I rode along the river, keeping the horse at a slow, trotting speed. Thijs and Sarn followed behind me on their own horse. Zumir was more than happy to oblige us with the two horses, knowing everyone would be more at ease with me gone.
I hadn’t prepared myself for the pain in my chest when I saw Aria wrapped up in his arms, there was a load that seemed to leave her shoulders and a new light lit up her face. She had made her choice long ago, and yet, watching it unravel before me sent my body into shock.
I still could not feel the tips of my fingers as they wrapped around the reins. I drowned out the voices calling after me, asking me to stop so we could eat or rest. Nothing was stopping me from getting home as quick as possible so I could finally start to forget this entire treacherous trip.
However, I knew upon returning home, the sight of my room would once again remind me of her. A shift in my chest reminded me, feeling me with guilt. Images of her pained and shocked expressions from how I treated her when I first met her filled my mind. I should have treated her differently. I should have treated her with love from the beginning.
Though, I realized now that I didn't love her then. I was painfully and wrongly obsessed with her. Obsessed with the idea of her that flooded my dreams. But now? Now I loved her. I knew that because I was letting her go, letting her choose instead of forcing some foreign idea on her. Still, I could not get over the other thought that ran through my head.
She should have chosen me.
Maybe I should have fought more for her, maybe I should have let her choose me. Why was I so convinced that she would regret me? Why is she so convinced that she would regret me?
A loud thunderclap sounded after lightning filled the air. I had noticed the clouds as they had formed and as they grew to the point of exploding.
"Shouldn't we stop?" Thijs yelled over the thunder.
"No." I gritted as rain began to pour down from the heavens. No doubt the gods showering me in their pity.
I pushed the horse on, even as I began to hear how tired he was through the huffs and puffs of his nose. We were almost home, my ass and my shoulders sore from the position I held for days. I groaned, sitting up straight to stretch my aching muscles.
"We need to rest, stretch and get off these poor fucking horses, Jakko." Thijs groaned when he forced his horse to catch up to mine.
"We're almost home." I gritted.
"Jakko we have to stop. Are you insane? It's been two day-"
"If you want to fucking stop, then by all means, do so!" I yelled back, not wanting to deal with him or Sarn.
He let them fall back behind me and I groaned, my back aching as I kept going. I didn't want to rest, I didn't want to soothe the pain that took over my bones and my muscles. It felt good to hurt. It felt good to be in pain. I needed to feel it. I needed to know I was still alive.
My eyelids slowly began to close, heavy with fatigue, hunger, thirst and pain. I didn't even realize when I slumped over and sleep forcefully took over my body.
I groaned awake, coughing in pain when I tried to swallow the spit in my mouth. "What the fuck?" I whispered to myself, flipping over onto my side, to provide some relief to my back. Without knowing I was on a bed, I rolled until I fell onto the ground, stopping my face from hitting the marble floors with my palms.
"Ughhhh." I groaned, slowly lowering myself until my stomach rested on the ground. I closed my eyes, letting my face feel the cold floor, feeling automatic sensation. I, no doubt, have a sunburn that reaches my muscles.
"Get the fuck up, Jakko." My eyes jerk open, and I spot two boots on the floor in front of me. I know that voice. Reluctantly, I look up, following the two legs attached to the boots and make my way to Zair's ugly scowl.
"Zair." I mumble, rolling my eyes. He was the last person I would ever want to see, even on a good day.
"Get the fuck up!" He shoved one of his boots into my side, forcing me to push myself up until I sat up straight with my back agains the bed.
With another groan, I covered my eyes with my arm, avoiding one more look at the asshole that stood before me.
"What in the world were you thinking?" He shrieked.
Here we go.
"You left." He huffed, beginning to pace around the room. "You fucking left! And you know what happened?"
I peeked from one eye under my arm, annoyed to find him still standing there with his arms crossed over his chest and a crazed look in his eyes. With a grunt, I plant my palm on the ground and push myself up, not ready to let him go into another one of his lectures.
"Zair. I'm fucking tired. Do you have to lecture me right now?" I scowl and turn to the basin that always sat in the corner of my room. At least I had made it home, regardless of whether I knew how. "Where are the two men I was traveling with?"
Zair sighed behind me, "Jakko." There was a sudden quietness about his voice. No longer was it angry and violent, it was sad, heavy and almost sorrowful.
I tuned around to face him as soon as I heard the difference in his voice. I raised an eyebrow as I asked him the silent question with my eyes. "They're in the cells."
My eyes widened and guilt again beat against my chest. I brought them here with the promise if freedom. With the promise that they'd be able to be together, to love each other and to enjoy their life. Now they sat in a cell, every freedom taken from them.
Good thing this was my kingdom and I held all the power.
"Why?" A scowl grew on my lips. "Get them out now!"
"Agh!" Zair grunted, anger spewing from his eyes, "Look around you, Jakko!"
I looked at him with disgust, my eyes traveling the length of the room. It was then that my heart fell to the pit of my stomach. I turned back to look at Zair with shock.
"We're stuck here, thanks to you." He sneered, pointing at the barred windows and the reinforced door that no doubt was meant to keep us locked in here. This was not the home I left.
"Javal's forces? Yes, they've been occupying Jamarion since you left. Two years, Jakko. For two years, your people have starved and suffered. For two years they have not been allowed to travel and roam the streets freely. And for what? All because you couldn't keep it in your fucking pants?!"
"You have no idea what you're talking about!" I clenched my hands into tight fists, my blood boiling in anger.
"So you didn't kidnap Javal's Queen?" He questioned and I could feel my face pale. A rush of regret flooded me. How could I have been so foolish? Was I so arrogant that a few dreams really moved me to take her and put my kingdom in such jeopardy? Blind fool.
Zair scoffed, shaking his head. I could see tears of disappointment begin to fill his eyes. "Mom and dad chose you, Jakko. They trusted you to rule this land, over me. I was jealous at first." He shook his head as he scoffed again, "But then you turned Jamarion into the richest and most powerful Kingdom in the world, I don't think I would have been able to do that."
"But this?" He pointing to the window, "What you have let happen to your land, for a woman, that is beyond me."
A crazy anger built up until a knot took over my throat. I went back for Aria, for him. I let her choose him. I thought he was the better option for her. And this entire time, he was doing this?
My jaw clenched and my fists tightened when I remembered Zumir as he so "innocently" let me leave with my horses. Did Aria know what Dastan was doing to Jamarion? To me? To Thijs and Sarn?
I moved my hands put to my hair, pulling at my roots painfully.