Raven II

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21. Together

ARIA-

We had left pretty early this morning, before the sun had even risen. Now, it was shining white strongly on all of us, though it was to our backs. Jakko rode behind us, and I was leading the pack, quite slowly.

After these months, leading and helping, creating new relationships and learning so much about my home made me want to spend as much time here as possible. Even if it meant slowing down the trip to the portal.

I could feel the energy in the air, in the ground. I could feel Eko, his emotions, the vibration of the dirt in his paws. I belonged here. Though I knew this, now that I had actually had done something good, made the realization greater. It made my purpose attach that much better to my heart.

With a slow and loud inhale, I took in the humidity in the air. I slowly turned to look at Thijs and Sarn. They wore scowls on their faces, which turned to fear whenever Eko would stumble on a log or a boulder. They swatted the bugs that flew in the air, their wings buzzing in your ears. I chuckled to myself, knowing they did not feel a connection to this world as I did.

I looked further back, my eyes locking on Jakko. He wore a sharp smile on his face as his hands caressed the ears of the giant beast he rode. He whispered things into her ears and she answered with the sway of her neck. It still astounds me when I see him with her. The fact that he finds the strength, the courage to love the same beast that almost took his life makes my heart clench in my chest.

For no reason whatsoever, the memories of last night played in my head. I don't think I've ever been a particularly jealous person. Maybe I was jealous of my parents when they could leave the enclosure of our homes. But last night was the first time that my heart was jealous, for that moment Ceniza shared with Jakko.

They probably said nothing of importance, they probably had nothing in common. But just the fact that he spoke to her, after he has done nothing but ignore me, made me want to be her. I had no reasonable, no logical, objection to her when she practically begged me to let her give Jakko his food.

For the entire time we were there, she followed me around like a lost puppy. I thought it was because she wanted to be my friend, because she wanted to teach me things, But I I instantly understood her motives when I would catch her staring at him, and then they were confirmed even more when she finally gathered the courage to ask me about him.

I kept most of what I knew about him to myself. He's my secret, which I will not spill. Is it wrong that I'd rather let people keep there opinions about him? That he is a ruthless, almost heartless, tough ruler? And keep hidden in the corner of my memories that he's the most caring, the most understanding and the most lovi-

I gasp and turn quickly when I notice that Jakko has been looking directly at me with a questioning gaze. I'm sure a blush the color of blood ran up my cheeks. How embarrassing.

I was the one that told him I chose Dastan. And I really want to stick to my word, we need to stop dancing this finicky, confusing dance.

A strong shiver ran down the center of my back, right through every bone of my spine. We're here.

I could smell it in the air. The droplets from the pool, the dirt from the cave walls that housed the water. My hands clenched Eko's fur until my knuckled turned white. My stomach began to flip uncomfortably, and to my horror, my dinner and breakfast hurled out of me in a second.

Eko stopped and I climbed down in a hurry, running until I reached a tree large enough to hide myself behind. I bent over and continued to empty out my stomach.

"Aria!" I heard Sarn and Thijs yell in unison behind me. Footsteps grew nearer until I felt a large warm hand on my back, and the tension in my body stopped for just a moment.

But it all returned, along with a pain in my chest when I turned around to Sarn offering me a sip of his water, "Are you okay?" He twisted his face in pity, understanding the disappointment behind my eyes.

I nodded, taking the water from his hands and wiping my mouth with my arm, "I'm fine." I signed, already beginning to walk back to Eko.

Jakko hadn't even bothered to climb off of his beast, though he sent me a questioning look when I began to near Elo, "Are you okay?" He spoke out, and he look almost annoyed, as if he only asked out of obligation.

I nodded, petting Eko for a moment, before I looked ahead of us to the tree line, "We're here." I signed, not even bothering to look back for his reaction.

With Elo walking behind me, Thijs and Sarn on their feet, and Jakko still riding, I made the final strides I would ever make in this realm. It was time for me to go back home.

I closed my eyes as I walked, thinking to myself how everything was going to go back to the way it was. That once I set my eyes on Dastan, all the emotion would be enough. It had to be enough. I twisted my hands nervously together as the cave opening came into view.

Sarn stood next me, offering a comforting caress on my shoulder. He sent me a soft smile, "You get to go home now." Thijs appeared next to him, smiling as well and nodding.

I nodded back, though my nerves had only increased since I first began to feel the backflips my stomach was doing. With each step harder than the last, I began to walk toward the dark cave. The air became cooler as I walked in, and I didn't bother to look back, I knew it would only make it harder.

With all my heart, I was wishing Jakko was struggling, and hurting as much as I was right now. Though, I would not dare to confirm my thoughts.

A large gasp escaped my lips when I entered the large room. High ceilings and rugged walls enclosed the large pool that sat in the middle. There was an open space in the middle where the water fell and the light from the sun shone in.

Flashes of Kaan and the last time I stood before a portal came rushing like a river into my brain. My breath shook and I my hands twisted painfully against each other. I walked until my toes were completely immersed in the water.

I hadn't realized how heavy and uncontrolled my breathing was until, finally, a large, warm hand splayed itself against my lower back. With one glance to my left, with one look at his face, I felt safe. The memories wiped from my head.

"Are you ready?" He spoke, though his voice came out low and gritty, for he had not spoken all day.

I nodded.

"You know what to do?" His eyes narrowed, the love behind them making itself visible one more time. His hand moved from my back and he unwrapped my hands from each other, massaging the fingers of the hand closest to him.

I nodded.

He took a step closer to me, until his feet touched mine. He lowered his head until his forehead almost laid against mine, his eyes studied my face so intently, I moved to take a step away from him, but he didn't let me.

His arm wrapped around my waist and he brought my right up against his body. With reluctance, he closed his eyes and his jaw tightened letting me know how hard he was trying to keep his composure, and my heart melted.

I raised my hand, cupping his cheek and he leaned into it, inhaling sharply. He opened his eyes again, the piercing dark brown of his irises reading even my soul.

His hand reached up to cup my face, "If...if we must do this, then we must do it together."

I nodded, relief folding my blood now that I would not have to do this alone. Unwillingly, I uncurled my body from his and began what I came here to do. There was no point in waiting any longer.

We are go

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