halt, listening. The conversation sounded light hearted. They started walking again, following the voices into the woods until they came to a river. A man and a woman were playing in the water, the latter of whom froze and looked their way. He had scars on one side of his face and torso and his yellow eyes turned black as he came out of the water and put himself between the woman and the two much larger men.

“Who are you?” He asked.

“Please, we mean no harm, we just need help.” Kepu explained.

The woman came out of the water and grabbed the man’s arm. “Matvei, calm down, they don’t seem dangerous.”

The demon took a deep breath, his eyes shifting back to their natural yellow. “Sorry, she’s my mate. I didn’t know if you were bandits or something else.”

“believe us, we understand. We were actually hoping you two could help us. My son was taken by yaomo. I’m not an elf but this man beside me is my other son, his mother is an elf. We cant scent like you demons can. I’d be willing to pay or do anything for your assistance. He’s our youngest and loved dearly” Matvei looked at Zoya who said “please help him. They seem nice and honestly worried”

“my mate wants to help so my nose is yours. You wont owe us anything.”

“thank you” Both Kepu and Ozuru said. Matvei took in their scent knowing the younger man would have traces of their scents on him. He knelt down so Zoya could get on his back then said “Just follow me” He took off and they quickly followed. Kepu and Ozuru felt a twinge of relief now that they had a demons help. The situation no longer felt insurmountable.

Keltie woke to the sound of her daughter humming. It took her a moment, but she suddenly realized both Kepu and Ozuru were gone and sat up. “Where’s your father and brother?”

“Dad said you needed to rest so he took Ozuru and went to find help.”

“Why didn’t he wake me?”

Umiko reached over ad took her hand. “Don’t be upset, he was right, you’ve had it the worst. Besides, I tried reasoning with him already and you know how he can be.”

“I know, I just want Zavier back.”

“We’ll get him back mom.”

Sera got to her feet at the sound of multiple sets of footsteps. Four demons came up to the cell and she stepped aside, standing there while they opened the cell door and went inside. Two of them held Zavier’s arms behind his back, another held a sword to his throat and the fourth took the collar from around his neck. “Time to play elf.” The one with the sword said.

“I just love games.” He replied as they forced him to his feet. The demon with the sword punched him in the gut and growled when Zavier hardly doubled over.

“Watch your tongue elf or I will cut it out.”

“What game will he be playing?” Sera asked softly.

“He’s fighting the athach.”

“What is an athach?” Zavier asked as he was forced from his cell.

“A ten foot giant.” One of the demons responded.

“But no one beats the athach.” Zavier struggled away from his attackers and wrapped his arms around Sera, holding tightly to her as the demons tried to forced him off.

“Bring me my daggers.” He whispered in her ear then let the demons pull him away.

She waited until she knew they wouldn’t notice her then hurried to gather his daggers. They always put captives things in the same heap so they wouldn’t be hard to find. She grabbed them then made her way to the arena. She knew it was unlikely that it wouldn’t be found out she gave Zavier his daggers but she could endure her fathers punishment to help an innocent man punished for deeds that weren’t his.

Keltie paced in an irregular pattern as they waited “mom, you’re not resting.”

“I can’t”

“mom”

“Please Umiko, I cant”

“If I made you somthing to relax you would you drink it”

“sure” Umiko began what she needed for a nice brew of tea that would have her laying down if not sleeping after she ingested it. Matvei found a cave and began leading them into its depths. Kepu nor Ozuru questioned him as they followed into the chill and dark of the cave. It seemed to go on and on as it went lower and lower. Kepu wondered how deep this cave dove down before it stopped.

Zavier was forced through a door and into a ring that was illuminated by magic lights. He could see people sitting along the rim, their voices loud as they jeered at him. There was a large door on the other side and a demon standing above it turned a wheel that hauled it up. A giant fur covered man stepped out, a loincloth around his waste and a stone club in his right hand. The creature spotted him and let out a roar that drove the crowd into a frenzy. It ran at him, raising the club above its head and bringing it down. Zavier rolled to the right, the club missing him and slamming into the ground so it shook. He was fast enough to stay out of the way, but without his daggers, he was no good. He dodged a second blow, making the crowd angry that he had gone on the defensive and was not putting on a show.

Sera sat his daggers on the edge of the ring, her heart in her throat as she watched swing after swing almost hit Zavier. She picked up a rock, hoping he would forgive her for hitting him and threw it at him so it hit him in his back. He glanced back and she kicked his daggers over the edge and into the ring. The sound of yelling and cheering echoed through the cave system, catching the attention of Kepu, Ozuru, Matvei and Zoya. It sounded like there was a celebration going on and that in itself worried both Kepu and Ozuru.

Matvei picked up his pace, impressed to see Kepu and Ozuru keeping up so well with him. When the tunnel opened up into where they obviously lived Matvei looked at his two companions seriously “I’m helping you with your family. By that same token do not let anything happen to my mate while we fight if you can help it. She is my everything” Kepu answered “do not put her in danger. Go, my son and I can take it from here”

“But you’ll be outnumbered and they are demons”

“father, I’ll guard her, you and Matvei fight. I may have learned well from you and mother but they are demons. It would be best if this man fought with you to get Zavier”

“will you feel fine with him?” Matvei asked. Zoya glanced over at Ozuru. His size was intimidating but she told Matvei she would stay with him. He set her down and Ozuru said “I’ll protect her like I would my mother, I swear”

“I expect it” Matvei said before running off with Kepu. “whats your name mam?” Ozuru asked and she answered “Zoya”

“Please dont fear me Zoya. I know I’m huge like my father but we are gentle men”

“How olds your brother?” she changed the topic to. “He looks to be in his early twenties but hes in his thirties.”

“He’s the youngest?”

“yes, Umiko is oldest and then theres me”

“Umiko?”

“My sister, she’s six foot tall”

“Oh wow” Ozuru would keep small talk going to distract both him and her.

Keltie relaxed by the fire, fearing her her sons and husband. She just wanted them all back, wanted to fall asleep in Kepu’s arms. She was really looking forward to having a new baby and knew she had to keep faith in Kepu’s ability to fight. She sighed and Umiko once again reached over and grabbed her hand. “They’ll be back mom.” She said.

“I know, I’m just scared. If I lost one of them a part of me would die. I need you all in my life. I wish head had taken us.”

“He was just being a good husband and father.”

“I know and it makes me love him even more. I’m a really lucky girl.” Umiko smiled. “You will be too baby girl, there is someone out there for everyone.”

Umiko blushed. “Oh come on mom.”

“Dion’s nice.”

“Mom, you’re talking crazy because you’re tired. Why don’t you rest?” Keltie gave a soft laugh at her daughter’s embarrassment.

“You can’t blame a mother for trying.”

Chapter Four

“I love you mom. I’m fine though. I want a relationship but I’m by no means crying myself to sleep”

“I know, I just want all my babies happy” Keltie laid down “if you get too tired don’t strain yourself. Wake me and I’ll watch you sleep”

“I will mom” Umiko put out the fire when her mom went to sleep so it wouldn’t attract anything. Then just let her mind drift in thought. All the demons were watching the fight so Kepu and Matvei didn’t have any resistance until they neared the ring. Between the two of them, even with the Yaomos illusions it was easy just to cut through. They made it to the ring with mostly minor injuries and Kepu could finally see his son as he fought. Zavier was fighting back in such a manor Kepu could be proud but seeing his son in danger got his adrenaline pumping even more with need to get him away, safe and back with his mother.

Kepu was snapping necks until he reached Sera who even in his rage could see she wasn’t trying to attack him. “Matvei, leave this one alone” he called over to his partner. Sera was shocked as he went by her and jumped into the ring with his son. It was almost right after Seras father, the leader of these demons jumped in too “what are you doing here” he seethed “this is my son”

“You wont take our toy”

“My son is not a toy” he said through gritted teeth. The giant turned and went towards Kepu who wore a more annoyed face rather than a frightened one. He easily took him down causing the demons to gasp “I’m taking my son home and you fucking bastards aren’t going to stop me” Seras dad screeched out in anger “fine, take the boy” smart enough not to say so outloud he said “but I’ll come back for him, I’ll come back for your whole family”

Kepu picked up his son “I dont want to hear it” he said since he knew Zavier would not want to be carried out. Outrage poured out among the Yaomo as they walked away. They wanted their master to fight but all he had to do was yell silence and they all obeyed, more afraid of him than angry Zavier was being taken back.

When they reached Ozuru and Zoya Kepu put his son down. Ozuru tackled his brother with a hug “are you alright”

“yes, lets get to mom. I need to see her.”

“she’s fine brother, you know that but yes, lets hurry” Matvei got his mate on his back again and they all ran out “I think we were let go too easy” Kepu pointed out as they ran “why didn’t you kill him then?”

“I dont kill anything that isnt trying to kill me or my loved ones. Currently, he is no longer a threat” Matvei nodded and they ran the rest of the way in silence. Umiko was still guarding her mother when she heard people approaching. She quickly stood, ready to fight to keep her mother from harm but was soon washed over with relief when she could see her father and brothers. “Mom!” she said excitedly. Keltie bolted up. “what is” she started then also saw “Zavier!” both girls ran towards them.

Kepu wanted to scoop Keltie up but he allowed her and Umiko to hug Zavier. When keltie finally let go Kepu lifted Keltie. “are you cross with me?”

“you brought back Zavier and were only thinking of my safety. I’m not mad” He kissed her then said “this is Matvei and” he felt bad he hadn’t caught her name “Zoya, they helped us” Ozuru said. Zoya spoke ‘well my mate helped”

“but he only helped because you were fine with it” Kepu added. Keltie pushed out of Kepus arms and hugged them both “thank you, can we repay you two?”

“No, we’re fine”

“Please, atleast let us hunt you a good meal” Umiko insisted. Matvei figuring Zoya must be hungry agreed “okay, a meal sounds nice.” They all sat down then Umiko and Ozuru went to hunt. Kepu had Keltie locked back in his arms, not planning on letting her go again for awhile. Kepu nor Matvei realized how hungry they were until Umiko began cooking. Between all of them the animal Umiko and Ozuru had killed was devoured. “woah, do I need to get any more?’ Umiko asked. “No, we should all just rest now. I’m sure you watched over your mother the whole time. Please sleep” Kepu said. Umiko nodded and Matvei stood “Zoya and I will be going.”

“thank you again” Keltie said and he smiled “family is important. I hope Zoya and I have kids one day” Zoya blushed at his words which made Keltie smile more. “I’m sure they’ll be adorable”The next day they decided they had had enough adventure and started back home. Kepu knew those demons weren’t done with them but if they struck again he wouldn’t be as willing to walk away. Their leader would deeply regret daring to touch his family twice.

~The End

Leola & Acel

Chapter One

Leola didn’t even try to look happy as she was fitted for her wedding dress. Her mother was tired of her sulking so snapped “stop acting like a child! Nester is a very handsome man with amazing abilities. You should be thrilled he is your chosen mate. Nester was overjoyed when he was told he was getting you. He’s even still happy after finding out how ungrateful you are for the pairing”

“Ungrateful mother? How am I supposed to be grateful to anybody? I want Acel”

“You will shut your mouth about him this instant. He is not good enough for you. You are beautiful and hes an ugly toad”

“God you and the rest of our race that is beautiful are so fucking full of yourselves and stuck up” Leola had more to say but her mother gave her a sharp slap “you will not raise your voice to me Leola. This has been the way of our world since the dawn of our time. The beautiful get paired with the beautiful to keep our race as pretty as possible. Its why the majority of us look so good. The uglies have it made really, they get to choose amongst themselves. You have a responsibility as I had and all the generations before. I didn’t choose your father but I like him a lot now”

“But I want love”

“grow up Leola. You are marrying Nester. Acel knows his place. I doubt being with you had even crossed his mind. Besides, I see how he flirts with Megan”

“He does not”

“I’ve seen it”

“Dont be a liar you heartless bitch” Leola received another cruel slap “I am your mother”

“yeah, a crappy mother who cant even find it in herself to care atall about how unhappy this makes me. You and father dont love eachother and you dont love me because of it. I’ll quit talking but nothing you do or say will make me pretend to be happy”

“The elders will get cross with you for upsetting the order. If you keep running your mouth you might taint other minds. This is whats best for our people!”

Acel could barely stock the shelves in the shop he owned his heart was aching so bad. He had begged and begged to be paired with Leola since she wasn’t allowed to choose for herself but all that had brought was laughter and cruel jabs from the rulers of their world. He had bragged about everything he had to brag about but nothing he said convinced them he was worthy of her. It stung even more he was convinced she loved him to. It was in the way she looked at him, how she lingered in hugs. He knew she felt the same and the heartless people that governed them wouldn’t allow them to be happy. They were far too vain for that.

He was too ugly for her hand in marriage and he knew unless they escaped their world there would be heavy consequences if he married her anyway. For one their rulers wouldnt acknowledge the marriage, two it was against the law to live with the opposite sex unless you were married or related, three they might face severe physical punishment. She could be hurt and that would be worse than being without her.

“You’re making that face again Acel.” Megan said as she counted the money for him. She often came by to help at the end of the day so he could get out faster. “Is it Leola?”

He sighed. “I can’t take it anymore Megan, you know I love her more than life itself. I need her.” His heart felt like it was being squeezed. “I can’t live without her, I hate this world. We need to escape or she’ll have to marry that…that idiot.”

“And she’ll be forced to produce an heir.”

“I can’t let that happen. I have enough money to help us get by for awhile, all we need is a way out.”

Megan finished with the money and walked over to help him finish with the cans. “I’ll help you and Leola, she’s been nothing but an angel and she deserves someone like you who actually loves her.”

“Thank you.”

“We’re friends, we’re supposed to help each other.”

Leola sat in her room and stared out the window, happy that her mother and the woman who had been working on her dress had left. She stared out over their world, wishing she could see the beauty in it, but unable to. She craved freedom with Acel, wished for it with all her heart and soul and would pay any price to get it. She buried her face in her hands as tears welled up in her eyes and wept, wishing she could grow wings and fly away from this prison.

When she heard her mothers call for dinner Leola wiped the tears away and braced for the glares and tension she would receive from her fathers side of the table. Her mother may not give a damn how she felt but the way her father had been was much harder to deal with. When he told her he wouldn’t speak to her until she “accepted her fate and stopped being a brat for the good of their race” he had meant it. Truthfully what he had to say to her he had been saying without words anyway. He was only in the same room as her when they ate and even then he wouldn’t utter a word, just glare and make her as uncomfortable as he could with his rage.

Tonight when she came to the table he did somthing he didn’t normally do. Vachel lifted his plate and walked towords their living room. She thought she would be spared his angry eyes but he looked at her quickly, groaned and shook his head before walking angrily out. When she sat down Leola asked ‘where is going?”

“I told him about your little tantrum concerning that disgusting looking man who owns the shop. I have half a mind to stop talking to you too. You are such a disappointment. We’re absolutely ashamed you’re our daughter. We should have never let you hangout with his kind. Our friends warned us about you associating with the underlings. Your father will be eating in the living room until you’re living with your husband. He says being in the same room even for meals is too much to take now”

“I don’t care anymore mom. I’m glad you hate me so much, it makes the sting of betrayal not hurt so much.”

“You will watch your mouth.”

In truth she wished her parents loved her, she wished her mother was someone she could confide in and she wished her father accepted everything about her. She felt cursed having such an unloving family and there had been times she had wanted to scar herself in hopes she would be seen as ugly and then her parents would disown her, but Acel had told her that hurting herself wouldn’t help. She wanted to run from this place, but knew she would be captured before she even made it out of the castle courtyard. She ate slowly, picking at her food, feeling more and more depressed with each passing moment.

When she was done she went straight to the room she had been given to stay in. Even the guest portion of the castle was breathtaking but she barely noticed or even cared she was going to be married to a future ruler. She just wanted a life with Acel but their looks had put them both on a different path in this world and the rulers would keep them apart, especially now that she was engaged to Nester. She had been in her room almost an hour when she heard knocking on her door. “Yes?” she said in a sullen tone. “are you decent?” Nesters voice asked. “Yes” she answered truthfully, he would have waited for her to dress anyway so may aswell not prolong him entering.

He stepped in, wearing his finest clothes and bearing flowers along with a new sun dress. The man didn’t even care that dresses urked her. “I collected these from the garden for you” he said as he walked over and handed them to her. She took the flowers and he saw she had been crying again. He sighed and held up her dress “I thought this would be pretty on you. Wear it for our party tomorrow. I’m also having some jewelry finished up tonight for you.” when she didn’t take it from him he walked over to her closet and hung it up.

He walked back to her and took Leolas hands to have her stand in front of him. “Leola, the seamstress told me of yours and your mothers fight. I understand you grew up as friends with Acel and you’ve grown attached to him but you are going to be my wife and the sooner you let go of your feelings for him the sooner you can be happy. You are going to be very happy as my bride. I can give you anything and I’m going to let you in on a little secret but you cant tell anybody. Even if you do my parents, myself and the other lords will deny it.”

“what is it?” she asked barely interested. He smiled and pulled her into a hug that she tensed in, especially when he moved so his lips were by her ear “I chose you” she shoved him away “but nobody chooses”

“The rulers get to. We just dont let the public know that. Unlike the other attractive members of our race who are matched on the likelyhood of breeding more beautiful babies we get to choose whoever we want and i’ve wanted you since I met you. I told my father the first day we hung around eachother I wanted him to give you to me but thats good for you. You will have a husband who wants you, want to know who your father wanted?”

‘shut up”

‘it wasn’t your mother”

“stop talking”

“it was her sister, your Aunt Sonna. When your parents were paired he asked to get Sonna instead but the rulers turned him down. Its hilarious watching him be so hypocritical with you. He didn’t want to marry someone he didn’t want to either but you have more of a will than him. He gave up pretty easily. Anyways, nobody but us gets who they want so be happy you’ll be with a man who actually wants you”

‘Acel wants me”

“Has he said it?”

“No but he doesn’t have to say it. I can feel it” Nester chuckled “Leola, don’t be stupid. he knows his place. He hasn’t even contested your pairing”

“He knows he’d be laughed at no doubt and it would do nothing. He’d fight for me if he knew he had the chance”

“How do you know all this without words?”

“I just do” Nester tried to close the distance but Leola started to back up. “Leola, you are going to be royalty. Most women would do anything to be you.”

“Then find someone else because I don’t want you and I will never love you. It’s not like you love me, people don’t make the ones they love unhappy so just go away.”

“Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”

“You are just like all the rest, beautiful on the outside and ugly on the inside. You and my parents are rotten inside.” She shoved him away. “I will not come to you willingly Nester, I’d rather die than be some breeder.”

He gave her a polite smile and straightened his shirt. “We will be married Leola so I suggest you get used to the idea of being my wife and everything that entails.”

He turned away, heading for the door. “I won’t be wearing that dress, I’m not your doll.” He opened the door and left and she flopped back down on her bed. She felt tears welling up in her eyes again and before she knew it she was crying.

Acel watched as the guards made their rotations. He had been studying their pattern and it always remained the same. He waited for the gap between the first and second pair then ran for the wall. It was old, with many cracks in it so it made it easy to climb. He hauled himself over the side, did a quick dash across the walkway and then dropped down on the other side. He knew this was dangerous, knew if he was caught sneaking into the castle to see Leola he would be in a lot of trouble, but he had to see her and tell her he was working on a plane to help her escape. Above all else he wanted her happiness and would gladly sacrifice himself for it.

Chapter Two

Acel managed to get all the way to her door without detection. Security was far more lax than in other worlds since theirs never experienced war due to the whole thing being governed by one group of rulers. He silently pushed it open, glad it didn’t creak on him. It still caused Leola to quickly sit up and look at the door. She worried it would be Nester again but lit up when she saw it was Acel with a finger over his mouth. He shut the door and locked it behind him before running over to her “what’re you doing here?” she whispered. He smiled and cupped her cheek, letting his thumb slide over it “I’d rather say this more romantically but I cant stay here long. I love you Leola and I’ve thought for a long time that you love me too, am I right?”

Her bottom lip trembled with her heart “yes, tremendously.

“Meagan and I are working on a plan for you and I to escape this world. I have the money since my shop does well. You know if we stay here we can never be together, too many believe in our rulers horrible ways. We’ll be outed and horrible things will happen to us. I don’t know enough to tell you details now but I swear to you we’re leaving this world. We’ll be together no matter what I have to do Leola. I love you so much”

She kissed him briefly. He wished she hadn’t done that because now he wanted more but at least he had finally gotten the kiss he had wanted for so long. He would get more once he got her away from Nester and the rest of this horrible world. “You should go, you know my parents are staying here too”

“Unfortunately, but I had to see you, I had to let you know how much you mean to me and that I will set you free.” He took her hand and pressed it to his chest. “As long as this heart beats, I swear I will not give up until you are safe and happy.”

“Oh Acel, I love you.” She kissed him again, this time letting it linger for a bit. She wanted him to stay, but knew if he was caught in her room he would be severely punished. “Now go my love, I don’t want you to get hurt.” She said softly when she parted their lips.

“You stay safe and don’t give up, I will be back for you as soon as my plan has been set in motion. Pack a small bag and stash it away.”

“I will, now please go.”

He kissed her forehead and left as silently as he had come. She sat there staring at the bedroom door for a few minutes, wishing she could go with him now. She didn’t think she was going to be able to get back to sleep, so she decided to go ahead and pack her bag. She moved silently around her room, making sure to pack light. She grabbed a couple of pieces of her most expensive jewelry and put them in the bag too. Acel had said he had enough money for them, but she thought they should have a little extra just in case. She took the back and stuffed it under her bead then climbed back under the covers and stared at the moon.

As she had expected she was stuck awake all night thinking of Acel and dreading the day to come with Nester, luckily she didn’t have to see him until lunch. She skipped breakfast since she didn’t want her parents to see the hope in her that Acel had instilled the previous night. She wouldn’t be drained and furious at everything about this world until she was forced to spend more time with her husband to be. Her heart sank a little and she hoped Acel would be able to get her away before her wedding day.

Even if it was temporary she didn’t want to marry that self centered moron. It irked her the rulers were actually choosing who they got to be with while everyone else had to marry the person determined they’d have the highest chance of beautiful children with. The worst part is she knew even if she did try to tell the rulers would deny it and the people would be stupid enough to believe their rulers over her. Not when all the ugly hearted people liked being superior and walking all over the people not born with physical beauty.

Acel jumped up from his kitchen table when someone knocked on his door. He had been unable to sleep the previous night after seeing Leola and was still wired. He ripped the door open, surprising Megan. “Sorry, please come in.” He moved aside and she hurried into his house. He closed the door and they both sat down at the kitchen table. “Would you like something to eat or drink?”

“No, I’m fine. So, how is she?”

“She hates being there, but she’s ready to go when we are.”

“Good, I bring news.”

“Good news?”

Megan smiled. “Yes, very good. I have found you a way out. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be hard to track you. There is a water dragon who lives in the forest who does favors for people for pretty things. He told me that if you bring him a gift he will gladly guide you through the tunnels beneath the river. He says there are many winding branches so it would be very hard for someone to catch up to you once you have disappeared below. He said he has to prepare supplies and can be ready the day before Leola’s wedding.”

He jumped up excited, rounded the table and hugged her. “Oh thank you so much, you are truly the greatest friend a person could ask for.” He pulled back to look at her. “Please tell him we will be there and that he must be ready to go the moment we arrive.”

“I will, I’m going to miss you two immeasurably but I’ll be happy knowing you guys are finally happy.” Acel frowned “You could run with us” Megan wore a small smile “I’d miss my family far too much. The system here sucks but unlike you I havent fallen in love with an attractive man and none have fallen for me so the system doesn’t effect me. I’ve always hated it for you two that you’ve never known a loving family like I have. It’s been nice to think about you two running and making your own family so you can finally experience how much joy a good family can bring. Promise me you two will protect your life together and never come back to see me. I’d never want you two to risk being torn apart, you have too much love between you”

Acel hugged her again “we can understand that. We’ll never forget our years of friendship with you or your help in giving us a life together Megan. My store is yours if you want it”

“really?”

“yep, you help me all the time with it anyways”

“thank you”

“Please, it’s the least I can do and if you ever meet a handsome man who loves you in return feel free to come find Leola and I”

“You know i would. I’ll get going though and talk to the dragon so he knows to be waiting on you. Tell Leola I love her and that she’ll be missed if I dont get to talk to her before you run”

“I swear I will”

Leola sat in the corner of the room, not wishing to talk to any of the people who had gathered there. She didn’t care for any of them, wasn’t enjoying this stupid party. Her mother had forced her to wear Nester’s dress and jewelry and she hated it. “Leola, get up and mingle with our guests.” It was her mother, obviously tired of her sulking.

“I don’t want to.”

“Get up before I make you.”

She sighed, pushing to her feet and walking through the group. She forced herself to stop and chat with some of these people, faking a smile to please her mother. “You look beautiful.” A voice said in her ear and she shuddered as she spun around.

“Please keep your distance.” She said just loud enough he would hear.

He grabbed her hand. “Come now Leola, this will be a lot better if you don’t fight. I’m going to take care of you and give you all your heart desires.”

She snatched her hand away. “I desire to be away from this place.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Then you are a liar.”

“Leola.” It was her father. He had her arm in his grip and was pulling her away from the party before she could say another word.

“What do you want father, I thought we weren’t on speaking terms.”

“You will stop this nonsense, you will marry Nester, and you will learn to love him.”

“You mean the way you learned to love mom?” He raised his hand hit her and she screamed, “You loved Aunt Sonna.”

He froze. “Who told you?”

“Does it matter?” She swallowed the lump in her throat. “You are nothing but a hypocrite and a coward. I…I hate you.” She turned away and headed back to the party, knowing she couldn’t just walk out.

After her father got over the shock he seemed to revert right back into a glaring, silent asshole. He obviously didn’t care he was being a hypocrite or that he was a coward and gave up on who he loved when he was told he couldn’t have her.Even though she was leaving she wished he’d even be the father he was before they were told she was to marry Nester. Her parents had never merited parents of the year but it was better than how they were right now. She’d get a hug every now and then or maybe they’d actually spend some time with her as long as her grades were good and she wasn’t disappointing them in any other way but now she stayed in a constant state of making them angry and this time she couldn’t change for them, she loved Acel and no amount of glaring, yelling or hitting was going to make her give up on the man she loved, she would die before casting aside her love for him.

She could tell some of the guests thought horribly of her aswell but she didn’t care, she just wanted this party to be over and hoped after Nester would just leave her alone. Until they were married he had been giving her space in the wing they had given her family but she didn’t know how much longer her luck with that was going to last.

She felt disgusted when Nester put his arm around her waist. He whispered “behave and allow me to do this or I promise you’ll regret it later” She wasn’t sure what that meant but as long as his hands didn’t travel and he didn’t try to kiss her she could tolerate his repulsive touch to avoid whatever that meant since it could mean him punishing Acel instead of her.

Chapter Three

Nester kept her by his side for the rest of the party, introduced her several people she didn’t know and didn’t care to know. It was excruciating, a disgusting display of his control. She would have found joy in the last guest leaving, but Nester insisted on walking her to her room. Her heart gave a leap of fear as he pulled her along. “Nester, I can walk by myself, besides my mother and father are going the same way so I don’t need an escort.”

“It’s not a problem Leola, I want to walk you.”

She swallowed down her worry, happy when they finally made it to her room. “Uh, thanks then.” He backed her up against her door and she planted her hands firmly against his chest. “Don’t.”

“Tomorrow is our rehearsal day Leola and I expect you to be on your best behavior. I want you to dress in something beautiful, the green dress is one of my favorites.”

“I told you I’m not a doll and I don’t love you. No matter what I will not give in to your demands. I only wore this monstrosity because my mother threw a fit and it was the only way to get her to stop yelling.”

“I’ve been patient my sweet, but if you keep pushing me I will punish you.” He stroked her cheek. “Do as you’re told and we’ll get along just fine.”

She glared at him as she jerked her face away. “Fine.” She found the door knob and pushed the door open, stepping back away from him. “Goodnight.” She shut the door and pressed her back against it, relieved when he didn’t try to come in.

Acel checked the time. He had to go and see her tonight, to let her know that it was nearly time and they would finally be free. He worried for her every second he was away from her, worried that Nester might hurt her since she was so strong willed. He grabbed his cloak and threw it around his shoulders then pulled the hood up. He ran into Megan when he opened his door, both of them looking surprised. “What is it?” He said under his breath.

“I just came to give you directions to the dragon’s lair.” She held out a piece of paper. “Are you off to see her?”

“Yes, to let her know to be ready.”

“Be safe Acel.”

“I will.”

Megan watched him run away nervously. “Don’t let him be caught” she said to the air. When he arrived at the castle he was just as stealthy and patient to get to her as last time. He needed to know she was alright but not at the cost of him getting caught and everything being ruined. His heart beat just a little easier when he arrived at her door and pushed it open. This time she didn’t wake so he quietly walked over and covered her mouth before whispering “Leola” She jumped but she didn’t scream like he expected he might. He took his hand from her mouth “sorry my love, I couldn’t risk you screaming”

Leola hugged him tightly “I understand Acel. I’m so glad you’re here again” he kissed her head then whispered “I just needed you to know tomorrow I’ll be getting you out of here but you need to be ready for me the second I come for you. A dragon is going to help us. I only have to give him somthing pretty”

“I’ve already packed. I could go even tonight”

“The dragon isnt ready for us or I’d take you right now. How was today? Has he done anything to you?” His face filled with concern as he asked “Not really but as much as I hate it you need to leave before you’re caught. We’re close to never being apart again or I wouldn’t rush you out” He smiled and softly kissed her “I love you and I’ll be back for you the second I can”

“I love you too Acel, deeply”

“Megan says she loves you and she’s going to miss you”

“I’m going to miss her too, tell her for me?”

“Of course”

She brought their lips together again and he almost didn’t have the strength to pull away. He wanted to feel the weight of her body next to his, to hear her soft breathing as she slept. He parted their lips and pressed his forehead against hers for just a moment before pulling away and leaving her room. He had to be patient, they were so close he wouldn’t ruin that by being selfish. His heart was beating harder than it ever had as he slipped out of the castle. He was so distracted by her that he almost didn’t notice the guards taking a break next to the wall and wound up having to walk further down. He knew tomorrow they would have to be quick, that Nester would be wanting to be with his bride to be, that her parents would be paying closer attention. She was defiant, the would be expecting her to do something.

“I don’t pray much, but please give us the speed and stamina and darkness we need to make our escape. I know they will more than likely be hot on out heels, but please let us get to the dragon and his tunnels.”

Leola stood staring out her window, watching the castle wall. She thought for a moment that she saw a dark shadow move swiftly along the wall and then make its way over. She breathed a sigh of relief, knowing he was safe. She went back to bed, pulling the blanket over her head and allowing herself to fall asleep to thoughts of her beloved.

Acel actually had energy in him as he opened his shop for the day. Tonight she would finally be his and it didn’t matter what the rulers of this world had to say about it. When Megan walked through the door he told her what Leola had said, causing her to smile. “so is there anything I should know about the store?”

“No, you’ve helped with everything at one point or another. What’re you doing here today?” She walked over and whispered “well you’re running tonight and I wanted a full day of practice here with you before the store is mine”

“Oh okay, there are still some things in the back that need to be stocked if you’d do that. Ask me if you can’t find somthing” she smiled and went into the back. Leola dressed as she cursed Nester under her breath. He had summoned her to his part of the castle to have breakfast with him and when she said no the guards who had come to get her informed her it wasn’t a request. She knew her magic and fighting skills were good but she knew any who were hired as guards were only the top. One of her friends had tried to take the two day long test to be a guard had failed miserably in the first hours of the test. So, fighting them wasn’t an option but she wouldn’t make herself pleasant to be around.

“Good morning my beautiful bride to be.” Nester said as he got to his feet when she entered the room. He took her hand and brought it to his lips. She frowned, but forced herself not to pull away. “Come now, smile for me.”

“I’d rather just eat.”

He shrugged. “Very well.” He sat down at the small table and she sat across from him. This was far to intimate for her liking. “You know if you keep making that face, it’ll get stuck that way.”

“Hopefully that will make me less attractive for you then.”

“I am sure what’s beneath that dress would more than make up for it.”

Her heart skipped a beat, but she glared at him in hopes he wouldn’t see her fear. She picked up her fork and took a bite of her food. She would stab him if he tried anything, she wasn’t afraid of the consequences. “So you had your dogs come for me for something other than breakfast I presume?”

“Ah yes.” He smiled. “I would like you to stay in my room tonight, we’ll be married tomorrow so I thought why not let you get used to sleeping with me.”

“No thanks.”

“Don’t make me force you.”

“Try it and I’ll kill anyone who touches me. I’m not your wife, I’m not your doll, and I am not your plaything. You’ve already forced me here, you threatened me last night, I’ve had enough. I will be sleeping in my room. If you try to sneak in I will assume you are a rapist and I will cause great damage to thing you value most. Besides, I would rather spend my last night of freedom alone before I am forced to marry you.” She took another bite of food. “Now I suggest you eat up dearest, we have a long and grueling day ahead of us.”

He groaned “you are beyond annoying but fine, tonight you may stay alone since we aren’t married yet but when we are you will be sharing a bedroom with me and if you keep this up I’ll bring it up with the other rulers. Our world has worked this way forever and you’re the first person to raise such a fucking fuss.”

“I cant help the attractive elves of our world are full of themselves or the people you dont deem attractive dont want to revolt against you. The way things are run are fucked up, especially since you rulers get to choose while everyone else goes with who the computer system says they should be with. Somthing crossed my mind while i was changing, I’ve been of marrying age for quite a few years now. If you chose me when I was sixteen why did you wait until now to claim me?”

“If we rulers took who we wanted the second they come of age the people would catch on you simple minded woman. The computer system somtimes takes ten or more years to match a person with their perfect breeding partner. If we all got someone on their coming of age celebration I think the people would start putting two and two together.”

“don’t call me stupid”

“I just dont see how you didn’t think of that”

“well I’ve kind of had being stuck here with a man I dont want taking up most of my brain” He sighed, obviously reaching his limit of patience with her “Just tell me somthing Leola. How on earth could you be attracted to Acel? I mean theres okay uglies and then theres him. Those ears for one but then he just looks horrible in general because his line has been among the uglies for so long”

“Because he’s kind and sweet and has a big heart. He’s the most beautiful person in any world.”

He rolled his eyes. “He’s nothing but a pathetic little loser whose ass I could easily whip and you are a fool for thinking anything of such a weakling.” He waved a dismissive hand. “You need to forget about him.”

“That will never happen.”

He glared at her, but she ignored him and finished her breakfast. Afterwards they went downstairs together since they were expected to give their final okay on the decorations and the food they wanted. Leola smiled at the cook and decorators, knowing she couldn’t blame them for her unhappiness. They were very good at their jobs and she gave them genuine thanks for their hard work. She hated it was going to go to waste and only wished she was marrying Acel now. “It’s pretty sad you won’t smile for me like that.” Nester said in an irritated tone.

“I hate you, I don’t hate them.” She retorted. “I’m going to go and read until the rehearsal. Have someone come for me around noon.”

Chapter Four

“fine, I remind you again you wont get away with acting like this once we’re married”

“I heard you the first time” she said as she walked away. He growled, hating how her behavior would look publicly if she didn’t stop. Leola was summoned again far too soon for her liking but went without causing the servant trouble. Leola forced herself through everything except for the kiss after their vows. “I want our first kiss to be on our wedding day” they had an audience so she knew he had to accept that or look bad and if she knew anything about him she knew he cared about publicity.

His forced smile looked almost painful “okay, I can wait” Her smirk was almost taunting and she hadn’t even intended it to be. It was her facial muscles natural reaction. If her mother or father could reach her she knew she would have gotten a painful slap for that. As punishment he made her stay at his side and spend time with him until evening where he also walked her to her bedroom. “this is the last night you annoying little brat. Tomorrow night you’ll be in my bedroom even if I have to chain you to the bed”

She was tempted to spit in his face but Acel was coming soon. She could contain herself for him. “I’ll see you tomorrow then you bastard” he smiled triumphantly “good, much better” It took every ounce of willpower to force herself in her room without hurting him or cussing him out. Even inside she had to keep picture Acel to keep herself from chasing that brat down.

A knock sounded at her door “leave me alone!” she yelled, thinking it was Nester. Her father flung open the door, jerked her from the bed and punched her. “Your mother and I are going back home after the wedding and we never want to see you again you ungrateful little brat. Hopefully in a few hundred years people will forget you are mine and Manette’s. The way you acted today was ridiculous and I pity him for being paired with you. Yeah i didn’t want your mother but I sucked it up like a man and now we like eachother and thats fine. its whats best for the race. You are just to selfish to think about the good of our people. I’m seriously done with you, don’t you ever try to talk to us once we leave this castle”

Without giving her a chance to speak he stormed out. She just held her face, he hadn’t been angry enough to punch her since she was a teenager. It made it easier to leave though. it sucked her parents were so horrible but at least they were making leaving this world easier.

Acel was impatient to get to Leola and ran as quickly as he could down the streets of the city, his bag slung over his shoulder. He came to a stop when he was close enough to the castle walls and waited for the guards to make their rounds. He took off at a sprint and quickly climbed up the side and over. He sneaked quietly inside, keeping his eyes and ears open. When he made it to Leola’s room he quickly, but quietly pushed the door opened and then closed it. When he turned around she was jumping into his arms. “I’m so happy to see you.” She said softly.

“Get your bag baby, we have to go.”

Leola ran over and pulled her bag out from under her bed. He took her hand then opened the door and peeked into the hall. When he didn’t see anyone he pulled her out and held his finger up to his lips to tell her to be as quiet as possible. They made to the end of the hall and to the steps when they heard a voice yell her name from behind them. Both of their heads snapped around and they saw her mother standing in the middle of the hall. They ran, ignoring her screeching which roused Leola’s father. She gripped tighter to Acel’s hand as he pulled her to the wall. “Get on my back.” She climbed on without hesitation and he climbed up, surprising the guards. They were over the other side before they were grabbed and running away from the castle.

Acel was faster than Leola and hated practically dragging her but he knew she understood and wanted to be free with him just as badly as he wanted to be free with her. He would make up for this later, even if she wasn’t upset that he didn’t slow fully to her speed. Acel was glad he had prepared himself and studied the way he needed to go all day. Megan wanted to learn anyway so he took advantage of her wanting to do things so he could study and not have to look at a map while they were being chased. It was a long way but their adrenaline kept them running until they reached the dragon.

Acel took out a small bag the second they had his attention. “these are the most beautiful things I have. I wasn’t sure what you would want but please take the whole thing if it means we can go now” Its voice sounded in their head “I understand your situation. We’ll discuss this once I have you safely away from your pursuers. As friends of Megans I trust you brought somthing for me. Get on my back so I may get you to the tunnels”

They quickly obeyed and he took them to the nearby river before diving down. When they could breath once again they were panting since they had gone from running to temporarily holding their breath. They jumped off and Acel handed him the bag again ‘take it all”

“I required one thing. Open it for me and I’ll tell you what I wish for” Acel did and was happy when he chose quickly and left him the bag, this would mean more money for him and Leola to start in another world.”thank you” Leola said, still a little breathless “run, they have good trackers among them. I don’t want Megan saddened by your capture.” They nodded and Acel took her hand again, now going a little slower but still running hastily. When they felt they could take a small rest Acel hugged Leola before they sat down and took eachothers hands “I’m sorry I drug you the way I did Leola” she kissed his cheek “don’t be silly you ridiculously sweet man. We needed to be fast, you just kept me at my absolute fastest. How could that upset me?”

“I just felt bad”

“well dont and just relax with me so we can get going” He put his arms around her and pulled Leola close “they will never take you from me now, never”

“we’ll kill anybody who tries.” He smiled, just cuddling with her until they felt ready to go again. Eventually they came to an opening just as he had been told he would and a little beyond that was a portal “whats that?’

“I believe it’s the portal to our new home”

‘are you sure” he brought her hand to his lips “I’m sure, you ready?” their hands now at their side. “I’m ready” they ran for the portal and soon found themselves under a whole new sky and in a landscape that was tottaly different from their own world. Leola gasped “where are we?”

‘that i wasn’t told but we can figure it out together..we have forever now” his voice became happier with each word. Leola hugged him “No matter where we are it’s amazing because i can be with you” His heart trembled as happy tears threatened to come out. He felt so blessed there wasn’t words he could say to her to express it. When she broke the hug he pressed their lips together again before he said “I’m going to make you happy Leola, happier than you’ve ever been”

“I already am, lets lay down under these beautiful stars and sleep. We both need it.”

‘outside?”

“we have no idea how close to a town we are unless Megan gave you information on that too”

“sadly no, she knows nothing of this place”

“then cuddle with me, I’ve wanted it for so long and theres no way those men are going to go the precise way we did since we had a map and a headstart” They laid down and tangled in eachother. “Leola” his voice broke as he said her name “whats wrong?”

“Nothing, I just cant believe I’m really holding you and that it’s okay and allowed here. I’m…I’m so ugly and you’re so beautiful”

“Acel, don’t talk like that. Don’t ever let those heartless people make you feel like you dont deserve to be with me because you are the most amazing man in the world with the biggest heart. You are a million times more beautiful than any of those assholes could ever be and I feel lucky you love me like I love you. Don’t you dare ever say you’re ugly Acel” he held her tighter. “sorry sweetheart” he whispered. “Just get some sleep now so we can get going. I’m going to set my mental clock to get up in a few hours” he smiled “thank goodness you have that skill since we have no alarms”

“yep, I’ll get myself up then wake you with a kiss” Tingles moved through his veins “I can’t wait” he whispered happily then slowly allowed himself to sleep. This was finally happening and as his mind shut down all he could think about was the amazing future that was in front of him as long as Leola remained his.

~ The End ~

Arrow & Zaylee

Zaylee was causing trouble again. She went and let all of Gorks cattle loose and was encouraging them to run out. Gork ran after her angrily and she began to laugh and flee the scene. She didn’t like any type of animal being trapped. Gork gave his cattle plenty of room but she didn’t care. She felt all animals should roam free so she frequently let loose all of Elvin kinds animals when she had the chance. Today Arrow had been waiting for her. She had been targeting Gorks animals the most after she witnessed him beating a horse when he was angry and frustrated. Arrow himself didn’t have a problem with what Zaylee was doing but the king had asked him to get Zaylee under control or bring her to the castle to be put in the dungeon for awhile.

King Drake thought a week in prison would make her stop. Arrow didn’t want that to happen but he could only let her go so many more times. He had already confronted her twice and each time she only repeated what she was doing. Arrow normally didn’t care what happened to others aside from the king, Aideen, Ealasaid & Breena but for whatever reason he cared what happened to Zaylee. When Zaylee was about to pass him Arrow moved in front of her so she slammed into his chest. He wrapped his arms around her “again?” She laughed “you are like a brick wall. You didn’t even move backward when i slammed into you. It’s sort of sexy” Zaylee said with a wink. It very nearly drew a blush out of him.

Gork caught up “you better be taking that bitch to jail.”

“Do not use such language in front of a woman” he said, now only holding her by her arm. “She’s no woman. She a disgusting pest!”

“I’m dealing with her. Go get your sons and gather your cattle”

“This better not happen again” Gork threatened. He always threatened her but the way he said it this time actually gave Zaylee a chill. When Gork was gone Arrow looked at her “why do you keep on doing this?”

“would you like to be caged when you could be free. Imagine some giant taking you now and keeping you as a pet. He’s one of the worst. Atleast most folk treat their animals nice. He beats them”

“I understand, he hasn’t beaten them again since you reported the horse incident to me. He paid his fine”

“He didn’t stop. He still beats them” Her voice a mixture of anger and sadness. He hated when her voice got sad and sighed “I’ll tell the king he hasn’t stopped but you need to stop aswell. What you are doing is against the laws”

“Nobody should be allowed to keep animals who don’t wish to be kept. They have feelings and wants. If they were children they would have been free of him on the first report but no, nobody cares about animals. He can beat them as he pleases” Arrow wanted to hug her but knew it would be inappropriate. It made him sigh again “you sure sigh alot” Zaylee pointed out.

“If you weren’t so frustrating I wouldn’t sigh. Please stop this and I will talk to the king on this matter, you know he is a fair man.”

“Oh yes because he had done such a good job stopping this man so far.”

“Do not speak ill of him Zaylee. He is like a brother to me, I am seen as uncle and godfather to his daughter. He is a good man, not some hard hearted monster.”

She jerked her arm free. “Geez you sound like you’re in love with him.”

“Don’t be so ridiculous just because you’re angry. I am trying to be reasonable and help you, but when you say such things it frustrates me and makes me want to throw you in a cell and gag you.”

Zaylee started laughing, grabbing her stomach and wiping at the tears in her eyes. “Look at us arguing like an old married couple.” She laughed harder and he rolled his eyes.

“Just stay out of trouble Zaylee.” Arow walked away, leaving her standing there laughing. He didn’t like when she took risks. Gork was not the type to let go of things and move on. He would hurt her if he caught her. It would break his heart if anything happened to her, especially after his wife. He couldn’t lose another woman he cared about. He would try to resolve this matter as quickly as possible so she would be safe.

Zaylee took off into the woods, glancing over her shoulder at the man who was constantly sparing her punishment. She knew he could easily overpower her and drag her to a cell, but he had not. She felt kind of bad for laughing at him when he was obviously worried, but she could take care of herself. She had to stop Gork from beating his animals to death, but would go about it as carefully as possible.

As Gork gathered his cattle with his sons they grumbled and complained about the bitch who kept doing this. The boys only had stuff they’d rather do so they weren’t honestly seething like their father was. Gork hated Zaylee to her very core and he wasn’t going to put up with her shit for another moment. It took them hours together their cattle and even then two were nowhere to be seen. They all then went inside to drink some sweet ice tea to cool themselves. When Gorks cup was downed he filled a second then spoke. “We’re not doing this shit any longer. I’m tired of that bitch. If the king wont take care of her we are.”

‘what do you mean?” his middle son asked. “If a one of you sees her anywhere near this property you man handle her over to wherever I am and then we’ll all make sure she learns a lesson. Maybe we’ll never let her go. Downstairs is sound proofed as you are well aware of. We can keep her there and make her sorry she tried to defend our stupid animals.” Gork scoffed ‘Like animals have fucking feelings” The eldest son thought Zaylee was sexy so was all for it. The middle son didn’t seem bothered nor excited about this prospect while the youngest wasn’t so sure about this but wouldn’t dare talk back to his father. They all knew downstairs was sound proof in the worst way.

He also wouldn’t tell anybody of what was happening since he didn’t want to go missing like his mother. The boys didn’t have proof their dad finally killed her but they were all certain he did. They finished off what tea they had left then Gork demanded his oldest son make more. He obeyed instantly while his father went upstairs to rest after the labor of collecting their animals.

Arrow took a deep breath before knocking on Drake’s study door. “Come in.” He said and Arrow pushed the door open. “Arrow, you have a very conflicted look on your face. Did something happen?”

“Zaylee happened again sir.” He answered.

Drake chuckled. “She must have given you the run around again.”

“There was no running, just a lot of reprimanding that she didn’t take seriously. She released Gork’s cattle again. He was pissed as usual and this time his threat seemed real, like he would truly hurt her if she came back.”

“Take a seat old friend.” Arrow flopped down in the chair across from him. “Talk to me.”

“This is frustrating Drake, very frustrating. I know I should bring her in, but I can’t because she’s right. She’s doing this to help the animals. I believe in what is right more than I believe in upholding the law.”

“Come now, that’s not the only reason you’re frustrated. You love her don’t you?”

“Is it wrong?”

“Arrow, there is nothing wrong with falling in love, it’s a great thing, it really is. Are you feeling guilty because of your wife?”

“I’m just unsure and scared. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. I want to resolve this issue so she won’t be harmed. That’s why I’m here. Is there anything you can do?”

“I could pass a new law, but it’s going to take a couple of days to get it written up and put in the book and then have word spread about it.”

“Please do and thank you. Especially for being patient with me when you asked me to arrest her and I didn’t”

“You’re my friend Arrow and it isn’t like she’s some maniac. I too feel for his animals. I should have made this law sooner” Arrow got up “I’ll let you get busy”

“Will you do something for me though Arrow?”

“Anything, you know that”

“You’ve been alone for so many years. It’s ok to be in love again. I’m sure your wife would even be happy for you if she knew somhow you had finally moved on. You were a good husband to your wife and if you let yourself you could be a good husband to Zaylee somday. She seems like just the girl that you could spend a happy life with. I’ve looked into her since I could tell you were in love. She’s a nice woman. She gets a little too gung ho when she believes in a cause or is against it but she’s a good girl” Arrow smiled “it took you saying I loved her for me to realize it’s love I feel for her and it’s my love that makes me worry. I just want her safe and happy. I intensely fear Gork will hurt her”

“if he does he’ll have to answer to both of us”

“That he will” Arrow said back in a serious voice. “Have a good day my friend. I’ll get to work” Zaylee laid on her living room floor. She couldn’t get her mind off Arrow. She hated she gave him so much trouble but loved getting to see him. It honestly was sexy to her no matter how hard she ran into him he was ever steady, never faltering even slightly. She wondered what a day with him would be like, what they would do and where they would go. She stopped herself, sighing sadly. To him she was just a law breaker who gave him grief time after time. There was no future there and she had to stop day dreaming.

Zaylee got up and began working on the blanket she was making for her mother. She had bought her mothers fabric fabrics in her favorite colors to make her a nice, thick blanket. Zaylee often made things for her parents because it always made them happy. She would make somthing for Arrow too if she thought she could make him happy.

Arrow paced around in the courtyard, his mind full of worry. He wondered if Zaylee was safe, if she had listened to him and was staying out of trouble. He knew she probably wasn’t, she was stubborn and did what she wanted. He wanted to find her, knew where she lived, but couldn’t bring himself to go. He didn’t want to say or do something stupid or insensitive. It had been so long since he’d given a woman a second thought that he knew he would make a fool of himself it he tried to tell her how she made him feel.

“Uncle Arrow, what are you doing?” Ealasaid’s voice broke into his thoughts and he turned to see the little six year old girl standing there looking up at him.

“Nothing sweetie. Where’s your mother?”

“Right here, sorry Arrow, she got away from me.” Aideen said and Emery was right behind her.

“It’s alright, she’s a little explorer just like her mommy.”

Emery lifted Ealasaid off the ground and looked worriedly at his friend. “Are you okay?” He asked.

“Just thinking.”

“May we know about what?” Aideen asked.

“About Zaylee, your father said I love her and to be honest I believe he’s right, but I don’t know what to say or do.”

“Uncle Arrow, mommy and daddy say love you all the time. Just say love you.” Emery and Aideen laughed.

“You took the words right out of my mouth sweetness.” Emery said then looked back at Arrow. “Ealasaid is right, just say love you.”

“I guess if I look like an idiot shes worth it. I just worry aswell if she even thinks of me in near the same way. She’s only ever seen me when I’ve been reprimanding her.”

“what about that time she came to the castle for the Melphalie celebration. You two socialized then. It even seemed to me like she was flirting with you”

“she was making fun of my seriousness”

“I’m a woman Arrow and she was flirting with you. She was trying to be playful and get you to play back’

“really?”

“I wouldn’t lie. Now go tell her love you. Right Ealasaid?’

“Right, go tell her love you” Arrow smiled “I’ll try” He walked away and into the woods to find the path that lead to her house. He found the path lined with pink and purple flowers and paved with soft dirt. As Arrow walked he became increasingly worried. He hoped Aideen was right and she had been flirting with him. That made him feel even more foolish though. He was so out of touch with romance that he hadn’t even notice her being flirtatious. At the party he had only felt bad. He had left because her teasing had made him feel sad. He didn’t understand at the party why her not liking somthing about him would make him feel so bad but now his old friend had made it clear while his friends daughter pointed out he had misread what she was doing.

He came to the stream right before her house and paused. Butterflys seemed to have magically appeared in him as his heart rate increased. He couldn’t remember being this nervous, he had always in his life been sure of himself but now he felt like a young man with his first crush. He forced himself to move, needing to know how Zaylee felt about him and to be sure she was safe in her home. He hopped from stone to stone to cross the river then walked up to her door. Zaylee was just about to check on her sugar cookies when she heard someone knock. She guessed it was the neighbor girl needing some ingredient for her mother or just to visit as she somtimes did. Zaylee knew the cookies wouldn’t burn in the time it took to answer the door so she went straight to it.

Arrow looked at her shocked expression nervously “Hey Arrow, I swear i havent bothered that man again. if he says i did he’s lieing”

‘That’s not why I’m here. Could I come in and spend some time with you?”

“Like company time? Like friends?”

“we’re friends right?” He asked hopefully. Zaylee smiled ‘we are. Please come in. I was actually just making cookies to snack on while I worked on my mothers blanket. Sit down on the couch while I pull the sugar cookies out of the oven.” He walked in and sat down while she disappeared into her kitchen. Zaylee was practically soaring at the idea Arrow thought of them as friends. It was indescribable the happiness she felt knowing she wasn’t a nuisance to him. Zaylee divided the cookies between two small plates then poured them each some lemonade. The only thing she had seen him drink that she had was lemonade. She took his drink and plate out first and handed it to him with a smile that only sent his heart beating faster “I need to grab mine now. I hope you like them. Please go ahead and eat one”

He looked at the cookie for a moment. “Did you put drugs in these?” He asked, trying to tease her.

“A whole bunch, enough to take out a horse.” She answered as she sat down next to him and gave him her electrifying smile.

“I’m sure it will take more than that to knock me out.”

“You always have such a serious look on your face. Good thing I know you’re playing.”

He ate and drank while she made a blanket for her mother. He kept glancing at her from the corner of his eye, watching as she would stom and take a bite of a cookie or a small sip of lemonade. He opened his mouth to say something then closed it, nervously rubbing his neck. “Something on your mind?” She asked, not looking away from her work.

“Plenty, I am the king’s guard after all so I’m always thinking.”

“You have the biggest job of all, you’re the big cheese. Well the big cheese under the big cheese. Anyway, you’re not thinking of work, you’re thinking of something else. You look less flustered when you’re mind is on work.”

“You’ve been paying that much attention huh?”

“I like to know what makes you tick, what irritates you and makes you smile. Is that a crime?”

“Not that I know of.” She smiled and he swallowed nervously. “There is something I have to say and I was kind of ordered to by my goddaughter.”

“Aideen?”

“No, Ealasaid. She told me I should tell you how I feel about you.”

“And how do you feel?”

“I love you.” She jabbed herself with the needle and yelped. “I’m sorry, are you okay?”

“yeah, it’s just a needle prick. Did I hear you right? You love me?”

“Substantially, it’s why I’ve tried so hard to keep you out of trouble and that man away from you.”

“To think just before you came I was daydreaming about you then reprimanding myself for it since i figured I was nothing more than a vexation for you. I love you too. I think about you all the time and am happy for every chance i get to be with you, even if it’s when you’re upset with me”

“I don’t think you’re wrong for what you do. He’s a cruel man which is why i get so worried. He means his threats Zaylee. He’ll hurt you and I couldn’t bare for him to hurt you. The king is writing up a new law. He wont be able to hit his animals any longer and they’ll be taken away.”

“really?”

“Yes, I told you the king is a good, level headed man. I talked to him today for you” Zaylee did somthing she had been wanting to for so long. She cupped his cheeks then pulled Arrow in for a kiss. They both gave a soft moan at the same time. Both their faces flushed but Zaylee held Arrow in the kiss. When she parted their lips she said ‘I’m glad you listen to your goddaughter”

“me too. I think about you daily aswell Zaylee. You’re my first thought in the mornings and my last at night” Zaylee gave him the biggest, brightest most heart tingling smile he had ever seen her make “Have you met my parents before?”

“I’ve seen them but have never spoken to them”

“I’m trying to finish this blanket to give to my mother tomorrow. Would you like to visit her with me? I’m way past due to see her since I skipped the last time i was supposed to go. If i miss two visits she’ll worry since I’ve never missed two before.”

“I’d really like that. When should I meet you tomorrow?” Zaylee smiled, she had intended him to stay the night with her. She went along with how he percieved her invitation and said “they live closer to the castle than my house and I normally make sure i arrive at eleven so i can help my mother with lunch. I’ll meet you at the castle a little before eleven”

“I wont keep you waiting”

“don’t worry, I can definitely wait for a tall, dark and handsome man like yourself”

He brushed his knuckles over her cheek. “You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and I love you. Try not to get into any trouble before tomorrow.”

“I promise to be good.”

“I’ll hold you to it. I would hate to have to reprimand you for doing something reckless.” He kissed her, lingering for a moment in the sweetness of her lips before pulling away and heading out her door. He smiled as he walked home, feeling the hole in his heart getting smaller and smaller the more time he spent with her.

Zaylee finished the blanket then folded it up and sat it aside. She wanted tomorrow to hurry up and come so she could be with Arrow again. She went into her room and quickly undressed then fell into her soft bed with a happy sigh. It had felt amazing to finally kiss him and to hear him say he loved her. She hugged her pillow, grinning like a lovestruck teenager as she fell asleep. The next morning she woke still smiling. She quickly bathed then dressed and brushed her hair before grabbing the blanket and heading out her door. the sound of mooing caught her attention and she stopped walking. She listened, her heart skipping a beat when she realized the animal was in distress. She took off towards the sound, hoping the animal wasn’t horribly injured. She came upon a cow bleeding from one of its legs.

“You poor thing. Just stay calm.” She said as she ran her hand over its back. “I’ll go get help.” She turned around and froze when she saw Gork standing there with his oldest son. She heard footsteps behind her and she looked behind her as his other two sons came out of the trees, the youngest didn’t look like he wanted to be there.

“I knew letting that cattle wail would draw you near. I didn’t want to have to wait to teach you a fucking lesson.”

“You hurt this cow on purpose just to lure me!?” She asked, more disgusted with this man than ever. “Bring her boys” Gork commanded, not caring to answer her. Zaylee darted away, hoping she was faster than them. They had left a small opening she could get through. Sadly the boys being taller and having longer legs caught up to her. The oldest doing his best to manage her and walk her towards their home. Zaylee wasn’t going without a fight. Sh screamed at the top of her lungs even though it hurt. She flailed and kicked them as the other boys tried to help. “she’s justa fucking woman” Gork said, frustarted with his boys.

“She’s strong” The youngest groaned. He had barely spoken his words when Zaylee got a leg free and kicked the middle son “she’s rabid!” He yelled painfully. Gork walked over and launched his fist hard into her stomach, effectively knocking the wind out of her so she couldn’t scream. He then pounded her in the face as the boys held her until she was no longer consious “that’s how you handle a woman. Lets take her home”

Arrow waited excitedly for Zaylee. he felt honored she already wanted him to meet and get to know her parents. He hoped that was saying somthing to the depth of her affection for him. He decided next he would introduce Zaylee to the king, Aideen, Emery and Ealasaid. Arrow waited and waited until he realized it was starting to get past when she said she would come to him. He worried she may have found trouble on the way here.

He decided to walk to her house and see if she was there. When he got there he knocked on her door and frowned when he received no answer. “Zaylee?” He said as he pushed her door open and stepped. He searched her house which didn’t take long, getting more and more worried. He stepped back outside and started walking then he heard the sound of what he guessed was a cow in pain. He took off at a sprint, guessing she had heard the sounds and went to investigate. He broke through the trees, his eyes widening when he saw the wounded cow and next to it the blanket Zaylee had been working on. He picked it up, his grip tightening on the soft material. Gork had taken her.

Zaylee woke with a splitting headache. She was tied down to a table and she was being stripped. Her anger helped clear her head and she started screaming and bucking, hoping to get loose from the leather restraints. “Scream all you want bitch, no one’s going to hear you.” Gork said as he watched his two oldest sons undressing her. He had sent his youngest to make them something to drink.

“I’m going to kill you, you sick bastard.” She screamed and the oldest boy slapped her. She spit in his face and he hit her again. “Go ahead, I’ll just keep spitting asshole.”

“She’s going to be a tough one dad. I think we should keep her, teach her a lesson to last an eternity.”

Gork walked over, licking his lips at the sight of her nude form. “I think you’re right son, she can be our play thing. We’ll reform you into a proper woman, nice and submissive, only good for one thing and one thing only.”

“Can we touch her dad?” His oldest asked.

“Of course you can, it’s not like she can stop you. Do whatever you want, she’s nothing but a toy now.”

Zaylee thrashed, hoping it wasn’t in vain and she’d find inner strength to set herself free. It was a long shot fantasy but all she had was hope. They just smiled and chuckled at her. The youngest son was just standing upstairs. He knew if he went down his father would make him stay and he didn’t want to watch. He was glad he couldn’t hear what was going on with the door closed. He even debated defying his father and running for help. His dad might beat him to death but was living with monsters worth being alive. He was still stuck at home a few more years unless he just ran away. That still might piss of his father and he still may be found and killed for his defiance. Arrow ran at a determined pace. He refused to lose her, refused to fail the woman he loved again.

This time that rotten animal abuser had set up a trap for her so there was no telling what he had planned. If he could keep himself from killing Gork he would be sure Gork never saw the light of day again aside from what would shine into his prison cell. Arrow was still carrying Zaylees mothers blanket. His grip had become locked on it with his rage and he planned on getting it cleaned for her anyway once this was all over.

The youngest son eyed the knives in their holder, contemplating grabbing the largest one and stabbing his siblings and father. The world would be nicer without them. It was almost the second he thought this that he felt even worse. He was planning murder. Now he didn’t even know if he was any better than the monsters downstairs. He hated himself for thinking of killing them.

He ran from the house, tears running down his face as he screamed for help. He didn’t know if anyone was nearby, but he had to try for Zaylee’s sake. Gork heard his youngest song calling for help and became enraged. “Go get your brother and bring him here.” He ordered his middle son who obediently ran from the house and followed his brother’s screams. “Their mother did what she was told either so I had to get rid of her. The stupid bitch didn’t even have time to scream. I could feel our bond break, it was exhilarating to be free of her.”

“You pig, no that would be an insult to the animal. You’re nothing but a sick monster.” She snapped even as the oldest boy fondled and licked her. He got to close her face and she headbutted him in the nose. It didn’t break it, but it did bloody it. She spat at him and he grabbed her by her throat as he wiped his face.

“You stupid whore, I’ll show you.”

Arrow heard screaming as he drew near Gork’s house. He moved faster, Gork’s youngest son slamming into him as he fled through the woods. “Arrow, they have, you have to stop them before she ends up like mom.” He wailed.

“It’s okay Kindi, I’ll save her, I promise.” Gork’s middle son stepped out of the trees and Arrow shoved Kindi behind him along with the blanket. “You don’t want to do this, don’t be your father’s dog. Kindi said he killed your mother. You must have been old enough to remember.”

“I was going to take Kindi and run when I found him. My father and brother hurt us if we disobey, I didn’t even care for Zaylee, but I had no choice.”

“Run with your brother to the castle. I wont force you to fight your own father with me and I can handle them anyway.”

“You sure”

“I’m sure. Run, I need to go help Zaylee” The two boys ran off without further prompting. They worried about what to say to the king when they arrived. They hoped King Drake wouldn’t be angry at them for their fathers and older brothers crimes. They heard he was nice and fair so they clung to what they were told as they ran. Zaylee was glad she had pissed them off enough to beat her instead of having to deal with their groping and disgusting mouths all over her. She barely felt the pain she was so pissed off and grateful she wasn’t being raped. Zaylee kept screaming and fighting, knowing it was in vain but she couldn’t just lay there and take it.

Above her noise and theirs she didn’t hear the door open or the near rabid Arrow come down the stairs. Zaylee only became aware of him when he attacked Gork. The oldest son wore a look of complete surprise which shifted into rage they were interrupted. The boy went around to help his father fight off this brute who dared interrupt them. Zaylee suddenly felt embarrassed at what she must look like. She was proud of her body normally but right now she was bloody and they had concentrated most the beating on her face so she was sure it wasn’t an appealing sight atall.

Arrow wasn’t sure if it was his anger mixed with adrenaline or if Gork along with his oldest son were truly that weak. Arrow had beaten the lights out of them easily compared to other fights he had been in. Now that they lay out cold Arrow began releasing Zaylee. He did his best not to look at her body out of respect for Zaylee as he moved from restraint to restraint. He looked at her clothes and saw they had bene ripped off. Arrow wished he had kept the blanket so she wouldn’t have to remain exposed after whatever they had done to her. He lifted Zaylee off the table and into his arms where she buried her head in his shoulder then said “thank you”

“You promised you would stay out of trouble.”

“I’ll make it up to you.”

He locked Gork and his son in their basement then took Zaylee away from that horrible place. He was still furious, but also relieved that she was alive. “Lets get you to my daughter Breena, she’s a healer.” He said as he carried her through the woods. She could tell he was furious and she hoped none of it was directed at her. When they made it to the cottage his daughter lived in he kicked the door and she quickly opened it.

“Oh daddy, what happened? Bring her in.” She said and moved out of the way.

“Gork happened, he and his son beat her.” Arrow sat her down on the table Breena used for sick people.

Breena frowned and went to get some of her herbs to make a tea for the pain she knew Zaylee must be in. Zaylee shivered after being carried through the woods with no clothes on and Arrow quickly pulled his shirt off and slipped it over her head. She stuck her arms in the holes and smiled up at him. “Thank you so much.”

“I should have met you at your house, better yet I should have stayed the night.”

“This isn’t your fault. I walked right into their little trap like an idiot.”

“I’m just glad you’re okay.” He hugged her tightly to him and kissed the top of her head.

“What about those bastards that attacked me?”

“If you promise to stay here with Breena until my return then I will go to the castle and have a few guards go and get them. The two younger boys won’t be charged though, I’ll make sure of that. They’re also victims and I won’t let them rot in a cell.”

“You are such a good man, that’s why I love you so much. Afterwards, could you maybe help me find my blanket?”

He pulled back and smiled. “Kindi has it at the castle, I’ll get it from him. Now promise to stay here.”

“I promise.”

Arrow kissed Zaylee then hugged his daughter. “‘lll take care of her daddy” Breena said giving her father a smile. “Thank you” Arrow said then ran out of the house to return to the castle. When Breena had somthing for the pain ready she gave it to Zaylee. “This will help you feel better”

“Thank you so much”

“So you’re Zaylee then huh?”

“Yeah, how’d you know”

“My father has talked about you on a few occasions.”

“I wish we were meeting under better circumstances”

“Me too, my father’s really fond of you. I bet this was really stressful for him”

“He told me he loved me just yesterday” Zaylee said, hoping it wouldn’t be somthing that upset Arrows daughter. “I’m so glad. Even though he’s only told me of the trouble you have caused i could see plainly that he had fallen in love with you. He’s been alone for far too long, unhealthily long. He needs to love again. You love him too right?” Breena sounded hopeful with her question. “Yes, very much. I’m glad that’s something you’re happy for.”

“My mothers been dead for many many years. He’s mourned, I’ve mourned and it’s time for him to be with someone. Mom wouldn’t have ever wanted him to stay alone like this”

“Mourned?”

“My mother once went to the human world to tend to their sick. I got my healing powers from her. They called her a witch then a bunch of men raped her then beat my mother to death. My father didn’t get there in time to save her. It’s why this was probably so stressful for him. He ran the risk of losing the woman he loved again to the same thing. ”

“I’m so sorry about your mother”

“I miss her but my mourning is long since done. I’m happy and ever since my dad met you he’s been happy. I know he seems serious all the time but you’ve really brought the happiness back to him. Let me heal your face and what bruises are on your body” Breena gently took Zaylees face in her hands and soon every bruise was gone. “there, feel better?”

“Yes, thank you so much”

“Thank you for making my dad happy. I look forward to getting to know you.”

“Me too”

Arrow made his way quickly to the castle and ordered a group of guards to go to Gork’s house and take him and his son into custody. He found Kindi and his brother Emeril sitting in the courtyard with Emery, Aideen, and Ealasaid. The little girl was jabbering away at Kindi who still clung tightly to the blanket Zaylee had made. They all looked up when he crossed over to them and Kindi quickly stood and held out the blanket. “I cleaned it for you.” He said, eyes on his feet.

Arrow took it gently from his hands. “Thank you Kindi. Have you two spoken to the king yet?”

“I did sir.” Emeril said. “I told him everything that had happened. He said we were welcome to stay here. I told him yes, but on the condition that I got to join the guard and Kindi got to learn how to read.”

“I think you would do well in the guard, I’ll even train you myself.” He then turned to Kindi. “I bet if you asked really nice Ealasaid and Aideen would teach you how to read and maybe you could learn about architecture from Emery. He has a home in the human world he built at it’s pretty amazing.”

“Really?” Kindi turned to Emery, Aideen, and Ealasaid. “Would you teach me?”

“Of course sweetie, we’d love to.” Aideen said with a big smile.

“As for you Emeril, we’ll start training next week. I want you and your brother to get settled first.”

“Alright, thank you sir.”

Arrow left them and went to Drake’s study. He knocked on his door and heard him say come in. He pushed the door open and Drake smiled at him. “Is Zaylee okay?”

“Yes, she’s with Breena.” He sat down across form Drake and took a deep breath. “I thought I was going to lose her Drake, I really did. I was terrified. It was like that night all over again.” He actually felt himself choking up a little. “I would die without Zaylee, I really would.”

“All that matters is that she’s safe. So the law will go into effect tomorrow and then I will have some of the guards deliver the message.”

“Thank you so much. Now we just have to make sure Gork and his bastard son are both kept in prison for a long time. Kindi told me Gork killed his wife. I can’t believe someone would murder the one they had tied themselves to. It’s sick.”

“Go back to Zaylee and try to forget this day. You saved her life and the lives of two severely abused children. Let it end there and spend time with your woman.”

“alright, thank you for everything”

“It’s my job to protect my people and what else would any true friend do” Arrow walked out respectfully then ran the rest of the way back to his daughters house. When he arrived Arrow walked right in, finding both the girls that meant most to him sitting on the couch talking. Zaylee was now dressed in his daughters clothes and they had bowls of ice cream. Zaylee got up and he handed her the blanket “it’s so clean”

“Kindi washed it” Zaylee set the blanket down then hugged Arrow. Arrow held her tightly, still needing to feel she was alive and well. “well she’s fine now dad if you two want to go ahead to her parents so they wont be worried. She told me what your plans were” Arrow let Zaylee go to hug his daughter again “thank you, I can’t thank you enough. We need to all get together. When can we come over?”

“anytime is good. You know I’m mostly home or near home. If I’m gone you also know everywhere I frequent so just find me when you want to have a day together”

“alright, I love you”

“Love you. I like your girlfriend too.” Arrow smiled then moved so Zaylee could hug Breena bye. Breena walked them to the door then took the rest of Zaylees ice cream to finish with hers. Arrow swept Zaylee off her feet and she kissed his cheek “Now this is traveling” She said through her beautiful grin “I need you close” Arrow answered. Zaylee rested her head on Arrows shoulder before saying “I guess my parents have to like you now. Who can dislike a man who saved their daughters life?”

“I’m sure we’ll get along just fine.” She just smiled and relaxed into him even more. When they made it to her parent’s house her mother flung the door open and came worriedly running toward them. Arrow put Zaylee down and she hugged her mother.

“You’re late and with the guard captain, did something happen?”

“I’m fine, I just ran into a little trouble. Arrow helped me.” She handed her mother the blanket. “I made this for you.”

“Thank you sweetie, but then why was he carrying you?”

Zaylee grabbed Arrow’s hand. “Because he’s my boyfriend now.”

Her mother smiled. “That’s great.” She grabbed Zaylee’s other hand. “Lets tell your father. He’ll be happy you have someone to keep you out of trouble.”

A smile tugged at Arrow’s lips when Zaylee rolled her eyes. He squeezed her hand and she smiled warmly up at him. They were taken inside where her father was busy making sugar cookies. “Zaylee it’s about time child. Your mother was frantic.”

“I was not.”

“Pacing back and forth seems pretty frantic to me.”

Zaylee giggled and once again Arrow fought off the smile tugging at his lips. “well anyway, this is Zaylees boyfriend. We finally have someone to look after her”

“I don’t need looking after” Zaylee interjected. Her father laughed “oh, says the girl who only just recently got herself tangled in a tree” Zaylee blushed and Arrow asked ‘tangled in a tree?”

“who knows, she just says long story when you ask her about it. I was going to see if she wanted to go hiking with me and i find her in a tree by her house tangled up in rope. It looked as if the more she struggled the more tangled she became. Once I could stop laughing I helped her.”

“I would have gotten out on my own”

“sure you would have honey” Arrow let out the start of a laugh picturing her fighting with rope, hanging up in a tree. He quickly sucked it in as Zaylee gave him a loving but serious glare. They all sat to eat their cookies after Gaelira put her new blanket away. Arrow found himself slowly relaxing in the company of his girlfriend and her parents. He saw why Zaylee was so adventurous and carefree. Her parents seemed to be the same way. They stayed until well after dinner then all exchanged hugs “you bring him back with you” Gaelira said and Zaylee replied ‘i will mom” Once they were outside Arrow asked ‘would it be too much if I carried you home?”

“My home?”

“Yes”

“That would be incredibly sweet of you” Arrow quickly took Zaylee in his arms and gave her a soft, long kiss. When they parted lips Zaylee asked ‘you’re staying the night this time right?”

‘I’m staying as long as you will let me”

“Forever then, forever sounds really good to me” Arrow smiled and started walking, his heart filling with that tingling feeling she always inspired. When they were nearly home Arrow asked “so how’d you get stuck in the tree”

“Long story”

“well we have forever dont we?” Arrow said with a grin and zaylee laughed “Not long enough” Arrow laughed then let it go. He took her to her bedroom and set her down. “I guess I should have brought clothes to change into tomorrow”

“You’re fine, who needs clothes anyway”

“Well when the captain of the guard is captaining it tends to go smoother when he has clothes on.”

She punched his chest then pulled him into a kiss. “You ass, stop being so serious.”

“I thought I was being sarcastic. I must be really rusty.” He tangled his fingers in her hair and pressed his lips hungrily, but a little nervously into hers. They pulled at each others clothes, moaning as they ran their hands over each other. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down onto the bed with her, her legs going around his waist. He pulled back and stared into her beautiful eyes as he pushed slowly into her tight folds. Her eyes widened and she let out a loud whimpery moan, her fingers gripping his back as he filled her.

“You feel so good.” He whispered in her ear as he moved slowly in and out of her depths. He loved watching her eyes fill with pleasure and feeling her insides quivering around him made him moan. Tears filled her eyes and spilled over at the intensity of the pleasure she was feeling. Her back arched off the bed and he quickened the pace so they came together. He pressed soft kisses onto her face, his lips moving over the tears running into her hair. “You okay baby?” He asked as he pulled her to the top of the bed and got under the covers with her.

“Yes, just happy. I’ve never been so happy or felt so whole.”

“I promise to make you feel this happy every day then.”

Zaylee smiled and kissed him again “I know you will. I’m so happy to finally be with you and not just daydreaming about it.” Arrow caressed her face “after work tomorrow I’ll bring my things over so I can always just come home to you. Tomorrow though i would like you to come with me so you can get to know Aideen, Emery, Drake and Ealasaid.”

“sounds fun, when do we need to get up?”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll wake you. I have an internal timer for it since I’ve been Captain of the guard so long” Zaylee sighed contentedly. “You sure you don’t want to live in the castle still?”

“Here would be more homey with just the two of us around. If you want to live in the castle we can.”

“No, I’d prefer here. Just making sure you’re really happy here” Arrow looked into Zaylees eyes and said ‘anywhere you are I’m happy” Arrow gave Zaylee a heartfelt kiss then they slowly drifted to sleep in their bliss to finally be with one another.

~ The End ~