Part Two: Enter the Demoness
The new voice slowly made her way toward Devona, trying her best not to scare her any more than she already had. However, Devona couldn’t focus on the blur in front of her. Instead her golden hair flew about as she kept turning to look at the spectacular room. She was taking in the white stairway, royal purple rugs, gold trimmed marble floor, along with the dragon decorations that were located all around the giant room in various colors. All the ornate décor that lined the room that screamed of wealth and power and it scared her to death.
Finally, Devona looked back at the woman who spoke so softly. Devona's bright blue eyes went wide in shock as she took a few steps back away from the woman. With a small laugh, the woman raised her hands into the air with a very comforting smile.
“Please Princess, don’t be afraid. We aren’t going to harm you,” said the woman.
“Yeah, that’s what they all say,” whispered Devona as she backed up from the woman even more.
However, despite the frantic actions, the woman continued to smile. After a few moments, she looked at the others. “Perhaps you five should go get changed while I explain everything to the Princess.”
“Yes, Queen Oriana,” they each said. Without another word they left.
Devona tried her best to calm down, but there was just so much being thrown on her at once that she was about ready to scream, run into a corner and hide. Too bad that she was now surrounded by servants all dressed in extravagant dresses in many bright colors and there were no dark corners she could hide in.
Why did this place have to look so nice?
Devona crossed her arms over her stomach, trying her best to hide her mid-drift. Of course, the one day she wore that short black mid-drift top happened to be the day that she was kidnapped and taken to…where ever she was. She remembered the kaki jacket her mother convinced her to take, that had been tied around her waist just in case. If only she had the strength to actually untie it and put it on. Instead, she was too busy staring at the world around her, hoping something wouldn’t come to life and kill her.
The woman smiled and beckoned Devona to follow her. Devona didn’t want to, but there was no where else to go. At this point she could only go along and hope that these people were telling the truth about not hurting her otherwise…she really didn’t want to think about that. Another thing that bothered her was that they called this woman “Queen Oriana.” Was she really a queen? And if so, queen of what? Hopefully it wasn’t anything like Queen of the Damned. Devona really didn’t have the patience to deal with blood thirsty vampires right now.
The queen did look very regal and very other worldly. She was dressed in a silk purple gown, with gold flowers embroidered on the edges. Her stomach was a tight cinched corset, which exaggerated her already perfect figure. Her skin was pale, almost white, and shone against the dark fabric. What stood out most of all through was her hair. It was bright blue, like the sky on a clear sunny day. There were only a few times Devona had seen people with blue hair and she could always tell it was dyed, but not the queen’s. Even her eye brows were blue and her eye lashes. It was as if it were her natural hair color. It was a thought that she quickly banished from her mind. Instead, Devona focused on the length of the hair, which reached all the way to an inch above the floor. Devona ran a hand through her own long her as she suddenly realized she envied that strange hair.
She slowly followed the queen into a very small room and tried her best to take it in as well. The room was tiny in comparison to the rest of the huge structure. Devona took a quick glance around, noticing a golden couch, embroidered in flowers with two matching chairs across from it. Each wall was attached with shelving holding book after book of all sizes. Devona looked at the woman to see a welcoming arm extended to the couch. The woman stopped just inside and allowed Devona to step in. A young girl behind them shut the door, leaving all the servants behind in the hallway.
Devona tried her best not to freak out, but it was incredibly hard. Wherever she was, she knew it was nowhere in Tampa or maybe even the United States. Where was she and how the hell did she get there?
Devona glanced at the woman’s arm and then looked at the couch in question. She took a deep breath and slowly sat down. She was almost afraid that there were strange couch monsters that were going to leap out from the cushions and swallow her whole. Once she was seated, the woman joined her in the chair across from her. The “queen” still wore that calm smile that didn’t seem to work on Devona. Devona felt like a wild animal that had just been captured and thrown into the most expensive zoo in the world.
“I’m sure that this is all a little overwhelming for you,” said the queen.
Psh, thought Devona, understatement of the century! “Yeah…just a little.” She tried her best to sound calm, but she could tell that it wasn’t working at all.
“Please, don’t be alarmed, there is a perfectly reasonable cause for all of this. Let me begin: my name is Queen Oriana and you are no longer on Earth. You are in Zakiah Adara.”
I was right! I’m not in the United States! I’m in…wait…did she say I’m not on Earth? “Uh…what?”
The woman laughed, “You’re in Zakiah Adara. This is the world that lies between Heaven and Earth.”
“Purgatory?” inquired Devona.
“Not entirely. This is the world between Earth and Heaven, but it is not limbo. It acts as a barrier to make sure that any demons and fallen angels that have made their way to Earth from Hell don’t make it to Heaven.”
“Wait a second,” Devona shook her head fiercely. The queen cocked her head and stared at Devona. This wasn’t real. So, it might not be vampires, but it had to do with demons and fallen angels? This seemed like an extra strange episode from the Twilight Zone. Already her hands were shaking so she shoved them under her legs to try and hide it from the queen. However, it was far too late for that.
Queen Oriana sighed, and then smiled, “Devona, you have no reason to be afraid. I know how strange that must sound right now, especially after all the things you have been taught over the years. To protect yourself, not go with strangers. Your mother even protected you from family members and teachers for fear of what might happen, sending you to a self defense course just in case.”
Devona froze. Never once had she mentioned her name to the queen. That might easily be explained if Devona had mentioned in passing and forgot and the part about her parents was an easy guess, most parents were over protective. Yet, how did she know specifically that it was her mother? Her father was protective about driving, going out with boys, the normal stuff, but it was always her mother who feared the seemingly irrational.
“You don’t know who to turn to now. You can’t call your mother or Rose to ask for advice. Your brother, Brian, isn’t here to save you, just as he hasn’t been since he left for colle—”
The words left her mouth before she even knew what was happening. The queen’s smile faded, but the calm remained. Whatever points the woman had been trying to make, it worked, and it certainly freaked out Devona.
“Allow me to start again,” said the queen in that soft tone. “My name is Queen Oriana. I am leading the fight for this world against a demoness who has been plaguing us all with death and destruction for over five thousand years. Her name is Mushin and she is why you are here.”
After the display of power by the queen, hearing that she was there because of some crazy demoness didn’t really sound so far fetched.
“The leaders of our world, the Council, who govern over all military decisions, decided that Mushin must be dealt with. So they assigned Princesses to destroy her. This started soon after Mushin’s birth, and the war has been fought ever since. There are always five women born on Earth with the ability to become a Princess, and they all call upon the power of the Star of Life to defeat Mushin.”
Devona shook her head, “What?”
“The powers of each Princess is sealed inside a Star Point, their powers remain here in Zakiah Adara so that they can live normal lives on Earth. In the final battle the Princesses will use their Star Points to form the Star of Life, and with the Star, Mushin can be defeated. However all five Princesses must remain alive after the creation of the Star of Life in order to defeat her. Unfortunately, this has yet to happen. If one is to die however, then the power that remains after one has died must be used seal Mushin away for 1,000 years so that more Princesses can be born to fight Mushin again.” The queen paused and smiled again, “Do you understand?”
Devona found herself just staring into the queen’s eyes. It was only then that she noticed her eyes matched the night sky: speckled with stars, with a few dark clouds passing over her iris. Could she really be trusted? Something was just off about this woman, still, it was all just too much for Devona to accept at once and she wasn’t even sure she believed any of it.
“Um…so…I’m one of those Princesses?” inquired Devona.
Devona shook her head, “But…I don’t have any powers or anything or a ‘Star Point’.”
“No, you will search all over Zakiah Adara until you locate your Star Point. You will be given a year to complete this task.”
“A year! Are you kidding?”
“Well, you are going to be here for five years Princess.”
“Five years!” exclaimed Devona. She quickly jumped to her feet fists balled at her side in fury. This had to be some sort of sick joke! Maybe the people who took her had drugged her. Or maybe she was even still sleeping on the bench. Those two possibilities made more sense than this explanation.
“Is there something wrong?” inquired the queen.
“Yes! I can’t be here for five years! I have a life! I have school. I have a boyfriend that I need to break up with. Plus, my parents, what are they’re going to think that I was killed! I can’t do that to them…”
“Please Princess, calm down. Time in Zakiah Adara passes differently from that on Earth. A day on Earth is equal to a month in Zakiah Adara, so in all, you will only be gone from your home for sixty days, two months.”
Devona sat back down. What could she do? They had her cornered. She didn’t know where she was or how to get home. It seemed all she could do was agree with whatever they had to say.
“Alright, I’ll do it. Not that I have much of a choice…”
“You shouldn’t feel that way Princess. This is an opportunity for you as well. For you to experience our world, especially when most people of Earth do not know that we exist:”
“I hate to tell you this, but I wish I was one of those people right now. You sent five creepy people to bring me to some other world which I am being forced to remain in for five years. Not really the way I planned on spending the next five years of my life.”
The queen sighed and shook her head. “Devona, your role is not only important here but on Earth as well.”
“What do you mean?”
“Hell has yet to take Earth, but if Zakiah Adara falls to Mushin, Lucifer will not hold back. He will conquer Earth and all those who live there will be subject to a living hell where death is the only means of possible escape. It has yet to happen, but if Zakiah Adara is lost, Earth will soon follow. The devil is patient, but he will not miss such an opportunity.”
Devona shook her head, “You’re insane.”
“No she is not,” said a stern male voice.
Devona looked to her right and her jaw dropped. A man, dressed in heavy dark clothing covered mostly in silver armor, looked down at her with red eyes. There were red streaks under his eyes that looked similar to the ones football players wore, except the lines were defined and crisp and came to a point at an end. His hair was long, straggly, and so black it practically looked blue. None of that matter though, Devona was too busy staring at the dark gray and black wings expanding from his back.
“Oh my God,” whispered Devona.
The queen slowly looked at the man, not surprised by his approach. “Meishu, thank you for gracing us with your presence.”
The man nodded, “My father wanted to send his blessing to the Princess. However, I’m sure he would be reconsidering now seeing how she is treating the queen.”
Queen Oriana shook her head, “No Meishu, your father knows how it can be, especially with the first Princess. Devona just needs to settle and fully understand what she has learned.”
The man lowered his head toward the queen, gave one last look at Devona and quietly left the room. Just as quietly as he had arrived, he disappeared from her life, for now.
“Meishu,” the queen said, “is one of the sons of the Gryphons.”
“A very important family here in Zakiah Adara.”
There would have to be a lot of explaining to satisfy her. There was a man, who stood two feet away from her, dressed in armor, with huge angel wings. Yes, a lot of explaining was definitely needed. However, realizing that such information would not come soon, Devona closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and looked back at the queen.
“What do you need me to do?”
The queen smiled. “I’m glad you are finally beginning to understand. Do you have any questions?”
“More than you can imagine. Mostly…how do you know so much about me?”
“I am the queen of this world. It is my ability to look at someone and know them immediately. Not only know their name, but their pain and life experiences as well. It’s so I can better help my people. An example would be you and Mark, who you wanted to rip from your life tonight. Unfortunately, Ulric stole you away from your task.”
“Well, he didn’t really steal me away, I was leaving.”
The queen took a deep slow breath. Devona knew that she wouldn’t like what was coming. She gripped the golden fabric of the couch. She was holding on desperately to the sanity she had just started to regain.
“I also wanted to address your attraction for Akki.”
“Akki?” asked Devona.
The queen nodded. “Ulric Akki, the man who found you at the carnival. He is one of your five guardians.”
Devona shook her head. “What? You mean those people who forced me to come here, practically kidnapping me, are actually supposed to be my guardians?”
The queen nodded. Oh great…
“They are new at this too, they were unsure of how they were even going to convince you to go with them. They did the best they could, even if it didn’t go over so well. Perhaps they could have been a little softer with the idea, but, was there really anyway you would have accepted it?”
“Not really. Especially since I still didn’t believe until Mr. Angel-dude showed up.”
The queen actually laughed, and then continued. “Akki is a guardian, a protector of all of the Princesses. According to the laws set up by the Council, it is forbidden for a guardian and Princess to have an intimate relationship. I would suggest that you forget about these feelings you have for him and just concentrate on fighting Mushin.”
“Why is it forbidden? I mean, I’m going to be spending the next five years with him. We’re probably going to get close. I mean…not that I really want to, he did kinda make me think he was going to kill me.” But he is really hot…
“Because, he cannot focus all of his attention toward one Princess. This has happened in the past, a guardian was too busy protecting one Princess and another died in his folly. I’m sorry, but these are the rules, and they must be obeyed for your own safety and the good of the war.”
Devona didn’t dare say anything else, not that she really had anything else to say.
Without warning, the doors to the room opened to reveal a female servant. The terror in her eyes melted Devona’s new found resolve.
“My lady, Mushin has been spotted,” said the servant.
Already? She was being thrown into the war already?
Devona placed a hand on her head to try and stop the world from spinning around her. The floor was falling out from under her along with the rest of reality. All she knew was being questioned. This world didn’t exist for her until a few minutes and it was desperately calling for her to save it. But she wasn’t ready for a battle. She had no powers like the queen. She couldn’t fight like the guardians probably could. She didn’t even know what she was up against. Devona took deep breaths to try and keep from passing out.
The queen simply nodded and looked calmly at her servant.
“How long until she arrives?” asked the queen.
“Under an hour. The guardians are already outside preparing for her attack.”
“Thank you Sheva. Send the guardians in to meet with me and then take haven in the central quarters.”
The woman nodded, “Yes, my lady.”
The queen rose to her feet and Devona couldn’t move. The queen’s cool dark eyes looked down at Devona’s shaking figure. Oriana placed a tender hand on Devona’s shoulder, forcing the new Princess to look up at her.
Devona shook her head. “I can’t do this. I don’t know what you even want me to do. I don’t have any powers to fight her! I don’t even know how to fight.”
“It’s alright, you will only watch and learn tonight.”
“Don’t start lying to me now.”
The eyes went from cool to warm. The end of her lips curled upward, slightly. “Princess, Mushin will try and kill you tonight. Just as she will try every instant that she can, but you will not die tonight. Therefore, you must take it as a learning experience. With no powers or will to fight, you will watch and learn from safety.”
“Yes, but first I must introduce you to your guardians.”
Devona could hear her heart beating in her ears as they walked the halls of the palace. She couldn’t take in any of her surroundings. She was too focused on what was about to happen. Even though Queen Oriana insisted that Devona would be safe, Devona was still terrified. What if she was wrong? Was she going to die that night?
It was only moments later that they were standing in a large room with the guardians.
"Everyone, I would like you to meet Devona. She is the first of the five Princesses that will help us in the war. The ones you are sworn to protect. I think it would be nice if you all introduced yourselves to her."
Devona was silent as the queen introduced the guardians. Her mind was still racing. How could they give her such an impossible task and yet do so with a smile? Save the worlds, beat the demoness, give up all you have ever known for us.
She gripped the small silver cross around her neck tightly. If this was a world closer to heaven, maybe god could hear her prayers clearer. Devona tightly shut her eyes and prayed to go home. That this was all a dream and she would wake up under her warm, powder blue fluffy comforter.
Devona opened her eyes to see the group staring at her. This was not a dream. This was real life and she would have to come to terms with that soon. The queen was smiling again. Devona knew that the queen was trying to be reassuring, but Devona was tired of seeing it. The queen then looked towards the guardians. Each was watching her curiously, like some sort of test subject. She felt as though she was on display at a science fair. Eyes of strange colors stared at her as if she were the one out of place. Then again…she really was.
The first one to step forward was the tall man with raven black hair. The menacing nature he was projecting before seemed to have dissipated. But now, instead of wearing a shirt decorated in peace signs, he was cloaked in silver armor over a simple shirt tucked into brown pants. Dressed for the coming battle, but at the same time she expected more. Hidden behind his black locks were beautiful blue eyes that looked less scary in the new light. Also, the fact that she knew he was there to protect her helped.
“My name is Biyan Arthur, Princess.” He took her hand and dropped to his knee. Devona’s fingers clasped tightly onto him, not sure how to react. Reality was falling away again, and she was secretly hoping it would continue to fall. Instead, she found her ground and the man rose to his feet. Devona stared up at him as if she were frozen in time.
“Biyan,” she whispered. It was a very strange name, but in this world it wasn’t that odd.
“Please, no need to be formal, call me Arthur.”
The queen actually giggled. Devona released Arthur’s hand and stepped away from him, locking her eyes onto the queen. The queens waved her small hand and smiled sweetly.
“Devona, his surname is Biyan, but his given name is Arthur. So calling him Biyan is very formal.”
“Oh.” She knew that in other parts of the world, people said their names backwards…well backwards to her anyway. It only made sense that in this place it would be backwards as well.
It was the little girl’s turn this time. She bounced forward and grabbed Devona’s hand tightly. It obvious that she was just copying what Arthur had done before her. Still, she played it off rather well and grinned up at Devona. Her mop of brown hair ended just above her shoulders, split into all directions. Electric green eyes glistened next to peachy skin and spoke of her youth.
“It’s so great to meet you! I’m Felin Thea!” Each word seemed to explode from her throat, but it was still kind to Devona’s ears. This little girl was the reason she had given up fighting and decided to go with these people. Hopefully she hadn’t led Devona to her destruction.
“Thea, don’t break the Princess’ hand,” said a slightly harsh female voice. Devona looked up to see tan eyes with golden sparkles watching the young girl. It was the girl who had been dressed in tie-dye shirt, and was now outfitted in a red tank covered with a white chest plate and a short pleaded brown skirt. On her long legs she wore white and brown boots that ended just over her knees.
What struck Devona was the fact that her eyes matched her skin tone. The girl seemed to be carved out of bronze and topped with ruby hair. Each strand was neatly pulled back into a high ponytail, not even a split end out of place.
The young woman walked over to them, not once looking at Devona. She reached down and removed Thea’s hand from Devona's. Then, she turned her attention to Devona. Devona found herself standing up at the taller girl. There was just something about her that demanded a serious tone.
“My name is Yolande Kestrel, it’s an honor Princess.” The girl bowed, sending red strands over her toned shoulders. Devona was ultimately jealous of Kestrel’s athletic body that didn’t seem to have an ounce of fat. However, her jealousy disappeared when she realized that there probably was a reason that Kestrel was in such good shape.
“Thanks,” said Devona.
Kestrel smiled and stood tall, only to turn her attention to the man who had been wearing the shag vest. He looked much younger now, and much less like a rapist. He was definitely a pretty boy, one that she would expect all the girls would throw themselves over back at school. He was also dressed in light armor: chest plate and bracers on his arms. He wore black bands around his wrists, biceps, and head. Hair mostly fell over the band, hiding it from view except on his forehead. His hair was more of a natural orange red color, but turned into the bright red at his tips. Eyes of brilliant green peered out beneath the strands of orange and red, and were so incredibly alluring she could not look away.
Kestrel’s smile faded. She motioned for the young man to step forward. Instead, he scoffed and looked away.
“Kai,” said Kestrel.
“I’m not bowing down to anyone, especially when she doesn’t have royal blood.”
“You spoiled asshole, get over here!”
“You must excuse Kai,” said the queen’s soft voice. Devona looked over at her. “He was a prince of the—”
“I am a prince,” snapped the young man.
It was Arthur’s turn to speak up. “Don’t you dare be rude to the queen, boy. Prince or not.”
Kai was silent. He looked away as if in shame. Devona had a feeling that wasn’t something he experienced often.
Queen Oriana continued. “He left his kingdom a while ago.”
“Why?” asked Devona.
“Probably not the best time to ask,” said Kestrel.
“Because my family is all dead,” said Kai, very bluntly. “And I will not return until their murderer is punished.”
Silence filled the grand hall. Devona felt as if its cold hand had choked the life out of her lungs. Even the queen seemed at a loss for words. Still, the prince stood tall.
He looked at Devona and lowered his head a bit, and then he righted it and smiled slightly.
"I'm Ithel Kai, I'm sure the pleasure is all mine."
"Right..." said Devona.
She still wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. Even through his shroud of cockiness she could see an innocent young boy seeking answers for the death of his family. Pain tinged his ivy green eyes. Somehow, he found the will to smile at her with just the slight curl of his lips. Suffering was not in the forefront of his mind and the way he had acted when she asked proved that he didn’t want it to be.
Still, the situation was awkward now. Devona wasn't sure quite what to do or who to turn to. These people were her guardians, yet there already seemed to be quite the internal conflict between them. Though, there was one person who had been silent since she arrived. Secretly, she was waiting for him to step forward for his turn. What would he say? Would he apologize for making her think he was going to rape her? Would he admit his own attraction and sweep her away? Even if that were against the rules…
Kai followed Devona’s thoughts to the quiet man who was standing away from the crowd. He was leaning against the wall, his arms over his chest. He had a well defined face that she could now see much better in the lighting of the palace. He had high cheek bones, a strong jaw, good nose and those intense animalistic eyes. They demanded anyone’s attention, or at least that’s what Devona assumed since she couldn’t seem to look away from them. His skin was tan, and his brown hair was less messy now since he hadn’t just run her down.
His outfit was simple compared to the ones before him. He wore a thin chest plate that was made of metal. Underneath the chest plate, he wore a long sleeved black shirt that was slightly covered up by his gloves that went all the way to his elbows. He was wearing tight grey pants, causing Devona to regret the men of Earth for always wearing such baggy clothing.
The final thing that Devona noticed about him was the sword that hung at his side. It was exquisite from what Devona could see of it. The handle was masterly crafted: twisting metal hung all around the handle, looking like an exploding star. It was beautiful, just as he was. Then again, she really shouldn’t call him beautiful, handsome was a much better word.
Devona froze, realizing that she had been staring, and quickly returned her attention back to the queen.
She had expected the queen to reiterate her prior warning of Devona’s attraction, but instead she nodded at Devona. With a small graceful gesture, the queen extended her hand to the last guardian. He stood up tall and allowed his arms to drop to his sides. Devona felt each breath flow over her now chapped lips. His yellow eyes locked onto hers and she finally understood why deer couldn’t move out of the way of headlights.
There was something about him that screamed danger. Hell, she had thought he was going to kidnap her, but she couldn’t dare to look away. Truth was that she didn’t want to. She wanted those eyes and arms to consume her. It was fire she had never experienced before and never thought possible. Passion that only existed in dreams, books, and movies, and he was still on the other side of the room.
He took his first step toward her very slowly. Each movement seemed timed and calculated. She could hear the heels of his boots click against the marble. Instead of looking down at his feet, her attention was locked on his eyes that were practically drilling holes into her head. He was too gorgeous, he shouldn’t exist, and he definitely shouldn’t be walking toward her.
Then he stopped a couple of feet in front of her.
Devona took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves. She should still be mad at him, at all of them, why now was she so captivated by him?
With a sweep of his arm and a tilt of his head, he knelt down before her. His hand was barred against his chest and his eyes were locked on her feet. He then turned his attention back to her face and the rest of the room seemed to have dropped away. It was just the two of them in this strange world: a guardian kneeling before his Princess who couldn’t help but blush.
“Princess,” his voice was tender this time. It was very different from the frantic man she had run into at the carnival. “My name is Ulric Akki. I will serve you with my life.”
This wasn’t happening. All she could do was nod in response to his pledge. It was in that moment that the purpose of the guardians hit home for her: they existed to keep her safe and they might die in the process.
He returned to his feet, leaving Devona to stare up at him in awe. She was completely amazed by his beauty and devotion. How could someone she had just met be willing to throw away his life just to keep her safe? Perhaps she didn’t quite understand the impact of this war yet, but her guardians did. Maybe they could help convince her that putting her life on the line was a reasonable course of action.
“Thank you, Akki,” was all she could say. His face visibly twitched and Kestrel stiffened at his side. “Oh, did I get it wrong? I’m so sorr—”
He shook his head, “No, it’s alright. Call me whatever you want, Princess.”
She wished he would stop calling her that.
“Unfortunately,” the queen finally said, “there isn’t time for everyone to become friendly. Mushin has been spotted, and will be here shortly.”
“What do you want us to do, my queen?” asked Arthur.
“Devona and Thea will wait in the atrium while the rest of you help the soldiers out on the battlefield. She will be trying her best to put a hole in our army tonight and will not be targeting the Princess.”
Not targeting her? That went against everything else that the queen had said. Devona glanced over at the queen to find her smiling at her. Could this woman actually be trusted? Why on Earth, or Zakiah Adara, would she talk up the importance of this war and her safety only to have Devona not a target? Sure, she should be glad, but ultimately, she was confused.
“Wait! Why am I not fighting?” asked Thea. The little girl flung her arms around at her side and stomped her feet. Was she serious? Devona really had stepped into an alternate universe where kids actually wanted to fight in wars. She much rather go home, curl up in her comfy bed, and sleep for the next five years…that sounded like much more fun.
“Thea, dear, you did your part today, helping calm Devona. Now it’s time for you to stay safe, and watch over the Princess,” said the queen. Her tone was soft and fragile, the type of voice that adults used when speaking to children. Devona thought for sure that it would only upset the girl even more, but instead, Thea nodded fervently and smiled up at Devona. “Alright, Devona, Thea, come with me. The rest of you, wait here, and the commander will be here for you shortly.”
“Yes, Queen Oriana,” they all said at the same time. Were they trained robots? Did they not have emotions or feelings? Did they realize that even if Devona was safe tonight, they were going to be placed in danger? Did they know they could die?
She lowered her head and followed behind the motioning queen. Had she just met them only to say goodbye? What would happen if all of them died tonight? Would she be alone in her search for her Star Point? Would she be alone in the battle against Mushin? The feeling suffocated her heart, now the pain of Mark cheating on her seemed dismal in comparison. Four sets of eyes watched her as she left. She watched each of them, darting her eyes from guardian to guardian. Most of them seemed completely void of emotion, except Kestrel who looked relieved.
There was no more time to ponder what would happen. She was urged on by the queen’s eyes and Devona turned away from the guardians, hoping to see them all again.
Akki was still trying to push her from his mind. He knew the rules well, and he hadn’t wanted a woman in years, why now? Why her? Not since Ana had he felt like this…and she was absolutely the last person he should feel that way about. He wouldn’t be weak. He wouldn’t allow emotions to control him. He wouldn’t give in, not this time. It was a woman and his love for her that got him in trouble in the first place.
They followed the White Dragon commander out to the front lines. Many soldiers dressed in pearl white armor were already prepping their cross bows, since the only real chance they were going to have would be with aerial weaponry. There was little doubt that the demoness would even try to touch the ground. But, that would not stop her from killing those on it. Each of them were handed a set of bows and arrows, and luckily they each knew how to use them. Kestrel was the best shot with the bow, so she would be their own personal line of defense, and she didn’t seem to mind.
Ever since they had each arrived at the palace, Kestrel had been tense. Thea was like a little sister to her, having lived with the little girl’s family for two years now, and it broke Kestrel’s heart when she found out that both of them had been chosen to be guardians. Why the little one was chosen was still unknown, but Kestrel tried to put her faith in the queen. Now that Thea was safe with the Princess, Kestrel seemed able to breathe again.
She noticed him watching her and looked up at him. “I still can’t believe that you allowed her to call you Akki,” said Kestrel.
He hated that name now, too many memories associated with it. But…
“I couldn’t really tell her not to call me that. Besides she doesn’t need to know why I don’t like it.”
“She had a right to know.”
“It’s not up for discussion Kestrel.”
“Don’t you think that if you’re honest, then she will trust you more? The girl seems like she is in shock. I’m sure a little trust would go a long way.”
“And I don’t think telling her about my past will build trust. Let it go.”
The tense atmosphere was back, and it was not because of the approaching demoness. Kestrel left his side and went over to stand with Kai, a movement that meant more than words. It didn’t bother him, not much did. Instead, he readied his bow and himself for the coming battle.
Devona and Thea were alone in the atrium. It was beautiful, with a high glass dome arching toward heaven. There were so many stars in the sky that it looked like a neighboring galaxy was right on top of them. She couldn’t help but wonder if she was even looking at the same stars that she could see from Earth. Coming from the city, she was used to only seeing a couple of stars. Seeing this…it was absolutely gorgeous. Maybe focusing on them could make the knot in her stomach go away.
There wasn’t much in the large room: a few chairs and glass containers with ancient items on display. Devona tried looking at them, but she was never one for museums. Most of them were old weapons and armors. They must have been very important for the people of this world, but they meant absolutely nothing to her. She touched the glass that encased a pair of silver bracers. Each of them had a dragon carved into the metal, twisting and turning in different directions. Most of their bodies were encrusted in sapphire gems. They were pretty, she would give the objects that, but her bed looked better. She never realized how much comfort it gave her until she knew she wouldn’t see it for five years.
The young guardian found a chair. Even seating, she was still kicking her legs, unable to stop moving for even an instance. It seemed that the little girl wasn’t as worried about the coming battle or she was better at hiding it.
Thea looked at Devona and smiled. “I’m so glad that I get to meet you and spend time with the Princess!”
Devona shrugged her shoulders, “Am I really that exciting?”
Thea nodded, “Yes! I’ve heard stories about you all my life! Or at least, what you are going to do. Stop Mushin, save the world, its great! Plus, you’re really nice. This is going to be lots of fun, I’m sure of it.”
Thea nodded again, “We’ll make it fun. Have to.”
She had a point. If she was really going to be here for a while, she might as well try and enjoy it. Maybe she could think about Akki and not feel bad about it. Or Kai, he was kind of cute, and Arthur was strong and…too old. But the other two, she could definitely see possibilities with them. Hell, she had five years to win them! Maybe, she could finally break the curse that she had when it came to boys.
Devona smiled, “You’re right. We have to make it fun.”
With nothing else to do but wait, Devona decided to make small talk with the little girl. She remembered when her sister was around Thea’s age, and how much she annoyed Devona. Now, she actually missed her, something that she didn’t expect. They never really got along, not since she was excited about Lizzy being born. Soon after she was born, the jealousy took over and the happiness faded. Devona was no longer the baby. She was no longer the center of attention in her family, and that became her comfort zone.
She really needed to distract herself. “Thea, what kinds of stories have been told about the Princesses?”
“How they are really powerful and pretty and kind. One of my favorite stories was one Kestrel read me often. One of the Princesses went to an orphanage. She saw all the children in pain, and it made her upset. So she went to the next town over and bought every child food and some toys!”
It wasn’t the most amazing story. It wasn’t what Devona had been expecting. Then again, she could understand why it would appeal to a child. A powerful savior going out of their way to help kids, at least help them feel better. Could she re-enact such kindness? She couldn’t even get her mandatory service hours out of the way. Plus, was Devona really a savior for this world? She was suddenly finding it hard to again breath.
It was time to change the subject. “So, is Kestrel your sister?”
The little guardian giggled and shook her head. She stopped swinging her feet and looked over at Devona. “No, she’s just lived with my family for a while, so we’re close. I like her though. She plays with me and reads me stories.”
“She seemed worried about you being here.”
The smiled faded from Thea’s lips. “Yeah. She didn’t want me to be a guardian, saying I’m too young. I don’t think so! I helped get you here, so I’m perfect for the job, right?”
“Seems that way.” In truth, Devona had no idea why a child would be chosen to be a guardian. Plus, the girl acted pretty young, perhaps she had lived a sheltered life. Or maybe children in Zakiah Adara weren’t trying to be adults before their time. Or maybe Thea just knew how to enjoy her childhood. But…why was she a guardian?
The air chilled against her skin, forcing her to shiver. Her hands rubbed against her arms, trying to warm up. Then she remembered the jacket she still had tied around her waist. Devona quickly untied the sleeves and slipped into the kaki jacket. She zipped it all the way up to her chin. The cool air was less noticeable now.
Balance had been restored to the room, until the glass shattered above her. Devona threw her arms over her head, feeling shards jab against the sleeves and fall amongst her hair. What was happening? Her heart leapt into her throat, realizing that safety tonight was a false promise. More iridescent shards hit the ground and dug into her skin.
Thea screamed, but Devona’s didn’t dare look at her. Her knees gave out. Devona crumbled to the ground. Her fingers dug into her hair, feeling the shards between the strands. There was some security behind the lids of her eyes. As long as she kept them shut, she couldn’t see what happened. However, the longer she staid hidden the more she was at risk.
She finally managed to open her eyes and glance at Thea. The little girl was down on the ground, covered in scrapes and blood. There on the ground next to her was a shadow with what looked like wings.
Her teeth chattered as she turned her attention to where the dome had once been. The shadowy figure there quickly swooped down and landed next to Thea. The creature looked down at Thea curiously. Devona could now see where that the wings grew from a woman’s back. They were black with thick red veins and hook like claws at the tips. A tail that Devona had only ever seen in pictures of the devil twitched from under a short black leather skirt. Devona’s eyes moved up the woman to see that most of her back was exposed, with only a small piece of fabric laced together at the bottom of her back.
Her hair was sable black. Most of it was in an intricate bun. There braided strands wrapped around the bun. Some more strands wrapped around her red horns that reached out from her head. Even with her back towards Devona, there was an immense aura of evil pouring from this…woman. Demoness…
Devona had never been so intimated in all of her life. Black stilettos clicked against the marble as the demoness turned to face Devona. Now she could see the ruby red eyes glowing as they stared at her. Her face looked like any normal girl in her mid to late twenties, but Devona knew the truth. This creature was thousands of years old and there to kill her.
For a few moments there was no movement. There was only what seemed like a silent understanding. It was almost like a long lost friend. But Devona knew the truth. This woman was known to her for another reason and Devona had no way to fight or escape.
The blank expression finally gave way to fury.
“You,” growled the demoness. “You would be the first.”
The demoness reached down, grabbed Devona by her hair and yanked her to her feet. Devona gasped in fear, too terrified to do anything more. The demoness looked her square in the eye, she was shaking with rage. Devona wanted to try and push the demoness away but she didn’t want to touch her. Instead, she watched as the demoness had her own internal struggle.
Mushin grunted and moved her other hand to Devona’s throat. Her grip tightened around Devona’s source of air and life. She was going to die. She never had a chance to tell her parents how much she loved and appreciated them. She never thanked Rose for always being there for her. She never got the chance to break up with Mark. None of that would come to pass now. They wouldn’t even know what happened to her. She was dead.
Red eyes flashed black and Mushin shoved Devona. Her back hit the ground hard, knocking all the air out of her lungs. She tried to scream but nothing came. She could only watch as the demoness shook her head at the fallen Princess.
“I want your life to be agonizing, painful, so that it becomes one of your greatest challenges simply to wake up every morning.”
The demoness turned away from her, towards the youngest guardian. Thea’s eyes were closed. She must have passed out from the pain. She didn’t see the evil walking toward her. Devona tried to yell, to warn her, but still nothing came. Tears gathered in her eyes as Mushin reached toward Thea.
With little effort, she pulled the child up by the back of her shirt and looked at her longingly, as though she actually felt bad for what she was about to do. Then she smiled and looked back over at Devona.
“I’m afraid I can not say the same for your little friend though.”
“Thea,” Devona was barely able to whisper.
The demoness brought the child to her chest in a sort of bizarre hug. She then took to the air and into the night sky. All Devona could do was watch. She had lived, but it looked as though Thea would not.
She tried to get to her feet, but her body did not want to work. The most she was able to do was roll over onto her stomach. She could feel even more shards of glass pierce the kaki fabric. She ground her teeth and tried to crawl toward the door. She had to tell them, tell someone, anyone. They had to save Thea. Devona knew she couldn’t, but someone could. Kestrel, she had to know, she would save her.
The struggle was becoming even more difficult. She looked around to notice her blood and Thea’s smeared over the ground. Maybe she could end up dying tonight.
The door to the atrium opened. Devona jerked her attention toward the entrance. In the doorway were her two personal saviors. Luckily her struggle was over. Devona body gave out against the tile.
Through the haze, she felt Akki take her into his arms. She had to tell them. She forced her eyes open to look up at him. His eyes were tight with worry.
“Where is Thea?”
Devona glanced past Akki to see Kestrel standing behind him. She didn’t look worried, she looked frantic. On top of that, she was furious. Already, her bow was clenched in her hand, ready to kill.
Devona whispered, “Mushin took her.”
“Where did she take her?” Akki asked quickly.
Devona shook her head slowly, trying her best to stay awake. Akki huddled her against his chest.
“I’m going to find that bitch and I’m going to kill her,” growled Kestrel.
“Kestrel,” Akki looked up at his fellow guardian, “you can’t let this blind you. We can’t kill her, remember that.”
“I don’t care!”
Then, Kestrel was gone. Devona wondered if she would see her again too. Akki sighed and looked down at Devona. She knew what was coming. She knew that he was going after Kestrel. Just when her fear was subsiding, he was going to leave her alone again. No…
He loosened his grip on her. Tears immediately grew in her eyes. She completely understood every word of his silent statement. She refused to let it remain silent.
“Please don’t leave me…” whispered in desperation.
He looked sad. “Princess, I have to go, it’s my duty.”
“What if she comes back for me? What if I’m all alone and she takes me? What then?” With that she lost the composer that she had, put her hands over her eyes and let the tears flow. “Please Akki…please…”
He took a deep breath. He got to his feet, taking Devona with him. Once again he was carrying her, but this time she knew that he was trying to help her. He stormed out of the room. There were two guards standing in the hallway. They each gasped and stared at her like she were a wounded animal. Akki grasped her tightly and glared at the men.
“Is this how you protect the Princess?” he snapped.
The guard to the left stuttered, “The queen said to leave them alone, so they could watch in safety without—”
“Did she say anything about leaving both of them to die?”
Neither of the guards had anything else to say. They lowered their heads, knowing they had made the ultimate mistake. Akki glared as he slowly lowered Devona to the ground. She tried to keep her footing, but had to lean on him for support. The cool metal of his armor was hard but soothing against her flush face. He gently touched her chin to have her look up at him. The sadness in those golden eyes was not something she had expected to see from him, but she knew what it meant.
“Please understand, I have to go with the others…you will stay here with them.” He turned attention back to the two guards. “They will take you somewhere that is truly safe and I will return shortly. Please, have faith in me.”
Perhaps it was the way he said it, the calm resolve that overcame him. Or maybe Devona had just given up entirely. Either way she slowly nodded.
She looked up at him with intense blue eyes. “Come back Akki. Bring them with you. All of them.”
“I will try my best Princess.”
He finally stepped away from her, giving way for one of the other men to gently take her arm. Devona stood there as he turned away, down the hall toward the battle. She knew that they would find Mushin, she wanted to be found. But what concerned her most of all was that she had a sinking feeling that Akki wouldn’t be able to keep such a promise.
She ran past where they had been waiting for the demoness’ attack. This drew Kai and Arthur to quickly follow after her. She hardly noticed them, her focus was Thea. She never wanted Thea to be a guardian. Now she was one and she was in danger of dying. Kestrel snarled as she ran. The demoness would pay for her comes.
Kestrel sensed that the others weren’t far behind her, but she wait for them to catch up. This was her fight. Thea was in her protection. There was no way in hell she was going to lose her! She was just a child. Why was she even here?
Fury blazed through her heart with a passion that she hadn’t felt since her mother’s death. Her only hope was that soon she would be able to worry about the Princess as much as she did for Thea. Especially considering she was now wishing that the Princess were taken instead of Thea.
The demoness wasn’t far now. Kestrel could feel her evil aura radiating through the forest, calling to her. Without another thought, Kestrel readied her first arrow of war. She was readying it to pierce the demoness in the heart.
Without anymore warning, there she was.
A red haze seemed to hang over the forest clearing where she waited with the child at her feet. Her back was to Kestrel with her head turned to the side. On her face there was no emotion as she stared down at the little one. It seemed as though Mushin almost felt sorry for her. Still there was red smeared across her hands that revealed her true nature.
Kestrel came to an abrupt stop. She sent grass and dirt flying as she skidded across the ground. With eyes tight in anger and limbs shaking with rage she finally raised her bow and fired.
The arrow was dead on as it whistled through the air at its inevitable target. Kestrel watched with desperation, praying that it would hit her, praying that she would somehow be able to save her friend.
The arrow struck hard and deep into the Demoness’ back. Kestrel couldn’t help but smirk as she saw a small trail of crimson drip down Mushin’s exposed back. It hit her directly between her demon wings, right below the base of her neck. The blow alone would have caused any normal person to fall to the ground, but not Mushin. There she stood, blood spilling from her wound, as though she had only just been bitten by a bug.
The other guardians finally caught up with Kestrel and stopped close behind her. Kestrel heard Kai whisper a cheer under his breath and she could almost feel Ulric’s glare at the younger man.
In a fluid motion, Mushin reached back and snapped the arrow from the base of her neck. Mushin broke the arrow in half and let it fall to the ground.
Fury filled the air as Mushin lethargically looked over her shoulder at the four guardians. Her intense evil eyes glared directly at Kestrel causing her knees to buckle in her boots. It took all of her will power to remain on her feet.
The other guardians quickly moved to Kestrel’s side, readying their weapons. A toothy grin moved across Mushin’s face as she turned her entire body to face them. Kestrel readied another arrow. The men also raised their weapons, ready to fight for their world.
“So,” Mushin finally whispered, “you want to fight dirty?”
There was a harsh movement and the next thing they knew Mushin was holding Thea in the air by her neck.
Kestrel’s heart dropped, “Thea!”
She tried to rush forward but Kai held her back. Never before in her life had she felt such anger for one person. All Kestrel knew now was that she wanted to burn Mushin’s flesh from her bones.
Slowly, the little guardian opened her bright green eyes to see the four standing before the demoness.
“Kest…rel…” she was able to gasp out before Mushin tightened her grip on her even more.
“Let the child go!” snapped Arthur.
“Oh, this is simply your punishment for trying to play dirty with me. Did you really think that it would be that simple to kill me? I could kill all five of you right now if I wanted to…”
Kestrel couldn’t keep her mouth shut any longer. “You dare kill her and I’ll—”
“And you’ll what? There is absolutely nothing you can do the stop me.”
“But,” said a new voice, “I can.”