Part Ten: Love of an Angel
Once again they were on a boat. Once again Devona was not allowed out of their sights. It was really getting old and she was finally starting to feel like a Princess, a Princess with extremely over protective body guards.
Things were still awkward when they left the camp the next morning. Devona thanked Eve more times than she could count and still the amazon didn’t look pleased. She didn’t know what Eve wanted from her, but she had given up hope that she would ever know. Eve and Akki barely said good-bye, which was odd considering that they had seemed so close at first. The run-in seemed to worsen their friendship.
Kestrel was right, they reached the port by Friday. Devona thought she would never be so happy to see a boat in her life. So many things happened on the Second Constellation, she was more than happy to leave it behind. Yet, she was greeted by a new rule.
No alone time. At all.
She left the bathroom to find Akki lounging against the wall. She rolled her eyes and walked past him. He was right on her heels the entire way back to their room. At the door, she stopped, and so did he. They both stood there for a few seconds. After a minute passed, Akki reached around her and opened the door.
“You may enter, Princess,” he said.
She had enough.
She spun around to meet him eye to eye. It was hard, but with the force behind her stare, she got his attention.
“You can cut the bull you know!” snapped Devona.
“Excuse me?” asked Akki.
“I’m getting really tired of you riding my ass every five seconds. Five minutes of peace, that doesn’t involve me sitting on the toilet would be very nice once in a while.”
“Perhaps if you would stop getting into situations where you almost die, then we wouldn’t have to ‘ride your ass’ all the time.”
That was a low blow. She gave him one last glare, and darted into the room. He followed suit and gently shut the door behind him. How could he be so calm? She wanted to ki—okay, too strong of a word since she needed him alive. She wanted to…knee him in the groin…really hard. Then run away so she could breathe without sharing the air with him, Kestrel, or Kai.
She stomped her foot so that he looked over at her. He was still calm as when he shut the door.
“It was not my fault that some crazy Black Dra—“
“White, she was a White Dragon.”
“Whatever! It’s not my fault that she showed up and used some crafty illusion, on all of us I might add, and almost killed me. How the hell is that my fault!?”
He shook his head, “I never said it was, Princess.”
That drove her even crazier. “Don’t call me that! Don’t pretend like there is nothing but a guardian and Princess relationship between us. We made out for Christ’s sake!”
To that, he still had no reaction. She knew she shouldn’t have brought it up, but the distance was bothering her more than the closeness. Even now she could still feel that cold state of indifference. He closed his eyes for a few seconds and then opened them again.
“You made a request of me as a guardian and a friend and I performed my duty. Please do not read any more into it, Princess.”
She couldn’t help it as her eyes glazed over. The tears were there but she refused to let them fall, to let him see how much it hurt her to hear him say that. To feel that he actually meant it. So she turned away and batted her eyes. No crying, be a big girl.
“Anyway,” Akki continued, “what happened was not your fault. Unfortunately to try and keep it from happening again we have to keep a better eye on you. That woman could be anywhere, anyone.”
“Then how can I even know when it’s really you?”
She finally looked back him, hoping that the redness under her eyes was gone. From the pain that went across his face, she knew that it wasn’t. The pain only remained a second and was replaced by that calm look again.
“We will have to have a code, a different one for each of us. So that you know that we really are who we say we are.”
“Am I just going to ask every time I see you? Won’t that be a little weird?”
“Not every time, just when you think something strange might be going on. Just think about it, and let us know when you have something in mind.”
She was quiet and watched him. He really was gorgeous, she could not deny that. Just the way he stood, with such confidence, it amazed her. It also amazed her how he could when he was always so upset with himself over what he had done in the past.
She hated being attracted to him, but he was too good looking to ignore. Plus, his over protectiveness actually felt kind of nice. Well, nice when he wasn’t constantly breathing down her neck. Nice when he made bold statements about saving her and nice when he actually followed through.
Oh God, what was she going to do?
The door opened, and Kestrel walked in, looking very excited.
Devona rolled her eyes, “What is it now? Another rare bird landing on the deck? A great exciting game of curling? Square dancing in the hall?”
Kestrel walked straight over to Devona wearing her happy smile. It was so weird to see Kestrel look like that, especially when she was going to talk to Devona. She was sure that she was not going to like this at all.
“I have some good news!” Kestrel clapped her hands and nodded. It was Devona’s turn to be calm and show no emotions. “I know that you have been bored and most of the plays here don’t interest you.”
Maybe because they’re boring as hell.
Most of plays that were performed on the ship were based on old legends of Zakiah Adara. Of course, Devona should be eager to watch them, but they made no sense to her. They revolved around stories that she had never heard of and had no idea of the background. It was as if she were watching a play in another language. The audience would laugh and cry and she would just stare with no idea what the hell was going on. Nope, not fun.
“Well, I think the one tonight might interest you. It’s a basic love story with no previous knowledge required, besides knowing English. It was actually brought over by one of the former Princesses from Earth. It has been preformed ever since in her honor.”
This was intriguing. Depending on who this other Princess was, the play could be anything. Though, right now, Devona really didn’t care, anything from Earth sounded marvelous.
“What’s it called?” asked Devona.
“Romeo and Juliet.”
Her jaw dropped, “No way.”
By God, it was true. Devona could hardly believe her eyes when she saw the poster, which was hand drawn of course, out in front of the auditorium. There was Juliet, standing out on her balcony, calling out to be beloved Romeo. This was a dream come true!
Who knew? Devona never thought she would be so excited about sitting through what she considered to be Shakespeare’s more boring play that was entirely in old English.
As soon as they entered the auditorium, it was Devona’s turn to explain. She told all three of her guardians about how famous Shakespeare was and how acclaimed all of his plays were. How, even though his stories weren’t original, he added such flair to them that they were still read hundreds of years later. Hell, thousands of years later in Zakiah Adara. She of course had to add how this wasn’t her favorite play, because the love story was so unrealistic.
“Who kills themselves over someone they just met. I mean, come on, really?” said Devona.
“Good job ruining the ending,” grumbled Kai. Devona grimaced feeling guilty. Everyone on Earth knew the story of Romeo and Juliet, she had forgotten that they didn’t. Now they would understand how she felt when watching one of their plays.
They found seats towards the middle, and Kai sat on one side of her and Akki on the other. These boys were seriously not going to let up. She had a feeling that things were not going to get any better either. Instead, she sat there and waited the arrival of something familiar.
The Capulets and Montagues were a true sight for sore eyes. She could feel herself tearing up as she watched the boys fight about the stage. So many memories of high school, as they read over the play. Devona was so bored, wishing they could read a more interesting Shakespeare play such as King Lear or Hamlet. All the girls in class, minus her, had voted on Romeo and Juliet, and the boys were too split to make a decision.
How times truly change someone.
Devona glanced over at Kai. He kept his eyes on the stage the entire time. Ever since that night in the house things had changed between them. To her surprise, he actually staid closer to her now, and not just because it was the new rule. He found excuses to talk to her, just to make her laugh, which he was very good at. She was actually surprised that he was not cracking jokes through out the play.
Things were still awkward though. She didn’t know how she felt about either of the boys, nor did she know if there was a clean, concise, answer.
On her other side was Akki, who, as expected, watched the stage the whole time as well. After that night and the hurt she saw in his eyes, he hadn’t shown any emotion. He was so calm and indifferent. Still overprotective, but he was missing the passion that used to make her blush.
There were no easy answers. She was stuck between the two men, wondering which way to go, if it was possible to go either way at all anymore.
As that famous balcony scene started, there was a loud crack of thunder through the auditorium. One woman screamed and Devona rolled her eyes. Could she be any more over dramatic, it was just...thunder…
All the lights from the candles around the stage blew out all at once plummeting them into darkness. Devona gasped that time, feeling like a jerk for thinking so low of the lady for screaming.
“Sorry for the interruption,” said a voice from the back of the room. “We will have all the lights back on in just a few moments.”
The spotlight was the first to come back on. When it did, there was something, or rather someone, standing in the middle of the stage that made Devona gasp again.
“Oh my God,” she whispered.
There, right in front of her, maybe forty feet away at most, stood an angel.
All three guardians went rigid at the sight of the winged creature. They looked just about as shocked as Devona was. She turned her attention back to the stage and stared in awe.
Never had she imagined something or someone being so beautiful. The angel was woman, with long chocolate brown hair, neatly placed in a bun at the back of her head. Wrapped around the bun were three sets of braids wrapped in purple satin. She was dressed in a long elegant purple dress: straight and clingy against her perfect body. Cheek bones well defined, pouty lips, the works. Of course though, those features were not the focus of Devona’s attention, but the wings were.
Devona had seen wings on Mushin, but those were demonic and radiated evil. Even the wings on the man she had met the first night didn’t compare to these. These were so white they were blinding to look at. They were drawn tight against her back, as if the angel were not in the mood to threaten anyone. The Princess could tell that this woman was probably the most powerful person she had met in Zakiah Adara, aside from Mushin. Hopefully this magnificent creature was on their side.
The angel looked out onto the audience with her cerulean eyes. They shone like crystals against her pale skin. This woman was beauty incarnate, and it didn’t bother Devona that she thought so. She didn’t feel a pang of jealousy either, it only seemed fair that a heavenly being would be so beautiful.
A few more seconds passed and the angel spoke in a soft, smooth, voice. “Your presence is required on the Sixth Constellation immediately, mandate of the Council.”
The light went out again, leaving them in darkness. When it returned, the stage was empty, except for a very frightened Juliet who was hiding behind one of the fake bushes.
“We are very sorry for the difficulties tonight, but it looks like the play will have to be postponed. Join us tomorrow for another showing of Queen Liania.”
The audience grumbled a bit, leaving the auditorium as quickly as possible. Devona heard quite a few people complaining about the Council, and how this was another way for them to ruin everything. She might have thought the same way if she hadn’t known that the message was for her to go see the Council.
Kai led the way out of the auditorium, and already Devona was teeming with questions to bombard them with. Who was the angel? Why did she dare make such a public appearance? Why did no one seem to care that their play was interrupted by an angel? What was so utterly horrible about the Council? Should she be scared? Well, she already was scared. From what she had heard the Council was not the nicest group of people. They were definitely not on Devona’s ‘top ten people I want to meet before I die’ list. Yes, she had one.
Once back in the room, they were all silent. Kestrel sighed, walked over to her bed, and began to pack. Where did she think she was going?
“Uh Kestrel,” said Devona, “We’re on a boat, why are you packing?”
The red head glared at her. “Because, we need to catch the next boat as soon as we dock. No time to waste packing in port.”
“But we don’t dock for three days.”
“Kestrel has the right idea,” said Akki. “We have no time to waste. Get all your things packed, so we can leave immediately.”
Kai rolled his eyes and leaned against the wooden wall, “Nothing like an angel showing up to ruin everyone’s mood.”
“Who was she?” Devona finally asked.
“She’s Kyrielle, one of few angels left in Zakiah Adara. She is an aid to the Council,” said Kestrel. Devona was shocked at how easy that was to get out of her.
“Why did no one seem to care?”
“It’s not the first time they’ve seen an angel,” said Kai. “They like to stick their noses were they don’t belong. Usually they claim to be representing the Council, just to piss everyone off.”
Akki shook his head and looked at Kai. “That is not the reason they claim to be representing the Council. They usually are because the Council doesn’t like to get their hands dirty.”
Kai scoffed, “You are sounding more and more like a Black Dragon every day.”
There was no hesitation. Akki withdrew his sword and lunged at Kai. Kestrel and Devona could only watch in horror as his thrust the blade against Kai’s throat, but Kai hardly responded.
“Watch your tongue,” snapped Akki.
“You can’t and won’t kill me, so why put on the show?”
Akki pushed the blade closer to Kai’s flesh causing him to finally grimace. “Don’t try me.”
“Ulric! Stand down.” There was an authority in Kestrel’s tone that Devona had never heard from her before. Hell, it would have even made Devona back down from her questioning.
He ignored her, glaring at Kai the whole time. After a few more horrifying moments, Akki finally lowered his weapon. He holstered it, watched Kai for another instant, and then walked over to his bed. Kai rolled his eyes and headed to his own.
These next couple of days were going to be very odd and those days were what scared her most of all.
It was a good thing that they had packed early. As soon as they docked, they were on the move. The ship leaving directly for the Sixth Constellation had a huge line and was set to leave in an hour. Devona sighed heavily and dropped her pack on the ground. The brown horse jumped at the force of the drop and nearly kicked Devona in the back.
She gasped and moved away form the creature. “Sorry, just frustrated! You don’t have to try and kill me!”
The ship wasn’t as big as the other vessels they had been on. It looked slightly larger than an old fashioned pirate ship. Devona was already regretting complaining about the boring plays. At least the other ships had activities, this had nothing. All this ship had were guards, slowly checking papers, and letting people onto the ship.
Kestrel and Akki whispered amongst themselves as Devona examined the people in line. They all looked so different, as if they were going to a multicultural fair and not the “Sixth Constellation.” All shades of people dressed in all shades of clothes from formal gowns to rags.
As Devona watched the line move, she noticed that a lot of people were being turned away. Each person had a set of papers they were handing the guards. They did not only look at the papers, but they looked the people all over, and even sniffed them.
It was a little odd, but not too odd considering what she had learned on the Second Constellation. Obviously, the guards were people who had the ability to change. What bothered Devona was if so many followers of Queen Oriana looked down on those who had gone through their ‘acceptance’ how could they be used as soldiers?
She asked Kestrel and the guardian actually laughed at her.
“What? You think that just because people don’t like it that they wouldn’t take advantage of them? As long as they prove they’re loyal, they’ll be put to work. They might not get as much pay as they should, but they have jobs.”
“That’s horrible.” Devona thought back to all the racism that plagued her country over the years and all the people who fought so hard for equal rights. Such obvious discrimination broke her heart.
“But why do they sniff people?”
“The holy Constellations do not allow Black Dragons to travel to them, or Red Dragons that have become followers of Mushin.”
“What about other people who can change? Are they allowed?”
Akki finally made his presence known. “There is a distinct scent on anyone who belongs to Mushin. Anyone who has that scent is not allowed.”
“What about you?” Devona asked the question before she could stop herself. She immediately regretted asking such a thing and looked away.
“He has been pardoned by the queen, I doubt they will even sniff him,” snapped Kestrel.
When it was their turn for the guards to look at their papers, Kestrel was right. The guards hardly glanced at Akki after reading his documents. However, the men paid extra close attention to Devona. Was it because she was so afraid? Could they smell it? Was thinking such a thing considered racist?
The taller guard leaned in and sniffed right above Devona’s head. Kestrel looked very amused by the Princess’ worried face. The man nodded to the other guard and they were finally let on the boat, three horses and all.
Once safe on the boat, it was time for more questions. “What are the papers anyway?” Devona asked, waving her own around in the air.
Kestrel seized the document from Devona. “It’s something that shouldn’t be so eagerly waved about. It sates your purpose, where you are going, why, and your ancestry.”
Devona scrunched up her nose and grabbed the papers back from Kestrel. “What do mine say?”
Kestrel snatched them back. “It says that you are on a mission from the queen, just like the rest of ours.”
“Then why did the sniff me?”
“Maybe he thought you smelled nice.”
The idea of that freaked her out. Hopefully he was looking for something else. Maybe her plain human scent was so abnormal that he had to get a second whiff. Maybe for some reason she smelled more like a Black Dragon than expected. Or perhaps her papers gave more information than even she was allowed to give.
Once on the boat, Devona learned that this was going to be a very long stay. Since they were on a ship that left directly for the Sixth Constellation they had to travel around the others. This meant that this ride would actually be close to a month long. It was a very long and boring month. Their room was small and cramped, with four twin beds taking up the majority of the room. Devona could reach over and slap Kai while he was sleeping, if she wanted to. After being around them for so long she almost wanted to. There were no activities besides eating, so she had to force herself not to eat from boredom. Most of their day consisted of Devona’s questions that rarely got answered. She was beginning to believe she would always be in the dark when it came to this world.
By time they reached the Sixth Constellation, she had been in Zakiah Adara for almost three months, three days in Earth time. By now her parents would have noticed that she was missing. They probably had called the police and had an amber alert out for her. Maybe even all of Florida was looking for her. Maybe.
Yet, when arriving to such a holy place, it was hard to worry about what she could not control.
The dock was modest, only set up for three ships to take rest there. It wasn’t a city like the others, it was just a few stores and inns, but that was it. The Constellation was also much smaller than the others. The entirety of it could be seen upon their arrival. It seemed more like an island than a continent. Stepping off the boat and onto the land felt like putting a foot down for the first time in a new church. There was a spiritual energy that flowed through the molecules of the Constellation.
Many of the people stepped off the ship with looks of awe. A few even fell to their knees and kissed the ground. This must have been a pilgrimage for them. It was one of the holiest spots in the Zakiah Adara, where judgments for the entire world were decided.
Akki was the last of their group to step off of the ship. He carefully put his first step down on the wooden deck. Devona watched him with curious eyes. He took a deep sigh and slowly let it out. The air blew past his lips, blowing his bang so slightly. It was in that moment that she saw something from him that was very rare: he smiled.
“I never thought I would be allowed here,” he whispered.
It was a beautiful moment, one she would never forget. Soon it passed and he took his second step. Devona wondered if the others had seen what just occurred. With glances to the two other guardians, she realized that they either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Her eyes were drawn back to Akki as he led the brown horse off of their ship. This man had been so tormented in his life. It was no wonder he was so withdrawn.
It took less than a minute after their arrival for her to show up. At first, the angel said nothing, simply walking over to them, allowing each of them to acknowledge her in their own accord. Devona tried not to stare at her, but it was very difficult. This time, Kyrielle was dressed modestly and was lacking her wings. She wore a plain green skirt and a white blouse trimmed in a brown vest. Her brown hair was still seated at the back of her head in a tightly wound bun. Devona thought that she looked more like a tour guide now than an angel.
The only thing that would have given her away was her eyes. They still looked like fire on blue coals.
The angel met them with a smile. To Devona’s surprise, Kyrielle bowed. This couldn’t be real. There was no way an angel was bowing to her.
“Don’t worry about the horses. They will be kept here at the port. Now, if you would please follow me,” said Kyrielle. To their surprise, two men immediately walked over to them, taking the reins of their three horses. There were no protests.
They followed the angel in disguise through the port. No one seemed to notice Kyrielle or their group at all. Most people were too busy looking around, making remarks about how beautiful everything was. Or they were looking toward the center of the island, where there rose a tall solitary mountain. According to Kestrel, this was their destination, “Watcher’s Mountain.” It looked as though it were only a few hundred yards away. However, no matter how far they walked, it stayed in the same spot. It was going to be quite a hike, even if this was a tiny island in comparison to the rest.
As they got near the edge of the port, Devona finally caught up with Kyrielle. She stared up at the woman, still in awe of her beauty. It was hard to believe that someone who looked like that could exist in reality. She looked like she had just stepped out of an oil painting. The realm of the living was not where she belonged.
“So,” for once she didn’t know what to say. “You can hide your wings?”
Kyrielle smiled, “This is my disguise Princess. I would appreciate it if you did not give away mine, and I will not yours.”
Speaking before thinking, had she still not learned?
Devona was embarrassed. She shut her mouth and slowed down to end up next to Kestrel. Her guardian wouldn’t look at her, she was too busy laughing. How could she have been so rude to an angel? Kyrielle looked back at Devona and laughed herself. An angel with a sense of humor? That was not what Devona was expecting at all.
They followed a small dirt path that parted the trees of a forest. A few other pilgrims could be seen heading with and against them. If only they had known that their entire fate rested in the hands of the small blonde. All of a sudden, Kyrielle came to a stop in front of them. She looked down at a woman on the side of the trail who was knelt to the ground. The woman’s hands were grasping at her chest as her eyes rained with tears. Kyrielle stepped toward the woman and knelt down next to her. She placed a soft hand on the woman’s shoulder, bringing red puffy eyes to look at her face.
“What is wrong?” asked Kyrielle.
The woman sniffled back a few more tears. “I feel so close to the Lord here.” She shook her head and wiped her face with her sleeve. “However, it breaks my heart to know that a fallen angel resides in the mountain.”
Kyrielle’s face went blank.
“A fallen angel?” asked Devona. She watched as Kyrielle gracefully rose to her feet. She nodded at the woman and continued down the path. Devona desperately wanted to question the woman more but there was no time. The woman watched from the dirt path as they each passed her and no one bothered to answer her own looks of concern. Devona looked at Kestrel, and already the guardian was sighing. She knew the look and was preparing for an answer.
“You’ll have to wait for that one,” said Kestrel.
Devona rolled her eyes and continued to follow after Kyrielle.
The trees stood high around them. Each one was a dusty red color that looked more like red clay than bark. The trees reached so high that Devona could not see where their trunks ended and the tree tops began. A few rays of light shone through emerald leaves, just enough to lead them to sanctuary. After what must have been a few miles, the trees ended and the mountain began. There at the bottom of the mountain was a blockade. Devotees stood at the wooden railing, staring up at the high reaches of the mountain. Some were crying, some were praying, and others just watched in awe. This was their holy land.
Two men stood at the blockade, both dressed in full white armor. Neither of their faces could be seen, but Devona had no doubt that they could see hers. Their armor sparkled in the sun as if it was forged from some sort of crystal and not metal. Kyrielle walked right up to men. Neither of them reacted as she opened the gate on the blockade. As Kyrielle did so, a young man lunged toward the open gate.
One guard threw down a battle axe to block the man’s path as the other grabbed the man’s arm. The young man tried to struggle, but the armed guard was too much for him. His arms were shoved behind his back with ease as the other guard righted his axe.
“Let me in! I have to see them! What gives them the right to enter?” shouted the man.
Kyrielle looked at him and smiled. “Don’t question what you could never possibly understand.” Without assault this time, Kyrielle entered the open gate with the rest of them close behind. From there, she went to another wooden door. This one was very large and built into the side of the mountain. Kyrielle withdrew a key from her vest pocket and undid the lock. She lead them in again and when they were all in, she shut the wooden door and sighed heavily. “It happens every time,” she said. “So many people desperately want to see the holy beings of the mountain that they nearly lose their lives trying to get in.”
“Do they have any idea who you are?” asked Devona.
“Of course not. I would never be able to accomplish anything on the Constellation if they knew who I was.”
“But, haven’t you shown yourself before? Like on the boat?”
She smiled again, “Princess, you recognized me because I wanted you to. For now, no more questions. I’ll lead you to your quarters for the remainder of your stay.”
The inside of the mountain was exactly that. There were pathways carved into the and lined with torches. Devona was sure that the pathways had been dug out by humans, or nonhumans, at some time. But what at once must have been neatly curved walls now had dips and cracks in them. It was un-nerving knowing that if there was a cave-in there was no chance of survival. Though, they had gone thousands of years without such an incident, so Devona hoped that tradition would continue.
Kyrielle lead them through many different winding pathways. They had made so many different turns that Devona had no idea which direction they had originally came from. At the end of one of the hallways lay two doors, both made from the same rusty wood from the forest. Kyrielle stopped in front of them and turned to the Princess and her guardians. She smiled again and raised her hands toward the doors.
“These are your rooms. Each one has two beds, so choose how you would like to sleep. I will go now and inform the Council of your arrival.”
Devona hardly knew anything about them and yet the name still left a stale taste in her mouth. These were the people who passed judgment on the world. They made the rules that many didn’t want to live by. They also controlled all of the queen’s armies. They protected the people and controlled them with the same means.
Devona knew that they wanted her here, but why? Why now? Shouldn’t she be searching for her Star Point? Not making leisurely stops to holy spots?
“Kyrielle—if I can call you that…” Devona’s tone was low, so embarrassed by her lack of respect toward the angel. However, Kyrielle simply nodded. “Uh, why does the Council want me here? I don’t understand.”
Her smile faded, not a good sign.
“There has been a challenge toward your divinity.”
Devona was confused, but Akki looked pissed.
“That can’t be,” he said. But the angel nodded. “By the Spirits, who challenged?”
“I can’t say.”
“Wait! What does that even mean?” asked Devona.
Kyrielle sighed and locked eyes with Devona. She thought her eyes might burn out from the intensity of the blue fire. But the sadness of the burning coals cooled Devona’s soul.
“It means, that someone doesn’t think you really are a Princess.”
It was hours later, but the angel’s words kept repeating in her head. Someone didn’t think she was a Princess? Was it one of her guardians? She was sure it was Kestrel, but she had seemed equally as shocked as Devona. Maybe Eve? Then again, the real Eve didn’t know who Devona was. There was no one else who didn’t like her, or like that she was a Princess.
It was one of the Council members who heard something about her that they didn’t like. Maybe it was the kiss with Akki, or how she had crushes on both of the guys at one point, or how she always wanted time to herself. There were too many factors racing through her head and no answers near. There was no one she could question this time. She was all alone now and she absolutely hated it.
The rule that a guardian had to be with her at all times was relinquished inside the mountain. According to them there was no way a Black Dragon could arrive to the Constellation let alone enter the mountain. She wanted to talk to someone but the guardians were on a break of their own and didn’t want to talk to her. Already she felt they were retracting themselves from her, preparing for the worse.
So, Devona spent most of the night wandering about the depths of the mountain, alone. It was what she had craved, but now it tore her heart apart. She made special care to remember the way that she had gone so she could find her room again. As she investigated, she found something deep within the mountain that she never expected to see: a flower garden. How it could have possibly grown without any sunlight? It was a question that was beyond her understanding.
The garden was rather large, sprinkled with all shades of flowers. Pink, purple, yellow, and white contrasted against the shadows. They brought warmth to the caves that almost comforted her. Almost. However, there was a more impressive sight in the middle of the garden. There stood Kyrielle, her wings were exposed now, shining through the darkness. Long brown hair tumbled down her back in loose waves moving like the ocean. She heard Devona’s footsteps and looked back at the Princess. Devona froze, afraid she had ventured too far beyond where she was allowed. However, Kyrielle smiled again and waved for Devona to come to her.
Who was she to deny an angel?
Devona took a deep breath and made her way toward the beautiful angel. She tried her best not to crush any of the fragile flowers, but it was unavoidable. Kyrielle chuckled when Devona tripped over what was seemingly nothing, and in trying to avoid a purple flower she ended up crushing a pink and a white one. Devona grimaced.
“It’s okay Princess. All things must die eventually. No matter how hard you try to save them, they always die,” said the angel. It was a grim view that Devona was not expecting. “I’ve lived a long life and I’ve seen so many people die.”
“I’m sorry,” said Devona. What else could she say?
“It’s how life works. Now, let’s get to why you are here.”
Devona took a deep breath to find composure, and then looked directly back at the angel. “Can you tell me who challenged?”
Kyrielle shook her head, “Princess, I can not tell you because I do not know. I’m as in the dark as you are about this. However, I meant the other questions you have that have been keeping you up at night.”
Her heart stuttered, “I can ask you anything?”
“I will answer to the best of my knowledge.”
Devona loved this angel! “Really, I have some questions about Akki…”
“You can’t help but love him,” said Kyrielle.
The angel’s words were blunt. It was not exactly the question she had wanted to ask, but it was exactly what Devona had been thinking about ever since she arrived. How could she possible care for someone who was so cold and had done so many horrible things? Why did she care about him over Kai? Still, it wasn’t love, was it?
Devona blushed, “I-I don’t know if I would say that. I mean…”
“You love him, there is no avoiding it. Even as hard as you have tried not to care for him, you will always love Akki. Fate of the heart is unbendable. You will love who your heart loves, if you approve or not. Trust me, I know.”
“Who do you love?” Should she be asking? Kyrielle told her she could ask all that she wanted, but this might have been too much.
Kyrielle took a deep breath. “The fallen angel that the woman was crying about is my husband.”
The angel laughed. That broke all laws of nature! Fallen angels and angels didn’t just fall in love! One was bound to the laws of heaven and the other to hell, they could not possibly--but why would she lie?
“When Zakiah Adara was first created, I was placed here to make sure that no fallen angels entered the world before it was finished. Upon its completion, there was a shield placed so that dark beings couldn’t enter. After this, three fallen angels that had already taken residence in this world let themselves be known. One of them was found and made an example of. After his death, the shield weakened and another fallen was able to enter. The Council realized that the world now needed the fallen to maintain a healthy balance. So, the three fallen had to be kept track of.
“The father of Mushin, the second fallen to be found, was placed in an eternal sleep. A female fallen was taken to the Twelfth Constellation and monitored by mortals sworn to keep her captive. Lastly, I was punished for allowing them into the world. So, I was put in charge of watching the last fallen, Jabez, who is now my husband. The Council hates that their plan back fired and that my punishment was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
“But he’s a fallen angel…”
“Yes, he was an angel who was tricked into falling with Lucifer. He regretted the decision since he made it. He even tried to get back to Heaven, but was nearly killed by Michael himself. I told you, the fate of the heart is unbendable, I know from personal experience.”
If a fallen angel and an angel could really fall in love, why couldn’t she and Akki? The queen told her that the rules were in place for a reason, but Devona did not see it. So what if it meant he would be more protective over her, wasn’t that a good thing? Didn’t they want to make sure that happened? Surely loving a guardian was better than distain, right?
She shook her head. She did not love Akki! It had been three months since she met him and most of that time he never showed any emotion. Indifference.
I will serve you with my life.
He had done just that. He had risked his life to make sure that she was still left breathing. Already he had thrown himself farther to Mushin, and for what? For her. It might not have been love that drove him, but she could finally admit that it felt like it was. Devona looked down at the flowers. All the colors blended together like a van Gogh painting as her eyes watered. No tears, not again. She had never cried so much in all her life as she had in Zakiah Adara. Yet, this moment, in a flower garden hidden deep in the bowels of a mountain, her life changed.
“Maybe I do love him,” she whispered.
“I know you do,” said Kyrielle.
“If I’m not the Princess, I’ll never see him or the others again. The life that I’ve been trying so hard to get used to will be over. All of those who died will have died for nothing.”
“Do not say that.” There was tone in her voice that demanded attention. Devona looked up at the angel to see her burning eyes. “Even if you aren’t the Princess, they died for what they believed in. Do not take that away from them.”
Devona nodded, feeling guilt. But, if she wasn’t the Princess, it was best to find that out now before it was too late. She’d rather go home before her parents totally freaked, if she could. Then, maybe, she could try and put this whole situation behind her. Pretend like it never happened.
“Thanks for talking to me Kyrielle. I don’t feel like an idiot when you answer my questions.”
Kyrielle smiled gently, “The others don’t understand. Earth is very different from Zakiah Adara. Before I was placed here, I served on Earth. I know that it has changed a lot since then, but they still lack that which is common here.”
“What is that?”
“Spiritual presence. Here, angels can be seen, the Lord can be heard, and dragons exist. Quite different from the world you are used to.”
“You can say that again.”
Kyrielle laughed. It was a warm comforting tone that dried Devona’s watery eyes. This woman was beyond reality, she existed on a plane all her own, but at least she was not alone.
“Good night Kyrielle.”
“Good night Princess. Try not to worry. Life will go on no matter the outcome of tomorrow.”
“I’ll try and remember that.”
Devona left the flower garden, not even noticing as she tore petals from their stems this time. No matter the outcome of tomorrow, her life was changed forever. How would things be with Akki now that she knew for sure how she felt? How much would it hurt to have to leave him behind forever?
She made her way back to her room. As she slowly opened the door, she could see Kestrel already curled up in bed. Devona tried to do the same, but there were even more questions racing through her head. There was no way she could sleep now. Was she going to be on trial tomorrow? Was the Council going to be her judge, jury, and executioner? Why did someone doubt she was really a Princess?
All this time she tried to convince herself that she was a Princess and now someone wanted to convince her otherwise. Life sure would be easier if she wasn’t. She could go back to high school, break up with Mark, eat chocolate to get over it with Rose, study and prepare for college. Things that seemed so hard before were simple now. How she missed them.
But she would miss Zakiah Adara even more.
She wouldn’t feel comfortable again if she left. Instead she would be up all hours of the night, wondering how much time had passed. How the guardians were doing, and who the new Princesses were. Were they okay? Was he still alive?
She got out of bed, gently shut the door behind her, and wandered again. Before she knew it, she was back at the edge of the garden again, only this time there was no angel in the middle. Devona sighed and knelt down on the flowers. After her talk with Kyrielle she felt comfortable here. It was her small light in the darkness. There was no easy way out or easy answers. She would face them tomorrow and they would decide her fate, no matter what the fate of her heart said. They ruled above all and made the decisions for the world. Now she understood how so many could hate the Council.
The voice startled her. She gasped and turned to see Kai standing behind her. He was dressed different from what she was used to seeing him in. No armor, none of his normal clothes, no bands on his wrists or around his head. Now he was dressed in a loose fitting black shirt and white pants. He looked weird but nice at the same time.
“Hey,” she said back. “Where’d you get the clothes?”
“My room,” he said. He casually made his way over to her. His feet crushed the flowers and he didn’t seem to notice, or care. Once he was at her side, he plopped himself on the ground next to her. It was nice that he came to check on her, but she couldn’t help but wonder if there was something else behind this.
He looked at her with curious green eyes. Devona was amazed at how much younger he looked without the bands and armor. He wore a carefree smile that she had grown to know from him, and it broke her heart. Why couldn’t she love him? It would be so much easier were it him and not Akki. Or would it? Now she was just confusing herself. She forced a smile on her face, but he saw through it.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“What?” she asked.
“If thinking is causing you so much stress, then just stop.”
“You can’t just stop thinking, Kai.”
He shrugged, “Well, then take your mind off of it.” He leaned a little closer to her. She didn’t care; she was too upset by his comments.
“Now how am I supposed to do—?”
His kissed her. That was not at all what she was expecting. She could tell when he kissed her forehead before that he had wanted to kiss her lips but he didn’t. Now, they were alone, here was his chance. Was this why he came looking for her?
This kiss was not forced on him like she had forced Akki to kiss her. Her third kiss, she never ever thought that would happen, at least, not this soon and not with Kai.
Despite her earlier revelation, she was unable to pull away. Devona tilted her head and embraced the kiss. It was nice, it was comforting, and it was what she needed. Her lips loosened against his and he took notice. He parted her lips and she melted against his body. This was right, in the beautiful flower garden. It forced her to focus on the present and not the fear of the next day and what might happen. She completely lost herself in the moment. Kai raised his hand and cupped her cheek in his palm. Her head relaxed against his hand, golden strands falling over his fingers.
He pulled back from her, leaving her breathless. Slowly she looked at him. His eyes were wide in fear. He immediately jumped to his feet, nodded toward her, and left.
“What just happened?” she whispered to herself.
What had he done?
That wasn’t like him at all. He had tried so hard to live up to the rules that the Council created, knowing that they were there for a reason. And now, he just threw that all away and pounced on Devona. It was the kiss that he hadn’t brought himself to give her when he saved her. Now, he wasn’t even thinking, and just kissed her. Why?
“Is something wrong?”
Kai looked up to see Akki standing in the doorway to their room. The two men had become accustom to sharing a room but Kai still hated it. He said nothing to the other guardian. Akki had no right to know what just transpired between him and Devona. If he did, it would probably be the death of Kai. Then again, if Akki came after him, it would be a good excuse for Kai to “defend” himself.
One thing he had also learned over the last few months was that he needed Akki, he was a good guardian. What was Kai thinking?
He walked past Akki into their room. He went to his bed, hoping he would be able to settle his blood and sleep that night. Even if he did, it would be restless. He would spend the entire night chasing down the blonde beauty he just had the privilege kissing, trying to do the same thing again.
Kyrielle woke them the next morning, or rather confirmed Devona’s worse fears. It was time for her to meet with the Council. She never did get any sleep and was now completely exhausted. How was she going to save face when she could hardly keep her eyes open? Kestrel didn’t even look at Devona as she left the room. The distance was already setting in.
Everyone was silent as Kyrielle led the way higher into the mountain. No one knew what to say to make this any better. There really was nothing they could say. The journey to meet with the Council was the most awkward moment since she had arrived. Each guardian was dressed in full armor. Devona wondered if there was going to be a fight, but they each claimed to have no idea what was going to happen. She was still wearing her traveling outfit, consisting of a short skirt and corset. Maybe she should have actually put that fancy dress to use.
They traveled up a staircase that started near the flower garden. The steps were cut into the wall of the mountain, and they curved high toward the top with the garden in the center at its base. Only a small wooden railing kept them safe from falling to their deaths. The Council probably did not want them to die, not yet anyway. After the test, they probably wouldn’t care if she did or not. Devona was short of breath ever since they started their climb. She knew that she was not that out of shape. It was just the stress of the meeting. She could literally be walking into a dragon’s den.
She could see the top of the staircase getting closer with every step. At the top was a large open area with the golden doors. They were pulling her tight to their cool exterior. She stood in front of them staring at the crystal handles. Her future waited in the next room and she did not want to face it.
“I can’t,” said Devona.
“What do you mean?” asked Kyrielle.
“I don’t think I can…” She paused and looked back at her guardians. Kestrel shook her head, as if she expected Devona to say such a thing, Kai looked hurt, Akki looked disappointed. She didn’t want to let any of them down. “Uh…I have this thing against opening giant golden doors. So, if someone else could do that, I would greatly appreciate it.”
Kyrielle laughed, “Princess, the doors will open when the Council is ready to see you.”
“Oh, I knew that.”
Seconds later, the doors did just that. Devona jumped back from them, even though they opened inwards. She laughed nervously as Kyrielle’s hand landed on her back. Terrified, Devona slowly looked back at the angel. The smile she wore brought Devona some comfort. Devona took a deep breath and entered the room.
It was not at all what she was expecting.
The room looked exactly like a court room. They walked down the pathway between the rows for the audience. For this particular occasion, there was no one seated in those chairs, yet. A small wooden gate was set up between the chairs and the defense and prosecution. Instead of the witness stand being to the side of the judge, there was podium in the middle, so that the witness could look directly at the judges. There were no jurors or a place for jurors. Devona had been correct. The Council would be her judge and jury. She prayed that she wasn’t right about the last bit as well.
Kyrielle pointed to the chairs behind the defense. “Guardians, please take a seat here. Devona, follow me.”
Devona gave one last look at her guardians, knowing that this might be the last time that they were her guardians. None of them looked at her as they took their seats. How could they have distanced themselves from her already? Even Kai looked unemotional and that broke her heart. Devona followed the angel to the other side of the gate. Without a word, Kyrielle motioned to the defense chair. Devona walked past her, making sure not to bump her as she walked by. She took her seat with a heavy sigh.
“If you would excuse me,” said Kyrielle, “I will let them know that you are ready.”
Kyrielle bowed one more time, then turned, and left out a smaller wooden door. Devona’s heart was racing like a steam engine. Take that back, more like the engine of a light speed space ship. Her palms were sweaty and slid against the smooth wood of the table. She looked up at the table for the judges.
The bench was taller than a normal judge’s bench. She was already sure that the Council made it that way so that they could look down on everyone in the room. Just the look of that alone was enough to intimidate Devona.
It would be the great Council of Zakiah Adara that would summon someone and then make them wait. Perhaps this was a part of the trial, see how patient she was. They had no idea they were letting someone sit and stir who got tired waiting in line at the grocery store.
The wooden door opened. Each of the guardians immediately stood, but Devona remained seated. Already she didn’t like the Council. She wasn’t going to stand for them. That was until Kestrel slapped Devona’s shoulder. She looked back to see her guardian glaring down at her.
“It would be unwise to piss them off already,” whispered Kestrel.
She was right, so Devona rose. She wasn’t happy about it, but she did it.
They entered in a line. Each of them was dressed in a long white robe with their head hidden behind a hood. There were five of them, Devona couldn’t tell if they were all men, women, or a mix of both. They walked behind the bench to appear again at the top. Each member of the Council turned at the same time toward Devona. They seated, waved for Devon and the guardians to do the same. Then they removed their hoods all at the same time.
It was a mix of men and women. Three men and two women to be exact. They each looked completely different, yet the same. From their facial features and skin tones, Devona could not distinguish their race or what their nationality would be on Earth. The only thing that truly set them apart was the colors of their hair. A man with brown hair sat on the far left, followed by a man with black hair, then a woman with white, a man with blond hair, and a woman with cherry red hair.
Oddly enough, they had no eye color at all, their eyes were pure white.
From their seats high above her they were exactly what they had wanted to be: intimidating. They looked so normal, yet, so scary.
The woman with white hair spoke first. “Welcome, Devona. I’m sure you know why you are here.” Devona nodded. “A higher power in Zakiah Adara has challenged your divinity. This means, that we as the Council, the highest power in Zakiah Adara, must weed out the bad seeds.”
“You think I’m a bad seed?” asked Devona.
“Devona,” Kestrel grumbled under her breath.
“We need to find that out. Now,” she paused. Each member opened a leather bond book that lay in front of each of them at the same time. Devona desperately wanted to know what was on the pages. They each pulled a feather out of an ink holder and turned toward the woman with white hair. She nodded.
“May the higher power that has challenged Devona please step forward.”
The golden doors creaked open. Devona turned back and gasped at the sight of the woman with long light blue hair. Her foot steps were silent as she made her way through the rows of chairs. She opened the gate and moved to stand behind the prosecution.
This couldn’t be real. Not…
“I, Queen Oriana, have challenged Devona’s divinity.”