Disguise

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Princess in a Tower

Xena’s POV

He just...left me? Why would he do that? It made no sense! I knew his entire plan. I knew his name, his identity, I could name people and they would be hunted down like animals. He just…left?

My head spun once more as I tried to stand up. I hadn’t been harmed by anyone. I was left all alone locked in a store room, with no way out. My claustrophobia started kicking in as we spoke, but I kept calm. There was only one thing on my mind, and it was to protect my best friend. I knew I was just realizing my werewolf strengths but there was so much I didn’t know about it. My senses were heightened but all those extra noises and feelings were overwhelming me. Like if you were a mind reader and a billion thoughts ran through your head at the same time.

How could he leave me alive? Wasn’t he afraid of consequences? Or maybe he just didn’t have the time and he had to get back to Flora first - she was his main target.

Julian had gotten to me so easily - just on the premise of Flora’s safety. When the silver hit everyone and chaos ensued - a simple text and a picture of an unconscious Flora lying in an air vent had me ditching my security and following the instructions. But all that led to was me getting to meet my fake brother, who locked me up here with nothing to say about how he’d made an ass of me. I had been tricked. He knew how protective I was off her and he used that against me to trap me.

I staggered to my feet once again, after two failed attempts, trying to understand what was causing my disorientation. I tried to reach for Nate in my head but that didn’t work either. It was like he wasn’t there in my peripheral, mental radar. Maybe his strength was down as well? So why wasn’t the silver working on me? Because I was too new? I was still part human? But he made sure that I wasn’t okay because of whatever he injected in me that made me feel all woozy and confused. Every aspect accounted for.

It was like I had all the strength, I could feel all the things, but I couldn’t focus my mind on what needed to be done – I couldn’t even get my legs to stand for long. Was this how Hulk felt all the time?

I sat and breathed through the dizziness, making sure to fight off the feeling of no control. Like the space you are in when you’re so drunk that you’re very aware of everything, but you can’t do much about it.

Why would he leave me alive? My…brother. He just dragged me in here, locked me up, and left. In his eyes, I could see that he didn’t want to hurt me, it was like he just wanted me out of the way. Was he protecting me? I don’t think so. There had to be some other reason.

I tried mindlinking again, this time linking Flora. If I was still part human, then maybe she was too? Maybe she couldn’t talk to anyone except me either?

‘Hmmmm.’

‘Flora! Oh my God, Flora! Are you alright?’ I let my concern flow through the pack bond. Trying to shake her out of her own haze.

‘Xen..a.’ she murmured, and my panic increased ten-fold.

‘Flora! Wake up! Flora listen to me! Wake up!’ I told her, nearly yelling through the bond.

‘Xena?’ she spoke this time, more clearly and I felt a tiny part of my head clear as well. With a renewed resolve, I shut my eyes and focused on mindlinking her more clearly, more sternly.

‘Yes! Yes baby, it’s me! Please god, where are you? What can you see around you?!’ I urged, wishing that I could give her strength through the link, but I knew that wasn’t possible.

“I-It’s dark. My head hurts’ She said weakly and my heart dropped a little.

‘Are you moving? Or in a room?’

‘I’m … stationary.’

At that I had to laugh. Stupid woman had been knocked out, but she could think of the word ‘stationary.’

‘Okay, are you hurt anywhere else? What happened when Jeff took you away?’ I asked her.

‘He-he was going to kill me.’ She told me, but the stutter in her voice wasn’t from fear. I held back a gasp and went back to fixing mode.

‘Can you get up? Where are you?’

‘I can – I think. I am on the roof, near the roof I think.’

‘Okay, that helps. Why don’t you try getting up? I will see if I can get in touch with Reece or Nate or anyone else.’ I told her, a little afraid to break this connection. Her thoughts reflected mine and she said;

‘No, don’t go!’

‘Okay, I won’t. I’m right here.’ I told her immediately. She needed the mental strength to get through this.

‘He told me he killed you!’ Her voice came through, filled with relief and anger. I could see why. I’d hate him too. I did.

‘No, he just locked me up somewhere.’ I told her back, hoping to ease her worry.

‘Like a princess in a tower.’ She giggled, and I knew that she was delirious. This Flora was going to be absolutely useless.

‘You’re the princes, stupid.’ I told her but my words were warm. At least she wasn’t crying.

‘Oh.’ She replied, and then fell silent for a second.

‘I can hear something from the room next to me.’

‘Like, people talking?’ I asked, leaning forward instinctively to see if I could hear something too.

‘No, like machines.’ She told me and I shook my head. The HVAC system? The kitchen? Laundry?

‘Somewhere near the roof but also next to equipment.’ I summarized, musing.

‘He didn’t kill me.’ She repeated the same words in my head.

‘Why?’ I asked. ‘He should have killed both of us.’

‘I think he didn’t kill you because of ancient werewolf laws. You can never, ever harm someone else’s mate.’ She told me and I shook my head. That made no sense.

‘You’re someone’s mate too. The King’s mate!’ I reiterated with more force.

‘But I’m also not one of them. I’m a Nihl.’ She told me, her voice eerily silent. I was about to protest what she said but her words stopped me.

‘And that’s okay. It’s okay that I’m not one of them, it doesn’t make me a bad person.’ She said clearly, and warmth spread to me.

‘That’s right.’ I assured her, fueled by her optimism and spirits even when she was trapped and had no idea where she was.

‘Is your strength back up?’

‘No, I don’t have any, I can barely keep up this mindlink.’ Flora said, and I noticed right then how weak our connection was.

‘Flo, I’m going to try talking to Nate or Reece and see if I can get through to them.’ I told her again, gently and she approved.

‘Yes, try. I’ll be fine.’ She assured me, and then cut the link from her end.

Flora’s POV

“Your five minutes are over.” His red eyes were gleaming with excitement as I cut the link with Xena. “That’s true.” I told him and he stalked closer.

“Now that I’ve given you your last wish, are you ready to tell me more about the Nihls?” He asked and I shook my head. “I told you, I don’t know anything about this. I just found out who Nihls are four days ago!” I reiterated, but he wouldn’t budge. Why the hell would I lie to him when he was brandishing a huge ass knife?

I cowered back a little, trying to put some more space between us. Trying to buy some more time.

“Bitch!!” He screamed, slashing at my arm, his knife making a shallow cut on the side. I felt the blood flow down my arm before the pain. “You said if I gave you five minutes to say your goodbyes you would tell me more about them!” He was beyond reasoning now. I knew that buying time with this bluff was going to cut me back in the arm.

“I said I’ll tell you everything I know – which is nothing!” I protested weakly. After I had come to, he had been debating whether to kill me in my unconscious state, or extract information from me. I knew that there was no way out of here – all I could do was waste his time, and try to talk to people that I love, probably for the last time. I really wished that I could talk to Reece, Sienna, Grey and everyone else as well, but nobody would be able to get through to me right now. At least I got to hear Xena’s voice one last time…

I hoped none of them blamed themselves for my death, I knew it would hurt them dearly. I wished I could tell them that, tell Xena that, but the last thing she needed to know was that this was a goodbye and panic. It was better that she found out when she was out of her isolation, and into Nate’s arms.

“So, then I have no use for you.” He threatened me, and I could only shrug, my eyes brimming with tears. I felt defeated. I shut my eyes waiting for his knife to pierce through some part of me but it never came. I opened them again to see him watching me with dark eyes, calculating.

“You’re faking it, aren’t you? You know everything that’s going on!” He yelled, holding the knife dangerously close to my chest. I raised my good arm in defense, trying to push him away but he didn’t budge. My head throbbed from the earlier blow, and my body had no strength remaining.

“You won’t tell me like this.” He said after a moment and then his eyes reached some sort of conclusion. He grabbed the back of my hair and yanked my head back. His other hand raised the knife just below my collar bone, the cold metal tip touching my skin. “Start talking, or get ready to die a slow, painful death.” He threatened and I had the nerve to stop crying.

“I already told you, I don’t know anything! I didn’t even know about your species till two weeks ago!” I wailed, trying to get him to believe me, but he was too blinded. By his rage and misguided anger.

I felt the knife cut through, making a small but evident cut that was burning. I let out a gasp, but otherwise didn’t say anything to make him angrier.

“Try again.” He instructed, his words dripping with anger and I shook my head with the same helpless expression. “You can’t live, but at least I can grant you a peaceful death.” He urged and I shook my head again. “I am telling you, I don’t know anything!” I said once more, my throbbing arm worsening by the second.

He made a second cut right next to the first one, and then a third, and then a fourth. I could barely hold myself conscious by the time he had made more than fifteen small cuts. I felt nauseous and dizzy, but also … numb.

He was using my body as if he was trying out his new knife or sculpting something out of it. So many small cuts, blood all over the place, and he moved down, skipping the valley of my breasts to my stomach. I felt the dress rip in small places as he continued his assault and kept asking me the same thing again and again.

“Now?”

“How about now?”

“Still no?”

“You won’t be able to keep this up for much longer.”

“I wish I had some salt for this.”

The million tiny cuts were burning all across my front, making me want to pass out, but I fought to stay awake.

“Maybe I’m wasting my time, and maybe you really don’t know.” He said finally, after another two minutes and I finally opened my eyes and looked at him. I couldn’t take this torture anymore. I couldn’t form a sentence anymore without screaming in pain. “You’re useless then.” He said once again and I prayed in relief. Maybe he would finally kill me. I felt a small tear escape from the side of my eyes as I wished it.

With all my power I willed that this would stop. That this torture would just stop. But it didn’t. I didn’t have the energy to make it happen. Nothing seemed to work and I knew that I should have focused more on developing my powers when I had the chance. His knife spun in his hand a few times before he shook his head and crouched down to me again. I could see the depraved madness in his expression. He was a man with a goal and that was all that he could see. “Please, just kill me.” I begged, and he let out a maniacal laughter.

“This is the only thing a Nihl should be allowed to say. Their only wish that I could grant.” He told me, his tone happy and sated. I shut my eyes as he raised his sword. I wished with all my strength that my friends would be safe and unharmed.

I’m sorry about giving up, Reece. I thought.

I felt the knife plunge into my abdomen.

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