Part Fourteen: Heartbroken
It was a very awkward boat ride.
Kestrel and Kai weren’t idiots. As soon as Devona and Akki joined them on the road again, they knew what was going on. Neither one of them spoke to Devona or Akki the entire ride to the dock. Even once they were there, the only time they spoke was to ask, “Where should the room be?” “I’ll see you at the room.” “Don’t stay out too late.”
Awkward to say the least.
Devona watched the waves as they crashed against the side of the boat. She remembered the boat rides she had taken with her family over the years. They went fishing with her grandfather as her grandmother waited on the shore, sunbathing of course. Brian catching the largest fish, as he always did. Lizzy swimming out farther than her parents allowed, and Devona throwing up over the side. Devona was always stuck in the middle. Being the middle child would do that.
Brian was perfect in her parent’s eyes, and Lizzy was constantly getting in trouble, so she was always the center of attention. Devona didn’t mind much though. It was kind of nice knowing that she was the reliable one. The one that would always be there, always get her work in on time, the one who didn’t have grand events that her parents had to pay for, the one who never caused her parents to have to go to school for parent teacher conferences. Now she worried about her parents. It must have been such a shock when Devona disappeared. Lizzy, maybe, Brian, well he was older so it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but Devona…
Were they heartbroken? Had they noticed? She was sure by now they would have. But, more than anything, she wondered if she would ever see them again. The White Dragon had told her that her suspicions were true. The Council wouldn’t allow her to just return home once the war was over. What if she really couldn’t see them again?
She tried not to think about it. She looked over at Kestrel who was silent at her side. Once again the guardian was forced to babysit Devona. Funny how a job that Devona had taken so seriously at one time was now being forced upon her.
Devona sighed and looked back out at the ocean. “You know something I find funny?”
“How in life I try to be the center of attention. At school I was always loud and outgoing, same here I guess. But, when it comes to my family, I blend in. I don’t want to be the center. I want to blend into the wallpaper. Why do you think that is?”
Kestrel leaned her back against the railing and crossed her arms over her chest. Devona knew that she wouldn’t like Kestrel’s answer, but the guardian still didn’t give one. This was something she would have to figure out on her own.
Time continued to drag on. Devona watched the sun go from high noon to the horizon on that deck. The entire time, Kestrel was silent at her side. How could she even bring the subject up?
“How could you have such disregard for the rules?” Well, it seemed she didn’t have to.
Devona sighed, “I tried to follow the rules for months and it didn’t work.”
“I didn’t see you trying very hard. Kissing both the men that you knew were off limits and in the end throwing yourself all over Ulric. Even if you don’t like the Council or their rules, Queen Oriana asked you to not get into a relationship as well.”
It was true, but…
Devona lowered her head a bit. “Last time we saw the queen, she told me that I can’t change fate. She understood that.”
“She seemed to think it was okay if Akki and I got together.”
Kestrel threw her arms to her side and sighed loudly. “Devona, listen to yourself! You can’t just make something like that up. Did she or did she not tell you that it would be okay?”
“She just said that I can’t stop fate.”
“And you think that being with him is your destiny?”
Kestrel shook her head. “You are a child.”
“I’m not that much younger than you.”
“But we are raised differently here. I was going to be married at fourteen to a man I hardly knew. Did you ever have to deal with that? No. I honestly can’t believe that he would fall for it, of all people. Or fall for you.”
Devona narrowed her eyes at Kestrel, “Excuse me?”
“You’re selfish, manipulative, and so bratty that I can hardly stand to be around you. How someone like Ulric, who is an intelligent man who has lived through so many hardships and given up so much in life, could fall for you is beyond me.”
Kestrel shook her head and left. Devona was alone, just like she wasn’t supposed to be. Was Kestrel right? Of course she was. Akki was way too good for Devona. He actually considered others when making decisions. Devona, on the other hand, didn’t feel guilty at all about being with Akki. It felt right, and that was all that mattered. Or at least, it was all that had mattered to her.
Devona hung her head and sighed. What was she going to do?
Akki tried his best to ignore the approaching guardian. He already had too many things to think about without Kai’s anger on top of it. He had been alone on the top deck, practicing with his sword, until Kai interrupted him. Kai stopped a few feet away and watched for a few passing moments before he finally spoke.
“What the hell is wrong with you? Were you planning on making your move all along?”
Akki sighed and looked over at Kai. It would be one of the few times when he would actually talk with Kai. This time, Kai deserved an explanation.
“No, it wasn’t planned. I hadn’t wanted anything to happen at all.”
“Then why let it? Why make me swear that I won’t do anything? Just so you could have her for yourself?”
Akki glared at Kai, “She doesn’t want you Kai, but it doesn’t matter anyway.”
“Why the hell not!”
“It’s over. I can’t have another situation like Ana.” Not this soon.
“So now you’re going to break her heart? Because Ana turned out to be the bitch who tried to kill her? Oh, real classy Akki.”
Akki took a step toward Kai, ready to fight him this time without holding back. “This has nothing to do with you.”
“Wrong. The second that this involved the Princess, it had everything to do with me. Above everything else, we have a job to do. Don’t forget that. For now, I have to live with you and your dirty ways, but when it’s all over I am going to kill you.”
Akki looked away from him.
“Stay away from her Akki, and don’t you dare break her heart.”
Akki was silent and Kai left, knowing it was already too late to say he wouldn’t.
Rose sat alone at the lunch table. Her normal companion was not there today, and she hadn’t been there all week. It had been five days since that night at the carnival. Devona hadn’t been seen since. Of course, Rose felt like it was her fault. Why had she left Devona alone? She should have asked if Devona could give her a ride and not gone with that boy, which had been a horribly bad idea. Apparently he had a thing for 16 year olds. Luckily, Rose had mace in her purse so it all turned out okay. Devona, on the other hand, could have been raped and killed. No one knew what happened to her.
The rest of the school sure thought they knew. All the boys just laughed, saying, “Who cares? She probably just ran away.”
If they knew Devona at all, they would have known that could not be the case. She never did anything to upset her family and there was no way she would have just taken off. Rose wasn’t too entirely sure that Mark was innocent either. Perhaps he did meet up with Devona and was angry about her dumping him. What if he had done something?
She jumped at the sound of his voice. Speak of the devil…
“Hi, Mark,” she said.
“Mind if I sit down?”
Rose slowly looked up at him. The senior stood next to her with his lunch tray full of food. The boy who had dated her friend hadn’t said more than “hey” to her previously. Now wanted to have lunch? This was very suspicious.
She really didn’t want him to, but before she could answer, he walked around and sat across from her. Why had he even asked? Mark let out an exasperated sigh, leaning back in the chair. Rose crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at him.
“Stressful week, huh?” he asked.
“What do you want?” asked Rose.
“I just was wondering how you are handling this.”
“I’m fine. Not as good as you I would assume.”
“What are you talking about? My girlfriend just went missing.”
“Your ‘girlfriend’” she said with air quotes and all, “was about to break up with you because you were cheating on her with my sister.”
“Rose, that is cruel. I can understand you thinking that about me, but your sister?”
His words just made her hatred for him grow even more. She narrowed her eyes at him intently. “Kimmy told me everything that night after the carnival. How she liked you for years and how it broke her heart when you asked Devona out. How you knew that it would upset Kim since you knew she hated Devona. That you never wanted to be with my sister, you were just using her for what you knew you couldn’t get from Devona. You took advantage of both of them, two people who are very important to me. Now, tell me why I should possibly care about what you have to say or how you feel?”
His eyes took on a genuinely sad look. “Because, believe it or not, I’m worried about Devona. I’m sure Kimmy didn’t tell you about how that same night at the carnival I ended it with her. I was going to focus on Devona.”
“Something you should have been doing from the very beginning.”
“You’re right. I messed up. I wanted everything, until I realized that I already had it. Rose, I’m worried sick about her. I haven’t been able to sleep since I heard about it. I’m doing terrible at practice, you can ask coach.”
“Yeah, I’ll get right on that.”
He sighed, “Rose, I just want you to know that I’m here if you want to talk to someone. We’re equally worried about her.”
“I doubt that. Mark. She has been my best friend for years. Don’t try and compare how this is affecting you to how this is affecting me. Now, if you would please leave, I have lunch I need to try and eat.”
He had enough and she was glad. Mark collected his things and left the table. He found some other football jocks laughing and throwing food about the table to sit with. Normally he would be laughing right along with them, but he kept looking at Rose.
She rolled her eyes and played with her mash-potatoes. It surprised her that he was this upset, but it didn’t change things. He was a jerk who cheated on her best friend with her sister. No matter the puppy dog eyes that he gave her, begging for her to feel sorry for him, she wouldn’t. Hell, she couldn’t.
She put her head in her hands. Was Mark blaming himself as well for Devona’s disappearance? It could be. If he had been with her that night it might not have happened. But if she really ran away…
“She didn’t,” Rose whispered.
Even that seemed more like a possibility. At least that way she had more of a chance of being alive. Her best friend could be dead and all the other kids were saying she just ran away.
Her cell phone rang. Usually it would have been turned off, but due to recent events, she was leaving it on in school. She quickly pulled it out of her pocket. It was Brian, Devona’s brother. He told Rose he would call her if there was any more information…and here it was.
She quickly answered, “Hello?”
“Rose? I just wanted to let you know there’s a bit more info. Some lady who worked at the carnival has come forward. She says she saw Devona with a man who ran into her and then carried her off.”
Rose gasped. “Why didn’t she say anything earlier?”
“I don’t know, little pissed about it taking her so long to come forward. I gotta go. We’re at the police station now, I just wanted you to know.”
Rose closed the phone. Hopes that Devona had just runaway fled her mind. She had been kidnapped.
And she might never see her best friend again.
The desert was not what Devona had been expecting at all. Besides the sand everywhere, wind, and hardly any life, which was what she had been expecting, but she hadn’t been expecting the extreme cold. She was regretting being excited about the winter. She wanted snow not just the freezing temperatures.
The desert was large and expansive. All around them was tan sand. There was no speck of color other than the ground and the blue sky. Every now and again, a bird would fly overhead, which Devona could only assume was a vulture.
The Eighth Constellation was a barren place. There were hardly any people at the dock when they arrived. Most of the people who had taken the boat remained to continue to the Ninth Constellation. They were the only ones crazy enough to try and cross the desert.
The only indication that they were even on the right path were a few random road-markers they had to follow. There were times when they would arrive at the wrong marker and would have to back track to the previous one. Devona already missed that horrible forest.
She rode with Kai now which felt extremely awkward. However, Kestrel wouldn’t even look at her after their conversation on the boat and Akki was avoiding her as well. He hadn’t spoken to her much after she found him in the woods. She understood, or at least she tried to understand, but it still hurt. She finally had him but now there was an even larger wall between them. Devona wished that Akki knew that she was not Ana and she would never hurt him like that. Or, was he worried about hurting her?
Devona sighed, “This place is boring.”
Kai laughed, “Tell me about it.”
“Tell me this is one of those smaller Constellations…right?”
Kai scowled at her, “A Princess shouldn’t curse.”
He laughed again. Kai was handling she and Akki being together extremely well. If anyone was going to be angry, Devona thought for sure that it would be him. But, he was still there, riding with her, cracking jokes. He was the only one of the group that would do so. However, she would catch him shooting Akki dirty looks every once in a while.
Still, after all the recent events, she was used to feeling safe with them. Even as many times as she had been attacked, they always protected her. The three of them were her safety net in this world, whether they liked her, loved her, or hated her.
All of that was about to change.
Across the horizon Devona saw another set of horses coming toward them. She squinted, trying her best to make them out, but all she saw was white gleaming in the sun. White armor? At least that meant the approaching people were not Black Dragons.
It took a forever for them to come face to face with the White Dragon troops. They were directly in front of the group and stopped, blocking their path. Each of the guardians was extremely annoyed but only one spoke.
“May we help you?” asked Kestrel.
One of the men took off his helmet, revealing a beautiful man with long blond hair. He had piercing blue eyes and the stubble on his chin accented his features. He was beautiful, until he spoke.
“We are here to arrest Ulric Akki,” said the man.
“Are you kidding me?” asked Devona. “Haven’t we already done this?”
The man ignored Devona’s comment and looked toward Akki. “We received word that you were traveling to this Constellation, and we cannot allow you to continue on your journey any longer. Not after what you’ve done to this Constellation and the world.”
“I understand,” said Akki.
Devona glared at him, “What? Are you crazy? No!” She looked back at the man. “There is no way in hell you’re arresting him.”
“Why is that?” asked the man.
“Because he is a guardian of the Princess.”
“Devona!” snapped Kestrel.
“No, this is ridiculous. I’m tired of people berating him for what happened before when he is obviously making up for it now. If this man is a follower of Oriana then he will let Akki live.”
She knew it was a low blow, but she had to try. Queen Oriana had pardoned Akki. They had the papers to prove it! Yet, this was the second time he was going to arrested for his previous crimes. Was he so damn popular beforehe was her guardian? Or was Mushin at work here again?
“I understand your plea. However, I cannot ignore my orders. Ulric Akki, if you would please come with us.”
She wanted to scream. She wanted to attack the man, use her sword for once. She wanted to cry, to beg him not to go. But, she looked at Akki and he was calm. Silently, he led his horse to the man’s side. The troops turned and were leaving them behind.
“You can take him,” shouted Devona, “but don’t think you will do so without a fight!”
Devona kicked the horse and it followed after the troops. Kai quickly pulled the horse to a stop.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
She looked up at him, “We’re going after them. Whoever gave this order will have to change their mind once they know who he is.”
“They do know who he is, thus the problem.”
Devona could understand Kai’s point in not wanting to follow. But when she looked over at Kestrel, who was silent, it shocked her. The woman who had defended Akki up and down from the very beginning was letting him go without a fight.
“Kestrel?” asked Devona.
Kestrel sighed, “Alright, let’s see if we can do anything about this.”
They stayed close behind the troops and the troops knew they were there. However, none of them seemed to acknowledge their stalkers. Devona wondered if they believed her or not. Either way, it didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to just allow them to take Akki.
After another two hours in the desert, they came upon a town. It was huge in comparison to the others they have come across. It was more like a kingdom than a town. There were a large amount of houses circling a large palace that lay in the middle. It looked as though the old stone buildings were taken directly from the Middle East. Even the palace had large golden domes rising toward heaven.
They rode through the houses, toward the palace. People emerged from their houses, staring at the group in awe. Some people shouted harsh words and throw things at Akki. He had no reaction. Now Devona was beginning to see what he lived through every day before he met her and it tore her heart apart.
The palace loomed above them made of marble and gold. It was beautiful, but Devona really didn’t care at that moment. She didn’t have time to take in the statues that lined the walkway with extended wings or the intricate blue etching around the entire building. No, all she saw was the man in front of her. The man she loved who was being taken into custody. She had to stop this.
Once at the large golden gates for the palace, they opened to the troops. Devona was rather surprised when she, Kestrel, and Kai were also allowed to pass without question. It was just about as strange as the troops not caring that they were being followed.
Then, she finally understood. They knew that Devona would go after him. Was this another test?
The troops dismounted, as did Akki. The man that had spoken to them prior grabbed Akki and tied his hands behind his back. Devona leapt from her horse just in time to see him shoved toward a large wooden door. She quickly followed as Kai and Kestrel struggled to keep up.
They entered the room, which was a large throne room. Devona stopped just in the entrance to look around. More white marble with blue designs lined the interior. A golden rug on the ground made a path to a golden throne. Upon its seat sat an elderly man with a long white beard. He was very plain in comparison to the rest of the palace. Wrinkles lined his face, one for every year of his life. He was dressed in a long white satin robe with no designs on it. His cracked nails stroked the arm of his chair as he watched Devona with red eyes.
The soldier they had spoken with fell to his knee, crossing an arm over his chest. The elderly man nodded and the man returned to his feet.
“Have you brought what I asked?” asked the elderly man.
“Yes my king. This man is the Black Wolf.”
One of the soldiers shoved Akki forward. His hair was tousled a bit, but he was able to still stand tall before the king. Instead of the strength that Devona was used to seeing in him, there was defeat. What had become of him? Since when had the man that she had known so well disappeared?
“Black Wolf…” The distain in the old man’s voice was unavoidable. Akki nodded. “I’m sure you know why you are here. For so long you have avoided capture and used Queen Oriana as an excuse for your freedom. Papers with signatures will not save you this time.”
“I understand, sir,” said Akki.
“You will be dealt with as you should have been years ago.”
Devona stepped forward now. Kestrel tried to grab her, but Devona slipped from her grasp. She moved past the troops until she stood next to Akki. He didn’t look at her even as she fought for him.
“Excuse me.” As soon as Devona said it, she heard the attitude of a teenager in her tone. The elderly man raised a bushy eyebrow at her. “Uh…sorry sir, but this man is not a killer. That wasn’t really him. He was under Mushin’s control.”
“Control that he willing gave to Mushin, but please continue.”
This old guy was smart, how was she going to convince him to let Akki go? She only had one really good argument, and considering the soldiers knew and still took Akki in…she had a feeling it wouldn’t work. Though, she still had to try.
“He’s also a guardian,” she said.
There were a few mummers around her. Servants turned to each other, eyes wide. How could he be a guardian? She knew they were thinking such horrible things about him. However, they didn’t know him. They knew the rumors about a man who didn’t even exist anymore.
The elderly king rose to his feet. The soldiers around all fell to their knees and the servants bowed, but Devona still stood tall. It wasn’t the pride of a Princess that kept her on her feet, but the love in her heart.
He sighed and looked at Devona with crimson eyes. “Princess, I truly am sorry. However, these orders are set in stone. Whether he is a guardian or not, he must face his fate.”
Was this his fate? Was this the same fate that had just brought them together and brought Devona to Zakiah Adara? Why, then, was fate so damn cruel?
“Fate can change,” she said knowing that wasn’t true here.
“No, it cannot, and this will not.”
“Will you at least hear me out?” She was desperate now. However, he still looked solemn. The man shook his head and took a step toward Devona. Her back went rigid as he neared her.
He placed a hand on her shoulder. “These orders do not come from me alone. I was given these orders from an angel.”
Her heart froze. “An angel?”
“Yes, through her, I was given the word of the Council. This will be done in their name.”
She only knew of one angel that worked to the Council…but it couldn’t possibly be her. “The angel…?”
“Kyrielle delivered the message.”
Fate of the heart is unbendable…
“I’m sorry Princess.”
She had been betrayed.
Kyrielle, the woman who pushed her so hard to be with Akki was tearing them apart. Why? What was the point? Did she have to play with Devona so? Did she really have to make her think that things might possibly work out with him? Why was she so cruel? Did she know of the orders then? Why hadn’t she warned them?
The same soldier grabbed Akki from behind and shoved him toward another golden door. Devona looked up to meet him eye to eye. He looked sad now, but still made no protest. Everything she had come to know was falling apart before her, and no one else seemed to care.
She looked back at Kestrel and Kai. They both stood there in silence. Kestrel was wary, awkwardly stroking her arms. Her lip was tucked in where she was biting it. Kai actually looked mad, but only watched.
Devona wouldn’t take being a bystander.
She ran toward Akki, but was pulled to a stop but another soldier. The man wrapped his arms her shoulders, pulling her arms to her chest. Devona struggled against him, but the armor would not bend. All she could do was breathe as Akki was taken from her.
He gave her one last pleading look. His lips finally moved.
The door slammed shut.
“This is the way it must be.”
This time, her tears were well deserved. Her body slumped beneath her, with only the man behind her keeping her on her feet. He lowered her to the ground so she was on her knees clawing at the marble. Love was horrible. She didn’t want it anymore. What happened to the happy times before she was in love with him? The flirting, the jokes, the freedom. Now, she was left with darkness around her heart.
It wouldn’t have hurt any less if she didn’t know that she loved him.
“Devona,” said Kestrel.
Her hand rested on Devona’s back, but Devona wouldn’t look at her. All she saw was white and tears. She closed her eyes, trying to ignore the pain.
“Devona,” Kestrel said again, “you have to try and calm down. He is just being arrested. We may not see him as much but he’ll be alright.”
“This is not just an arrest,” said the elderly king.
Devona stopped crying. Her blotchy eyes looked up at the king. Towering above her like a great statue, the man looked down with crimson eyes. He crossed his arms over his chest and nodded.
“What do you mean?” asked Kestrel.
“This is preparation for an execution.”
Kestrel’s jaw dropped. “You are joking right?”
“I assure you, I am not.”
“But he is a guardian!”
“And, as I informed your Princess, these orders are direct from the Council. If you have a problem with it, take it up with them.”
“And when is this execution?”
“Tomorrow, at sunset.”
Just over twenty four hours to save Akki’s life.
“That is not nearly enough time to travel back to the Sixth Constellation!” shouted Kestrel.
“Perhaps that was done for a reason. Retire to your quarters for the evening. You may stay if you like, but we will not think rude of you if you leave.”
Devona paced the room. It was beautiful, but whatever, it didn’t matter. Nor did she care about the pathway she was trenching into the emerald carpet.
“Why stay?” asked Kai.
“We have to figure something out,” said Devona.
Kestrel sighed and leaned against the wall. “This is an order from the Council. There is nothing we can do to stop it.”
Devona shook her head, “This is ridiculous, you guys! We have to do something.”
“Devona, the orders are set. We can’t fight against that,” said Kai.
Devona narrowed her eyes at him, “Yeah, you’re finally getting what you have always wanted now, aren’t you?”
“I rather kill him myself. But I’ll not stop those who want to set things right by his death.”
“Even though we need him?”
“Kestrel and I can protect you.”
Devona scoffed, “Yeah, and you two have been doing a swimmingly good job at that. You, half saving me once, and Kestrel trying to kill me. Amazing guardians, really.”
“Admit it Devona,” said Kestrel.
Devona heard the distain in her voice, but she looked at Kestrel anyway. The tightness at the corners of her eyes spoke a thousand words. It was almost as if she and Kai were…jealous.
“You wouldn’t be so upset if this weren’t Akki.”
That was it. Devona could feel the bile rising in her throat. The color of Kestrel’s hair blurred with the rest of the room. Through the toxin, Devona could see few objects.
An empty glass on the table nearly jumped into Devona’s hand and then leapt free to be shattered against the wall. Kestrel and Kai both shielded themselves from the flying glass, though it was far enough away not to hurt either of them.
“What is wrong with you two? Some comrades you are. You both rather see him dead than doing what you both cannot. Are you jealous that he is better than you at protecting me? Are you just jealous of him in general? So much so that you would actually let him die?
“For both of your information, were this any one of you, any one of my guardians, I would be fighting just as hard! I’m sorry that I actually have feelings for him, but I have feelings for each of you. It might be different, but I consider you all to be my friends. Yes, even you Kestrel.
“So, don’t you dare give me that look like I’m the one at fault. I am doing the right thing. I am fighting for not only the man I love, but a friend, a comrade, and a guardian. I am fighting for him like I would fight for any one of you!”
Neither one of the guardians said a word. At least now she had, hopefully, made them see the truth. Still, Akki was going to die, and she had no idea how to stop it. Or, if she could.
She went to the golden door and pushed against it. Locked. Sighing, she leaned her forehead against the golden sheathed wood. Was there a way out of this?
Devona looked up at the ceiling, wishing she could conjure Kyrielle. She had to find out why the angel would deliver such an order and not warn them. Devona felt like a fool for actually thinking she could be friends with an angel. Now, she was alone again. Her guardians turned against her, the man she loved giving up and ready to die, the angel she had put so much faith and hope in betrayed her. Home never felt so far away.
Mushin was alone with Baskis again, this time on the Eighth Constellation. They stood on a balcony atop a large tower at the center of the city. She was watching the people below, trying to find the Black Dragons amongst the crowd. Mushin turned to the fallen angel, eager for answers. It drove her crazy that she didn’t have control over her own army.
The troops had moved into the kingdom on the Constellation. They were intergrading themselves into the workings of the city quickly. So much so that the people who lived there thought they always belonged.
They weren’t taking over the city…what were they planning?
Baskis laughed and headed into the tower. At the top of the stone structure was an item Mushin never wanted to see again. Yet, there lay the blade made from silver, decorated in sapphire.
“Kyriakos, right?” asked Baskis. Mushin tucked back her wings. “The sword of Azul. Do you see the irony now?”
“Is the sword why we’re here? What a ridiculous reason.”
“It’s not the sword.” Baskis smiled at Mushin. “It’s the city.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your troops know, trust them.”
“I don’t trust you.”
“Obviously, with good reason. However, you have no choice in this. Might as well just sit back and wait for perfection.”
“If you think that this one plan is going to turn the tide of the war so greatly, why haven’t you done something earlier? Why was I put in charge of the war and not you?”
It was sore subject, and Mushin knew it. Baskis lost her smile and flared her wings. For once it felt nice to show the bitch that Mushin wasn’t afraid of her either.
“Baskis, these are my people, I have a right to know what is going on. Then, I will decide if it is a good plan or not.”
“Oh, it is, believe me.”
“Then leave and let it be.”
Baskis narrowed her eyes at Mushin. “I’m not falling for your tricks.”
“Do you have to be here for the plan? If you do, not quite that great of a plan now is it?”
“I don’t have to—”
“Then go. My troops will follow their orders. They’re much more obedient than I am.”
Baskis glared at her, “You had better not screw this up Mushin…”
In a blaze of black fire, the fallen angel disappeared from the tower. Mushin looked down at the blade again and sneered. Azul…someone she hated more than Baskis. It would be great to kill the Princess with that sword, were she able to even touch it.
However, Mushin would watch this plan from afar. From there she would decide how she felt about it. From there she would choose what she would tweak.
All she knew was that one or more guardians would not make it out of the city alive. Or maybe even the Princess.
Devona hadn’t slept that night. She was sitting on the edge of her bed when a soldier opened her door. He peeked in and then entered, bowing before her. Lies, it was all a lie. He had no respect for her or her position, none of them did. So much for the world being glad she was there.
“Princess, I was coming to see if you would like to see the prisoner,” he said.
Devona looked over at Kestrel and Kai, who were both passed out in chairs. How dare they sleep? She looked back at the soldier and nodded. She left them where they slept, knowing she had to do this on her own.
They passed through so many rooms that Devona knew she would never make it back on her own. Besides, her mind was wondering, trying desperately to think of something. Yet, she always reached the same conclusion: nothing.
Moments later, they were in another dungeon. This one was larger than the one they were in before, with many more cells. Perhaps the Council chose this city because they were used to arresting, and executing people.
His cell was the last one on the right: far away from the others being held. Akki was sitting on the ground, his head tucked low. The soldier showed Devona the cell and then left. She was surprised that he left her alone with him, but maybe he knew there really was nothing she could do to change his fate.
She wrapped her hands around the bars and watched him. He was defeated. She never thought she would ever see him look like that. He used to stand so tall and strong. Now he was alone, even more so than she was.
Devona leaned against the cool metal and sighed. He slowly raised his head up to look at her. Golden met blue once again, but there was no fire this time. No spark that she was used to feeling with him. Now, there was only sorrow.
“Akki,” she whispered.
“It probably would have been best if you hadn’t come to see me,” he said.
She shook her head. “I can’t just leave.”
He lowered his head again. “I don’t want you to see it.”
“It’s not going to happe—”
“It is going to happen, Devona. It has to.”
“How can you just give up? After everything you’ve been fighting for the last five years, I thought you would defend yourself.”
He looked up at her, “And say what exactly? That I’m not a murderer? That I wasn’t a follower of Mushin? That I don’t deserve to die for what I’ve done?”
“That you’re a guardian with a good heart who has given everything to protect me, who feels horrible about what happened, and someone who was under Mushin’s control when those murders took place.”
He shook his head, “I don’t want to fight, not anymore.”
It made more sense now. After realizing the truth about Ana, he lost his will to fight. It was her death that pushed him on. Devona was just a side part of that. He saw Devona as his chance to set things right. So he could protect her the way he couldn’t protect Ana. Now, Akki didn’t know what to believe anymore.
It still wasn’t right.
“Didn’t you once say you would die to keep me safe?” He didn’t answer. She grabbed the bars even tighter. “Don’t you think that dying now will make me less safe? Akki, you are the only one who has been there for me this entire time. You’ve saved me more times than I can count. I’m not Ana and I’m glad that I’m not, but I do want you with me. Please, don’t let your death be for nothing.”
He leaned his head back against the wall. “It’s not for nothing, it will set things right. It’s for all of those that I killed, for Kai’s family and for my own. Devona, it’s over.”
She was slowly losing hope. “At least try.”
“There’s no reason to.”
No reason to? Wasn’t she a reason? She glared at him intently. “What if I order you to?”
He sighed, “Please, just let it go.”
She let go of the bars. This was worthless, pointless. There was no way to change his mind. The man had already chosen to die, just like he had before he met her.
“Did you know that I never fought against Kai?” he asked. He was looking past her as if she weren’t even there. “I always just let him attack me. There were so many times that I could have just ended it and been free of his constant harassment. But I didn’t. Didn’t want to. Didn’t care to. It was a constant reminder of what I had done, whether I needed it or not.”
She balled her hands into fists. She felt extremely betrayed, even more so than with the other two. “You haven’t wanted to live for a long time. You only made me think that I’m the reason you are still alive.”
Finally he looked at her again. He shook head. “No, you were the reason I wanted to stay alive. If I didn’t, I had chances to just die, but I fought for you.”
“Then why give up now?”
“I’m over fighting, I told you that. I can’t take you and the others down with me. Ana was the crux, after knowing who she is…”
“I told you! I’m not Ana!”
“I don’t want you to be. I want you to stay alive. Listen to Kestrel and Kai—”
“Stay close to them. Don’t let them let you out of their sights.”
Her words echoed off the stone walls. The soldier looked at her from the end of the hall. A few heads of other prisoners peeked out at her. She held her face as straight as her muscles could, she refused to let them quiver and flex. She couldn’t believe he was going to give up because of that lying bitch.
The woman who was to blame for all of this, Kyrielle’s words came to her again.
“Do you believe in fate?” asked Devona.
“I don’t want to. I don’t want to believe that the Lord chose this path for me. I don’t want to believe that the war we are fighting so hard in is predetermined.”
“Someone once told me that fate of the heart is unbendable. That I was destined to love you if I wanted to or not, just as you were destined to be my guardian. I can’t possibly believe or accept that the same fate that finally brought us together would rip us apart so easily.”
He looked down to the ground. “You’re young, you’ll find someone else.”
“I don’t want to!”
Tears began to fall again. Not even when fighting for his life could she stay strong? She always broke down. Some Princess, some savior, she was. He was barely visible through the cloudiness of her eyes. It was as if she were opening her eyes under water, with the stinging and all. She knew he was there, but he was nothing more than a blur.
She wiped her eyes and looked at him through sticky eyelashes. Suddenly, clarity lit his face and he slowly shook his head. Devona was confused. She narrowed her eyes at him, but before she could ask, he spoke again.
“The voice, that woke me up all those years ago, it said something about that.”
Devona shook her head. “About what?”
“Fate of the heart.”
“You remembered that just now?”
He nodded. “She said, ‘not even fate can change the mind of a heart.’ Who told you about such fate?”
“The woman who ordered your death.”
He shook his head, “She wasn’t the one who woke me.”
“But, this is my fate now. You tried the best you could, so don’t think this is your fault. I made the mistakes years ago and I am finally paying for my crimes. This is just.”
“I just don’t want to lose you.”
He finally got to his feet. Straightening his back so he standing tall again, he slowly walked over to her. Devona shook as he neared her. It all halted when he reached through the bars and took her hands. She gasped as he pulled against the bars and wrapped his arms around her. So right and yet so horribly wrong.
“Hey!” called out the soldier.
Akki stepped back. Devona stood there, alone, watching him.
The soldier was at her side again, “Princess, it’s time to go. Preparations must begin.”
She looked at the soldier with such distain. She wanted nothing more than to punch him in the face, steal the keys, and make a break for it. Though, with the other soldiers at the end of the hall, she was sure that plan wouldn’t work either. Nothing would.
“Can I at least say goodbye?”
She launched herself against the bars. She reached through and grabbed Akki’s shirt, pulling him close. Her lips pressed against his, desperately and urgently. Akki wrapped his hands in her hair, holding on tightly. Almost an instant later it was over.
She looked into golden eyes one last time, or at least she hoped it wasn’t the last time.
“Goodbye,” she whispered.
His own eyes looked glassy as well. “Goodbye, Devona.”
“I love you.”
“Please take care.”
She was impressed with herself that she did not cry, until she realized she was beyond tears. As the soldier directed her away, she kept looking back at Akki. She saw his head looking out at her, then his hands, then nothing. Nothing was what she felt. She was numb from her toe nails to the ends of her hair.
Kestrel and Kai were awake and waiting for her when she got back. Neither said anything as Devona entered and went back over to sit on the bed.
At sunset, Akki would be dead.
Only a few hours left. Akki had already been moved from his cell to the holding area. At least five guards blocked the door, and Devona was sure there were even more inside. After he was moved, they finally allowed them out of the room. She now stood near the door where he was being held, but far enough away that the guards wouldn’t stop her.
Kestrel was at her side. “I can’t believe this is really going to happen.”
Devona had no time for Kestrel’s sudden sympathy.
“I thought you wanted this to happen.”
Kestrel shook her head, “I didn’t want it to happen. I just knew we couldn’t stop it.”
Devona turned and walked away. Kestrel followed her.
“Leave me alone,” snapped Devona.
Devona stopped, causing Kestrel to almost run right into her. Devona glared at the guardian. Finally Kestrel wanted to actually be around her? To protect her? Devona wasn’t going to let that happen, not without a fight anyway.
“Kestrel, I think I’ll be fine. The people here are more worried about killing Akki than me. I just need some time to myself.”
“Please,” she said in a stern voice.
Kestrel sighed. The guardian nodded and walked past Devona. It felt great to finally be left alone and horrible all at the same time.
Devona looked back at the guards one last time, and then left. The heels of her boots clicked against the marble floor, letting the whole palace know where she was. Even in her retreat she couldn’t truly be alone. She had a feeling that alone was something she would never be again.
She came to a stop in front of a large decorated door. It was made of gold, like many other things in the palace, but the middle of the door had been removed of gold and replaced with stained glass. On which there was a depiction of the battle of dragons. A white, red, and black dragon fought it out on the glass.
The white and black were fighting fiercely while the red watched, ready to attack as well. It was just as the White and Black Dragons fought so hard against each other and the Red Dragons were in the middle, not sure which of the sides to fight for.
The story compelled her and called to her. Devona’s hand found the diamond shaped knob and turned it before she realized what she was doing. Inside the door was a small chapel. A few rows of pews led the way to the shrine at the center. There was a podium, and behind it was even more stained glass. This one had the image of a woman with long white hair and a blue dragon behind her.
Devona walked the aisle to the podium. There, she fell to her knees and grasped the bottom of the stand. This place was as close to a church as she had seen in Zakiah Adara. Now, she prayed with every ounce of her heart.
“Please, don’t let this happen. I know that he made some mistakes, but we need him.” She paused and looked up at the glass. “I need him. I don’t know if I can do this without him.”
“You can,” said a voice.
She looked back to see an angel standing behind her. It was the one who ordered Akki’s death.
“Kyrielle,” whispered Devona with distain.
“I heard about the sentencing and I came as soon as I could. The Council is strict on when I can and cannot leave,” said the angel. She was there in all her holy glory. White wings, purple gown, blue fire eyes, but to Devona she represented all that was evil in this world.
“When you heard about it? You ordered it!” snapped Devona.
Kyrielle’s face turned sour. “What are you talking about, Princess?”
How dare she? Show up out of a nowhere and then pretend like she has no idea what is going on? Damn her, and the Council for always changing their mind. For expecting the world to be okay with whatever was ordered because they said so.
“Don’t lie to me Kyrielle. The king told us that you delivered the order for Akki’s arrest.”
Her wings flared. “Princess, you must believe this, I had nothing to do with that. The Council recently received word of his capture and I came to see how you are doing. I did not order such a thing.”
“I am not. Even if it were the case, I would have the decency to admit it.”
At that moment, the world shattered again. If it wasn’t the Council who ordered his death, then who was it?
“This worries me,” said Kyrielle. She quickly moved to Devona’s side, looking up at the stained glass. Devona followed her gaze to look at the woman in white once more. “There are few people in this world that can change their appearance, and I can only think of one who would do such a thing.”
“Baskis, one of the three fallen angels left in Zakiah Adara. I told you how she was being held by humans on the Twelfth Constellation but if what you say is true then that is most likely no longer the case.”
“Or, it could have been Ana.” The woman who destroyed Akki’s life and the woman that Devona had let live. If she had killed her…
“It wasn’t Ana. That day you ran into her and forced her to drop her illusion was the last day she could cast one on herself. Besides, taking my form for too long is beyond her abilities.”
“So it was Baskis?”
“More than likely.”
“What can we do?”
Kyrielle looked down at her. The blue fire of her eyes blazed to Devona, sparking her own will to fight once more. Kyrielle brought hope, and a chance that they might be able to change this fate. The angel’s eyes fell to Devona’s waist, where her sword was held.
“That is a replica of Kyriakos, correct?” asked Kyrielle.
“Yes, but I don’t know how to use it.”
Her eyes returned to Devona’s. “The original is in this city.”
Both women looked at the stained glass again. Now her attention was drawn to the blue dragon that stood behind the woman with white hair. The dragon looked strong and powerful but sad.
“This city is devoted to the blue dragon, Azul. They have the real Kyriakos here. It is one of the great holy weapons. My guess is that Baskis is still nearby. If you are going to try and stop the execution then you will need that sword to do so. It is one of the only weapons that would be able to hurt her.”
She would have to really fight? The most fighting she had done was against Hansah, and that was mostly yelling. Or when she fought for Akki’s life, none of this fighting involved weapons. That was the guardians were for, right? They were trained for that sort of thing.
This was Devona’s fight and she would do whatever she could to stop this.
“Where is it?” she asked.
Kyrielle turned toward the door of the chapel. To the right of the entrance was a spiral staircase. It went high to the ceiling and disappeared into its heights. It was the stairway to hope and maybe even heaven.
“How do you know?”
“I can sense it.”
“Why is it so accessible?” asked Devona.
“They want people to see it. However, no one can touch it unless they have holy blood in their veins, so there is no need for protection.”
“Do I have…?”
“Yes, you do, or I would not have mentioned it. Go up the stairs and switch the replica for the real thing. The truth is that the people here will never know the difference.”
“This is a fight that we have to win. Do you want to save Akki?”
Devona wasn’t ready for a physical fight, but if it meant saving Akki, then she would do whatever it took.
She nodded. “Yes, of course.”
“Then that sword is the only way. Go, go quickly.”
Devona got to her feet and headed toward the stairs. Halfway down the aisle, she stopped and looked back at Kyrielle. She was amazed that the angel was still there.
“Are you going to help fight?” asked Devona.
Kyrielle shook her head. “Unfortunately I cannot. I gave up my right to fight when I married Jabez, or at least that’s what I gave up to the Council.”
“Kyrielle, thank you.”
“Go Princess, quickly.”
Devona nodded and took up the stairs at a blazing pace. She had no plan, only a sword that would guide her in the fight and she would give everything she had to stop this. She had to stop this. This was it, her one chance to save Akki.
The room was silent and cold. He had been moved from one cell to another. A lone guard stood at the door on the other side of the bars. They must have realized that he wasn’t going to fight against this.
However, Devona’s face kept coming back to his. Her pleas for him to fight struggled to keep him afloat. Yet, he was alone and not sure he wanted to stay afloat.
But, her life mattered more to him than his own. Giving up now was almost as if he were letting her die. He had to have faith in the others, that they would protect her, but he didn’t. He knew that Kai was young and angry, that he cared more about flirting with Devona than protecting her. He knew that Kestrel was still angry over Thea’s death, so much so that she at one point attacked Devona.
Funny how he, the ex-follower of Mushin, the man that the world wanted dead, was the best guardian they had.
It had been years since Akki had prayed. He hadn’t even prayed that Eve was still alive, he hadn’t prayed over his father’s death, or for his own salvation. However, at his final hour, he closed his eyes and prayed. For himself, but mostly for Devona.
I know that this is probably the end for me, but I wish it wasn’t. I want to spend more time with her. I want to keep her safe. You know that the only reason I want to get out of this is for her. Perhaps I should be selfish and pray for myself, but I can’t. Whatever would make her safe, let happen. If my death will give her more strength to fight, then let it be, but don’t let it be the end of it all. Don’t let Zakiah Adara die with me. Please, keep her safe.
He opened his eyes. All he saw was the guard through the bars. This was the end, and like it or not, he would have to accept it.
Akki sighed, and wished that time would speed up so that his wait would finally be over.