I fell to my knees, five lashes on my back, gritting my teeth and swallowing the scream. He was alternating between painful consequences and joyful rewards, trying to convince me that I wanted to belong to him. It was a hard fight. Hatred grew within me that first week. I hated him. I hated the room. I hated the chain. I hated the whip. I hated the delicious food he brought me. I hated the darkness most of all.
All I conceded that week was that Sunshine was a nickname I would answer to. I could tell that he was getting annoyed with my stubbornness. I outwardly would not relent, but inside I was beginning to waver. He was convincing. He knew my arguments before I said them and tended to agree, but I was his. They were not valid for my situation.
He told me that belonging to someone was more freeing than belonging to myself. If I did as he said, I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. Let him do the worrying. Follow him. The way he said it made it sound... right. I still hated him. I figured I always would.
He asked the question he was trying to get me to answer with his name, Dirg, “Who do you belong to?”
I answered, “I belong to Lucy Amora. I belong to myself.”
It was more of a repetition by then. I don’t know if I actually believed myself. I expected to hear the whip crack and more pain on my back. Instead, there were footsteps, and he was standing in front of me. He gently grasped my chin and tilted my face up to him. He knelt down in front of me and stroked my face with a soft touch, his eyes a deep, longing green.
“I don’t like hurting you, Sunshine. Even if the pain is not permanent, I don’t like how your face loses its usual glow and how you retreat into that shell. Make it stop, please. When you disobey, it hurts me as much as it does you.”
His voice was a seductive whisper. He was drawing closer. His thin lips were only inches from mine, his eyes dark, predatory.
“Just give in, Sunshine. Be my pet.”
I liked it, too much. I wanted our lips to touch. I wanted to let him own me. That desire scared me. I jerked back and spit, hitting him in the face. I got as far away from him as I could and curled into a ball to stop the shaking. I didn’t want to cry in front of him, but the tears leapt unbidden to my eyes and trickled down my face. I would not sob. I would not sob.
I choked on a scream as his hands touched my back, but the pain disappeared as he ran them down to my waist.
“I’m so sorry, Sunshine. That was my fault. I told myself I would not fall for your beauty, but I failed. You are not a toy. You are a pet. Toys are only useful for their bodies. You’re worth so much more. I will try not to do that again.”
He ran his hands down my back again, but this time it eliminated no pain. It might have caused some. His hands stopped just under my shoulder blades, seemingly probing.
I didn’t have the energy to try to get away, so I half-heartedly told him to get his hands off of me.
“I thought I felt… shit.”
I flinched as he poked a hard spot. Plus, I’d never heard him cuss.
I groaned and stood.
“Take your shirt off.”
I tensed. “No! You just said-”
“This has nothing to do with your beauty. I think. I need to check your back.”
“Just trust me, Sunshine.”
I spun around and hit him. He actually took a step back. “Trust you!? Trust you? Trust you? No! No! No! I will not trust you, you dirty, dark demon!”
“I’m not a demon. You might have wings. I need to check. I will not dishonor you, I promise.”
“Wings? Why would I have wings?”
“I could have miscalculated. Please, turn your back to me and take off your shirt.”
I sighed and muttered, “You’re evil.”
I turned my back, unzipped it, and shrugged it off, shivering when the air hit my torso. I held it to my chest and closed my eyes as he probed that part of my back. He cursed under his breath and pressed his palm to the top of my spine. He held it there for a minute.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Trying something. It isn’t working.”
“What are you trying?”
He took his hand off. “Put your shirt back on.”
I quickly put it on, zipping it all the way up.
He sounded relieved. “You scared me for a minute, Sunshine. I thought you might be a darky, and that would make this all stupid and pointless. You aren’t, so I’m safe.”
“Why would you think that?”
“Weird bumps on your back. They aren’t wings.”
I turned to face him, and he had a genuine smile of relief on his face.
“Why does that scare you?”
“If you were a darky, like me, then I could not own you. But you aren’t, so I do. You are mine.”
His eyes flashed possessively. I rubbed my arm with my hand and looked at the ground.
“No I’m not,” I mumbled.
“Maybe not, but I get the feeling you believe me more than you do yourself. You want to belong. You always have. Every family that would come see you, you wished they would take you home.” His voice took on that seductive purr. “None ever did. They always took someone else, and you could never understand. You hardened yourself, said you didn’t want a family anyway. But you do. You want to belong, to be accepted. I want to accept you. Why won’t you let me?”
“I’m afraid,” I whispered.
I snapped at that. “You just tried to kiss me! You had me take my shirt off! The first time I actually saw you, you were angry and you beat me! You have giant, black wings, and you are intimidating, okay?” I sat, hugging myself. “Just leave me alone.”
He stood stone still for a long time before he whispered, “If that’s what you want, Sunshine.”
He turned and left. I fell asleep, and a few hours later the slave came in with a meal. She handed it to me silently, and I apologized for making her talk. She nodded and said nothing, her eyes downcast. She brought me the next seven meals and I wasn’t sure if it made me happy or sad that he was not there.
At first, I was grateful that Dirg was gone. He wasn’t there to beat me or feed me or treat me like a pet. He was gone, but the slave girl never talked. She did nothing but bring meals and take the utensils when I was done. Truthfully, I grew bored. The boredom accentuated the pain I was in. I’d been sleeping on the ground for who knows how long, and the metal around my neck wasn’t exactly comfortable. It was chaffing the skin around my throat, and I had started bleeding in some places. The darkness was still oppressive, but I hadn’t noticed when my captor was there.
With all that free time, I actually had time to think about escape. I found a bobby pin somewhere in my really messed up hair and started playing with the lock on my neck. After a few hours of trying, I heard a snap and froze. Either my pin broke, or... I slowly pulled the collar apart. A smile grew on my face, and I threw the shackle off. I stood and ran around the room, giggling to myself.
“Take that, you over-bearing, freaky demon-guy!” I yelled into the nothingness.
I went to open the door, but reality hit. I didn’t know where in the world I was. I could run, but who knew what was out there? Should I chance the unknown or wait for Dirg to come back and posses me?
I shivered as I remembered the almost kiss. His hand on my face... I shook myself to clear the thought. I would try the unknown—anything to spite him. I opened the door and walked into a hall. There was no one, as I expected from unanswered screams. I slid along the wall, trying to hide as much as I could in that straight, black corridor. It began to turn, so I quickly poked my head around the corner and pulled back. I hadn’t seen anything at first glance, so I stepped around the corner and continued on. After a while, doors started to dot the hallway, so I walked lightly, trying to quiet the thumping of my heart. It sounded like a drum in my ears, and my breathing was a giant fan, echoing off the walls.
I was passing a red door when an arm slid around my waist, pinning me to a broad chest. I yelped and tried to push away, but his arm was strong.
“Well, well. What have we here? A toy trying to escape? Where’s your master, girl?”
I gulped, for I didn’t recognize his voice, which filled me with both joy and disappointment.
“I am not a toy, and I am going to him right now, if you would just let me go.”
“Not a toy, but you belong to a male?” He tsked in my ear. “You’re not a very good liar. You were sneaking.” He spun me around, pressing my front to him. Dread gripped me, and I froze as his face came closer to mine and I noticed the wings out of the corners of my eyes.
“Humans with a job don’t sneak.” He breathed in my face.
He went for my lips, but a rush of adrenaline shot through me, and I managed to push him away and break out of his grip. I turned tail and ran, pumping my arms as fast as my heart. I turned corners at random, trying to lose him. He laughed as he chased me, toying with me. He would get close, I’d put on a burst of speed, and he would fall behind more than my extra speed allowed. I became breathless quickly, dodging around a few slaves I came across. His footsteps receded, so I looked behind me for a split second.
It felt like I ran into a wall. I rebounded off of it and fell to the ground. I looked up in surprise to see yet another “darky” smirking at me. The other guy caught up.
“Aw, you ruined my fun, Bilm.”
He looked me over, his eyes staying still too long on my feminine areas. I scooted back, and ran into the first guy, who picked me up by my hair until I could not touch the ground. My head pounded in agony, and I tried not to scream or writhe and make it worse.
“Put me down!” I demanded.
The first guy laughed. “Or what? You’ll poke me to death?”
“Is she yours?” the second guy asked.
“No, I found her trying to escape.”
He looked at me. “Who do you belong to?”
I crossed my arms and glared at him. “Myself,” I growled.
He scowled. The one holding me shook me, making me see spots of pain. I grit my teeth and took it without screaming.
“Okay, then, what is your name?”
“Sunshine,” I answered automatically. Then I realized what I said. “No! Wait! My name is Lucy! Not Sunshine! That sick, twisted-”
The guy holding me used his other hand to twist my arm behind my back, the pain making me shut up.
“Sunshine?” The second guy asked. “Whose name is that?”
The first guy was silent for a minute. He put me down on my feet and loosened his grip on my arm a little bit.
He sounded petrified, “Dirg. He’s going to kill me if I hurt her.”
The guy I could see went pale. “You’re Dirg’s?”
“No. I’m mine. He thinks I’m his, but that ain’t happening!”
He looked at me like I was insane. “How long has he had you?”
I rolled my eyes. “No idea. Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I was escaping.”
I kicked back, and the guy’s grip weakened considerably since I hit his crotch. I turned and tried to run past him, but the other guy moved super quick and grabbed me, hooking one arm around my neck and the other around my waist.
I kicked and thrashed, but he held firm. The first guy helped after a minute, and soon they had me subdued, one holding both of my hands behind my back with both of his, and the other holding my neck, constricting my airflow. I vaguely heard them arguing about where to find Dirg, but I did not pass out. I was just out of it. They pushed and prodded me to a room, and the guy holding my neck let go to knock on a door. I fell to my knees, gasping for air. The other guy still held my arms, so they were twisted oddly above me, feeling like they were about to come out of socket. The door opened and someone grabbed my hair and pulled back, making me tilt my head up.
“Is this yours, sir? Cause if not, someone stole your name.”
There in the door was him, shirtless and looking like he just woke up. A deep scowl settled over his face, and he glared into my eyes. “I don’t know. Who do you belong to?”
I was lost for a minute. He didn’t know? That was obviously him, the guy who couldn’t get enough of my tears. I managed the courage to glare back. “I belong to myself.”
He deadpanned and shrugged, looking at one of the two men. “Well, she doesn’t belong to me. Either of you want a this damn nuisance?”
“What!” I exclaimed as the guy he was looking at said, “Really?” in a shocked voice.
“Really,” he said, turning his back and beginning to shut the door.
I stared in his direction, shocked. The two argued for a minute. I wasn’t paying attention. He said I was his, but now he just left me to these two! He didn’t mean it. He didn’t want me. No one really wanted me. Then, one of them lifted me up and started kissing me. That snapped me out of it. I violently tore my face away and fell to the ground, deadweight. I curled into a ball, and though they tried to pry me apart I held on, sobbing.
Then, it hit me. What he wanted me to do. “I belong to Dirg,” I sobbed.
“What was that?” one of them asked.
“I belong to Dirg!” I screamed, still mostly a sob.
The door opened, but I stayed in my ball, my body shaking with the violent sobs. I heard retreating footsteps, and a gentle hand touched my back. I curled into myself tighter.
“It’s me, just me,” came his soothing voice. “Stand up, Sunshine.”
I uncurled, trying to calm myself. I’d just broken down in front of him and two others. I was mortified, and that made nothing easier. He helped me up and held me there, pulling me into the room and shutting the door. I clutched onto his strong arms and cried and cried.
He pet my hair. “Good girl. Good girl. Calm down. That won’t happen again. I won’t let it. You are mine. You belong to me, and you always will.”
I was snotting on his chest. “I belong to you.”
I could hear his smile, “Yes, you do. Here, maybe this will help you feel better.”
I opened my eyes as something changed. Something was missing. I noticed what I was looking at and pulled back, both disgusted and attracted. Dirg was still shirtless, and I had been crying into his beautifully sculpted pectoral muscles covered in silky hair... I looked at the ground, a blush running over my already splotchy face. I wiped at my tears and nose. Something felt good, but I couldn’t pinpoint it.
“Is that better?” he asked.
“I don’t know. What is it?”
He moved away, going to a closet. “You can’t tell?”
He wiped at his chest. “Look at your arm.”
I focused on my arm and saw beautiful golden light curling up it. I gasped and touched it with my other hand. I plopped down and held it to my face, stroking it. He came closer, so I looked up at him with wonder.
“Light? How are you doing this?”
“I’m a lightheart. I can create light, and it doesn’t burn me like the rest of my kind. Are you calm?”
I nodded, looking lovingly at the light. Suddenly, it disappeared and the oppressive dark pressed in from all sides with a vengeance. I involuntarily shrank into myself and let out a small whimper. He grunted and held out a hand to help me up. I reluctantly took it and stood.
“Who do you belong to?” he asked.
I sighed, “I belong to you, Dirg.”
“And what is your name?”
I searched his eyes for any sign of sympathy, but there was none to be found. “Sunshine.”
He pat my head. “Good girl. I’m very proud of you. We accomplished a lot today.”
I blinked in surprise. “Did you want me to escape?”
His look hardened. “No. I would rather you had bent of your own accord, but since this worked without breaking you, I can’t complain.”
“Did you plan on me escaping?”
“Eventually. You did so faster than I thought.” His nose wrinkled. “You need a bath.”
I stepped back quickly. “You are not going to bathe me!”
“No, I’m not. Come.”
He walked out of the room, so I followed a few feet behind. He walked quickly, and I found myself jogging slightly to keep up. He went around a ton of corners and down quite a few flights of stairs. We passed pretty much nobody.
“Is everyone asleep?” I asked.
“No. They are all out.”
“I will fully explain darkies, lightsies, and your role as my pet when I think you are ready for it.”
“Okay... If they are all out, why were you asleep?”
“I keep different hours than most.”
“Because. I like your curiosity, but now is not the time.”
We entered a room with curtains and lockers. He opened one and got a towel out, which he threw at me. I caught it and looked around.
“This is a women’s wash room. Through that curtain is a hot spring, where you can bathe. There should be soap near the water. The spring will flow under a wall. Do not go under the wall, or you might possibly never be able to find air. When, you are done, come out wrapped in a towel. I will leave some fresh clothes for you.”
“Do I put these in the locker?”
“No. Leave them on the bench. I will put the new ones in the same place.”
I nodded hesitantly. “Where will you be?”
“Getting some things. I will come get you, so stay in here if you are done before me. If you are not in here, I will check the spring and if you are not there, I shall become very angry, and when I find you...”
He left the threat in the air, and I shivered, my overactive imagination conjuring up many possibilities.
“Yes sir. I understand.”
He ran his knuckles along my chin. “Be sure you do. I will be back for you in about thirty minutes.”
I nodded, and he turned and left. I peeled the stinky clothes soaked in long dried sweat from my filthy body. The hot spring felt heavenly, and I completely relaxed for the first time in forever. I smiled and scrubbed the grime off of myself. When I was done, I just floated, thinking about the light. That was what I missed most, I decided. The light. Yes, I missed my friends and Miss Sparnage and life as a human, but I craved the light. Flashes of memory plagued me, and I felt a few tears splash into the pool. I angrily wiped them away. I needed to stop crying. I needed to be strong. Then I realized something. The main city had been breached. I belonged to Dirg. Now, he just needed the castle, and I could see him taking my heart easily. Too easily.
I got out of the hot spring and wrapped a towel around myself. I found the new clothes where Dirg said they would be and quickly changed into them. The shirt was sleeveless and black with neon orange along my shoulders. It was not as tight as the whipping shirt, and for that I was grateful. The pants were pretty much the same as the whipping ones but made of a thinner material with neon orange strips down the outside of my legs. He also left black combat boots and thick boot socks.
I was lacing up the boots when a lady with charcoal gray wings and platinum blonde hair came in. She looked me over.
“I haven’t seen you before. To whom do you belong?”
“I belong to Dirg.”
“Dirg? As in the guy?”
I nodded hesitantly. “There’s a girl Dirg?”
She looked down her nose at me. “No. Guys do not usually have female pets. And for him to get one at all, especially a female...”
She looked me over again and began undressing. I shrugged and finished putting on the boots. There was a knock on the door. “Sunshine? Anyone else in there with you?”
I looked over at the woman, naked and smirking. “Yes sir.”
“Come out, then.”
I walked out, but she got in my way. She unzipped the front of my shirt lower than I was comfortable with and winked before letting me pass. I stepped out and quickly shut the door behind me. His eyes scanned over me and stopped at my chest. I hurriedly zipped it up all the way.
“You smell a lot better,” he noted, forcing his eyes back to mine. “Now, which way do you go to get back to my room?”
I looked at him in confusion. “How in the world am I supposed to know?”
He smacked me upside the head. “You always need to know the way back. You need to know which direction I am in, or my room is in, at all times.”
I rubbed the back of my head. “Ow. Ok, if I had known there would be a quiz, I would have paid attention. I do better when I know the expectations ahead of time.”
He snorted and turned around. “That didn’t work during the conversion. It took you forever and escaping to realize what I told you in the beginning.”
I kept up with him, paying attention to the twists and turns. “That was bending, not learning.”
He nodded and went to his room. He paused before opening the door, looking at me. “This is my room. Do you see the symbol on the door?”
I looked and beheld a dragon curled around the moon, staring longingly at a star.
“That is my family crest. We are one of two darky purelines left. The rest have corrupted their lines with humans. The closer wings are to white, the more human blood in their veins. I say this to tell you that you are safe with me. I will beat you, but I will never demand access to your body. If I do, pluck a feather from my wings and shove it in my face. Do you understand?”
He must have heard some type of longing in my voice that I was not aware of. His eyes flashed. “Maybe one day I will get a male pet to satisfy you.”
That thought disgusted me, and I made sure it was plain. “Breeding pets. You really should have gotten a dog.”
He opened the door. “Dogs aren’t nearly as useful.”
“Why didn’t you get a male, then?”
He glared at me. “I don’t want a male pet. I want you. You are mine, and I made no mistake. Do not insinuate that again.”
I met his gaze for only a few seconds before I dropped it. “Yes sir.”
He pat my head and showed me around his rooms, making sure I knew what was mine and what I could access. He had given me a mat on the floor, a small pillow, a little dresser, a comb, a toothbrush, and other hygiene products that he kept in a little basket in the bathroom. I was to keep my things neat and orderly and not touch his. There was no shower, and the toilet was a hole in the ground.
Then, he had me sit while he made a meal of eggs, cheese, and tomatoes. I watched in fascination. I had only seen Miss Sparnage cook; bless her sweet heart, she was terrible. He gave me a plate and took a bite out of it before he let me eat, as he always did. I ate the soft eggs with wonder.
“Did you cook all those meals?”
He nodded, finishing chewing his food before he spoke. “Yes. Cooking is my hobby.”
“Well, you’re good at it.”
He narrowed his eyes. “You just complimented me.”
“Is that bad?”
“No, but it’s new. It means that we are getting somewhere.”
He smirked and took a bite, not answering. When we were done, he took our plates and put them in a bucket in the kitchen. He sat on the couch, and I didn’t know where he expected me to sit. He saw my uncertainty and pointed at the ground in front of him. I sat tensely with my back to him between his legs and leaning on the couch, and he played with my hair, running his hands through it for a while. It was very relaxing, and I found myself nodding off soon. He stopped.
“Go to bed, Sunshine. Tomorrow, we begin your training, and you need your rest.”
I nodded. “Yes sir. Goodnight.”
I stood and went to my mat, settling in under the soft blanket. I heard him wash the dishes, trying not to bang too much. He was humming, and I recognized it as I drifted off. He was humming, You are my Sunshine.
I had been doing his chores for a few days before he let me out again. He bade me wash every other day, but I didn’t count that as going out, since I never came across many other people. He continually asked me to whom I belonged, possibly to make sure I still knew it, or just to pound it in my head. He was a great fan of repetition.
He brought me to a big room with weapons along the walls and gestured around.
“Here you will learn to fight alongside me. I will probably hurt you, but just do as I say, and the end should find you in one piece. Are you ready?”
“Yes. I think.”
He led me to the wall and gestured to the swords. “Pick one.”
“You don’t use guns?”
He laughed. “Guns are human weapons. Too loud for some of the more blind darkies that see by echolocation. Too bright for others that can only go out at the darkest of night. The Lightsies don’t use them because they don’t like how easy it is to kill. They prefer the ‘honor’ of fighting a foe face to face. Anyway, we don’t use guns.”
I reached up and touched one, but sharp pain came from my finger, so I brought it to my mouth.
“Why are they sharp?” I asked around my finger.
“Dull weapons are the death of the wielder. We don’t practice with them, we don’t kill with them.”
“Will I have to kill?”
“Just pick a sword.”
I scowled. “I don’t know what I’m looking for.”
He growled slightly back. “Right. You’ve never even had a knife before.”
He picked one out, hefted it, looked at me and put it back. He did that with several before he handed one to me. “How does that feel?”
I hefted it like he had. “Um... Like a sword.”
“Swing it around. Get a feel for it.”
I swung it, and he jumped away. “Not at me!”
I blushed. “Sorry!”
I swung it around, twisting my wrist as I did. He watched me and nodded. “That one is good for you.”
I stopped and looked at him like, now what? He drew his from his back. It was as black as everything else on him. He usually wore black and black and more black, which did nothing but accentuate his paleness. He showed me some forms and in the middle suddenly attacked me. I yelped and barely blocked his first slash. The second one I missed entirely, and he grazed my arm. He stopped there.
“What in the world was that for?!” I demanded, holding the new wound on my arm.
“You need to be ready at all times from now on.”
“What happened to telling me expectations before quizzing me?”
He narrowed his eyes at me. “Who is the pet and who is the master?”
“I am the pet. You are the master.” I sighed.
“I already taught you both moves for blocking those two attacks. Pay attention. Every little detail could save your life.”
Learning to fight was hard, and Dirg was not a patient teacher. I was not as fast as he was, for one, and for two I was quite a bit smaller. He gave me strength exercises that I had to do throughout the day. We went to that room and went through forms and sparred everyday. Sometimes others were in there, sometimes not, but I never saw anyone with wings as black as his.
I had been with Dirg a month, and he was still an enigma. He talked to me a ton about things he was passionate for, but never about himself. He tended to avoid certain subjects, like family, relationships, or what darkies did when they went out, or even what in the world lightsies were. He only taught me what he believed I needed at the time. He taught me to depend completely on him. If I was hungry, he fed me. If I needed something, he got it. At the same time, if I disobeyed, he beat me, even if it was an accident. When I excelled, he gave me some light, for a time. There were times when I could not go as hard as usual; sometimes he would push me harder, but other times he would give me a bit of rejuvenating light. It really depended which end of the mood swing he was on, or maybe how he thought he could best motivate me.
I came to highly respect him. He was my owner. I slowly morphed from a reluctant, angry slave to an obedient pet. I loved him, as any puppy loves her master. He liked to play with my hair, sometimes braiding light into it, and always, he would hum You are my Sunshine. He never full out sang it, but the tune danced in my dreams. I came to crave his touch almost as much as light.
Also, something changed about the darkness. Once I accepted it, it was no longer oppressive. It didn’t feel as good as light, but I learned to see it as beautiful. Even though I was basically a slave, being taught to become a warrior, beaten at times, and sleeping on the floor, I was probably the happiest I had ever been in my entire life. I was accepted, even if it was by an overbearing dark angel. He liked me in the way people are fond of their dogs. It wasn’t the relationship with a man I had dreamed of, but it was a home. I had always wanted a home.
He disappeared at times, but never for longer than an hour or two. He never said how long he would be gone or where he was going, just that I needed to stay in his room and do some chores. It was on one of these instances when I learned why he knew so much about me.
I was organizing his closet. He was a neat freak everywhere but his closet. In there, he just threw pants and shirts over the bar and shoes on the floor. I had already hung up all the clothes with their respective partners and was arranging his shoes according to which I saw him wear the most often near the front when I glimpsed a tattered notebook. My heart stopped as I recognized the colorful flowers on the cover.
I gingerly reached over and picked it up, flipping through the familiar pages. This was my diary. It was where I fantasized about who my parents were. It was on these pages I put my real feelings about the families that tried me out. It was where I cried and confessed that I was unwanted and unlovable. It was where I recorded all of my girlhood fantasies and crushes. He had had it the whole time!
I slammed it shut and put it beside me, finishing the organization. When I was done, I checked the chores, making sure I wouldn’t get a beating for not doing them, and then I settled down on my mat, leaning on the wall with it in my lap. I stared at it, unsure if I wanted to read it. Was I the same person anymore?
That’s when he came back. He looked at me and saw it in my lap. I looked up at him, glaring for the first time in a few weeks.
“I hate you,” I said with venom.
“Where the hell did you get that?” he retorted, his voice laced with anger.
“I straightened up your closet. I was trying to be helpful, but now I remember why I hated you in the first place. You disgust me.”
He strode purposefully towards me and full out backhanded me in the face. Usually, when he slapped me, it just snapped my head one direction or another. This one was so hard that it messed with my equilibrium and sent me from sitting to lying on the floor. I stood with a groan to notice that he had the diary.
I grit my teeth. “That is not yours!”
“Isn’t it, though? I took it with you, thought it would be helpful, and it has been. Without it, it would have taken me much longer to find out how to make you happy.”
“You conniving, despicable coward!” I yelled. “How much have you read?”
His gaze was calculating and he was silent for a minute. “Who do you belong to, Sunshine?”
“I’ve already answered that the way you want a million times! Answer mine!”
Suddenly, he was close, his hand around my throat. I choked for air as he got in my face.
“I think it is time you relearn who is in charge here! I did not tell you to clean my closet, and I can really do whatever I want to you, which includes examining your diary! Your job is not to doubt me, but to trust me and obey me. What’s yours is mine because I own you!”
At this, I would have argued with him. I would have told him he was wrong and no one owned me, but my will had been bent. I really believed that I belonged to him. I looked down, ashamed, and he loosened his grip on me.
“Yes sir. I apologize for doubting you. I knew better. You know what is best for me.”
He let go, giving me room to breathe better.
“Don’t you forget it,” he growled.
He went to his bed and put the diary under his pillow. I was never allowed to even touch his bed. He sat and began preening his feathers, not looking at me. He didn’t like it when I was doing nothing, so I got my sword and went through forms. He finished first and watched me.
“I think you are ready,” he announced.
“For what?” I asked as I went through a parry slowly.
“To learn what I am and why you are here.”
He moved to the couch, in his usual play with my hair place. “Sit down, this will take awhile.”
“Yes sir.” I put away the sword and sat in my usual spot. He played with my hair as he talked, weaving one of his shed feathers into the hair by my face.
“As I said before, I am a dark skyrunner, known among ourselves as darkies. The other side of the skyrunner race is the light skyrunner. Their pureline has bright, golden wings. They thrive in the light, as we thrive in the dark. In everything, we are opposites. I am one of the only darkies that is not affected negatively by light. There are similarly few lightsies whom are not affected by dark. We believe ourselves to be above humans, while they consider themselves servants of mankind. We are not what they call angels and demons, but we are their offspring. We have been warring for centuries, but for the past few decades we have been in a weird truce. We operate in the night. They operate in the day. We have our borders and we do not cross into the other’s territory. We do not interfere or interact with one another, but for our royalty. They have the tedious job of managing the charade that everything is alright between us.”
He pulled tightly on a knot, and I winced.
“No problem. Just tiny pain.”
He continued. “Darkies have many different jobs, ranging from killing off suffering humans to participating in human wars on the side our king wants to win. I don’t know what lightsies do. Most darkies have a gift that helps fighting, and that could be anything from an increase in speed to being able to breathe underwater. Darkhearts can create and manipulate shadows, and they usually end up in command.”
“What do you do?”
He pulled my hair in annoyance. “I was just about to say. Be patient.”
“Yes sir. Sorry.”
“Apology accepted. I am the third and last child of reigning King Zinx, which in some finagled way only my mother can explain, makes me the crown prince.”
He paused there, waiting for a reaction. I was shocked.
“C-crown prince? As in heir apparent?”
He traced one of my ears. I turned to look at him.
“How come I’ve never seen any other purelines? I mean if you’re the crown prince, where is your family?”
“I was given command of this section when I reached adulthood. Zinx doesn’t want me close enough to kill him or idle enough to start a rebellion. We darkies are known for backstabbing when given the chance. Thus, I’ve always had a feeling that everyone is out to take advantage of me or kill me. That is where you come in, Sunshine.”
I played with the braid with his feather in it, trying to understand.
“I’m not seeing the connection.”
He leaned over me and whispered in my ear, “I need someone powerful and completely loyal to me to watch my back. That is your job. Help me rule my section, and keep an eye on those that would try to hurt me. You, my pet, are only loyal to me. True, you do hate me, but you would never hurt me. What would you do without me?”
He was silent, and I realized that it was not a rhetorical question.
“I don’t know,” I answered truthfully. My life revolved around him. “I couldn’t go back, and I couldn’t stay here.”
He nodded, still right next to my head. “Exactly. The best option for you is to keep me alive. I will take care of you as I have been, but now your job begins. You go everywhere with me. You watch my back.”
“So I’m your pet slash bodyguard?”
“Essentially. Mostly, just my pet. I’d prefer if you point out dangers instead of taking them on yourself. You’re my extra set of eyes, and my second opinion.”
I nodded. “Okay. I can do that.”
“Face me.” I turned to do as told. He gripped my face, his eyes dark and foreboding.
“I am deciding to trust you, Sunshine. I do not give my trust away easily. If you betray me, I will kill you, and it will be the most painful death I can think of. I hold no pity for those that would cross me. Do your job well, and I might give you some freedom. I might cater to you at times. We shall see, and it all depends upon how you act.”
He leaned forward and kissed my brow, greatly surprising me. He growled over me possessively. “You are my Sunshine. Don’t you dare make me kill you.”
I stroked the feather in my hair. “I never will. I am Dirg’s Sunshine, and that is all I want to be. Thank you.”
I leaned my head on his leg and rubbed. “Wanting me.”
He pet my hair and sang softly. “I’ll always love you, and make you happy, if you will only say the same. But if you leave me to love another, you will regret it all one day.”
I smiled, recognizing the tune he was always humming.
“Get up, Sunshine. I need to teach you to fly.”
I reluctantly stood “Fly? How?”
“You will have to ride on my back. There’s no other way for you to keep up. Come.”
I followed him, smiling. I had always wanted to fly! True, it was flying on someone else’s back, but it was still flying.