Zakiah Adara: Year One

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Part Six: End of a Legacy

Devona peeked through the small window and into the cargo hold.

Akki lifted his foot and kicked the woman off of his sword. He raised the sword; he checked it over and sneered at the blood that now garnished it. He was so fixated on the object that he didn’t notice Devona opening the door. In all of her worse fears, she had not been expecting this.

As she slowly made her way closer to him, she couldn’t help but cringe.

The woman’s body lay limp across the hay as her blood turned it red. Her face was paler than was before. A few drops of blood graced her flesh, smearing across the cheek bones as if it were some distorted form of blush. Devona unintentionally gasped at the sight.

Her blue eyes looked up towards Akki. He finally had noticed her, but there was no reaction. He looked as though he had just been reading the newspaper and been interrupted, or perhaps missed the bus and had to wait for the next one. It was nowhere near the look of a person who had just killed someone.

The most frightening thing of all was when her eyes met with his.

They were black.

Not the normal yellow color that they usually were, but black. They were black like the woman’s had turned to in the hallway. Like bottomless pits that screamed they were the pathway to hell.

For a while, the two stared at each other, neither one of wanted to make the first move, or perhaps they were too shocked to do so. As she looked at Akki’s casual stance and emotionless face, she could tell that he wasn’t quite as shocked as she was.

She took a deep breath and finally got the courage to make a step toward him. Immediately he retracted an equal size step away from her. Fear was ripping her heart out.

The unpleasant silence grew, spreading throughout the room like a wild fire. Devona almost swore she could feel the tongue of flames lapping at her face. Still, she wasn’t going to give up.

What happened to him?

She took another slow step toward him only for him to take another back.

“Akki?” she finally asked.

His stern face locked eyes with her and she felt her soul run for its life. Perhaps it was smart enough to run away. Devona on the other hand was not. Instead, she locked her knees, stood tall, and looked back into those black eyes.

Her fear was beginning to turn to stubborn anger.

“Akki—”

“Leave!” he finally snapped.

Devona was shocked by his sudden outburst. “What...?”

“You heard me just fine, now get out of here!”

Her and her stupid stubbornness. “No.”

“What?”

“I’m not leaving here until you tell me what the hell is going on!”

He actually smirked now and shook his head, “Stupid little human, you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.”

Human?

Did he just call her a stupid little human?

What was he possessed or something!?

Well, that would explain the black eyes.

Too many thoughts were running through her head now to make a logical ones come back. “Uh...what is that supposed to mean?”

Now it was his turn to step toward her. The only problem was that his legs were longer and it didn’t take too many strides before he was standing directly above her, looking down with those eyes of pure evil.

Run away! Said her logic.

But, I have to help! Said her loyalty.

You can’t help if you’re dead!

I’m not going to die...Akki wouldn’t kill me.

Akki wouldn’t, but who the hell is this!?

I don’t know!

She verbally whined as he raised his hands and reached for her throat. There was no sorrow, no remorse in those cold black pits. No sign of the man who had just shown so much concern for her safety only a half an hour before.

Now he was reaching out to choke her, ready to take the life that he had so willingly pledged himself to. Whatever that woman had done to him had made him into a monster, a demon, or something else.

It wouldn’t really matter for much longer.

A tear slipped down her cheek as she felt his finger tips brush against her throat. Something twitched across his face, but it didn’t register to Devona.

“Please, Akki, don’t do this,” she whispered.

His hands began to shake and his face contorted and the fingers seemed to be moving farther away from her neck each passing second.

Something else flickered in those eyes: regret.

“De...vona...” he whispered.

In an instant, his hands were to his own head and he was screaming in pain. Devona stared as he dropped to his knees grasping at his hair. She gasped and knelt down next to him, wrapping an arm across his shoulders.

He flinched at her touch and tried to withdraw from her, but still she stayed at his side.

What the hell was going on?

“Akki, are you alright?”

He refused to look at her. He grasped his head tighter and curled up into a fetal position. Devona never thought she would ever see him do that.

“You...you have to leave, now!” he groaned out in pain. His grip tightened on his head as he let out a deep low growl. That was not a sound that humans were supposed to make. It was so unnerving. She could hardly keep herself from shaking against him in fear.

Somehow, she found the courage to speak, “Please tell me what is going on. I want to help you.”

He snarled, “You can’t help me! Now just go!”

There went her stubbornness again, “I’m not going to leave you like this!”

Then the door to the hold opened. Devona looked back to see Kestrel standing there in disbelief. Devona tightened her grip on Akki, afraid that Kestrel was going to hurt him.

Who knew, perhaps she actually would.

Kestrel slowly made her way over to them, investigating the scene. Once she came to the side of the girl’s dead body, she gasped. Then she looked over at Devona with sad eyes.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

Akki finally raised his head, turning toward Kestrel. Devona still couldn’t see his face, and she was sure that it was the way that he wanted it. Kestrel took a step back, one heel landing on the hay behind her as her hand clasped over her mouth.

“Get Devona out of here!” snapped Akki again.

Devona still wasn’t satisfied, “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what is going on!”

Kestrel dropped her hand and her tan eyes turned to Devona with a fiercely intense look that made Devona want to reform her stubborn ways.

Without a word, Kestrel reached out and tightly grabbed Devona’s shoulder. Kestrel tugged, and pulled the Princess away from the writhing guardian. Somehow, Devona didn’t feel like fighting back. Perhaps it was for the best to leave Akki alone on the cold wooden floor.

She was on her feet and being pushed toward the door. Devona’s eyes were still locked on Akki’s huddled body with a look of fear, until Kestrel stepped in front of her.

“Go directly back to the room. Kai is waiting there for you. Don’t look back, just go!”

Devona stumbled over her words, “But...I—”

Kestrel grasped the blonde’s shoulders tightly. There was sadness in her eyes.

“For once Devona, don’t be selfish. Just leave, please.”

Without another word spoken between them, Kestrel shoved her out of the room, slamming the door shut. Devona stood there staring at the door. The last of her stubbornness was kicking in, demanding to go back into the hold.

As she placed her hand on the handle, Kestrel’s word stung in her head.

For once Devona, don’t be selfish.

With a heavy sigh, Devona turned and made her way back toward the room.


Kestrel was immediately to his side once more. So many times he had told her the stories and warnings of what could happen to him, but never before had she actually seen it. Falling to her knees at his side, she placed a gentle hand on shoulder, trying her best to calm him down. Amazingly, he didn’t withdraw from her touch. Instead he just lay there in the comfort of a friend.

Fear grabbed at her throat, “What happened?”

Groaning, his grip on his head loosened a little, allowing himself to look back at her. “There was a Black Dragon.”

“A Black Dragon! How did one get on the ship?”

“I don’t know and I don’t very much care right now.” He groaned in pain. Kestrel shut her mouth and simply listened to his story. “She attacked Devona...I told Devona to go to the room and I ran after the Dragon, but damn her if she actually listened.” He grimaced in pain.

“Ulric,” Kestrel whispered, pitying him, and she knew he hated her for it.

Instead, he simply continued his story.

“I chased the Dragon here, and I had her beat but then...I don’t know how but I couldn’t breathe. She laughed in my face, and I knew that if I didn’t stop her she would go back and kill Devona. So I...”

Kestrel closed her eyes in recognition, “So you opened yourself back to Mushin.” She sighed, fighting back tears, “Oh Ulric...”

“Damn you Kestrel! Don’t you take that tone with me!” he snapped. “I brought this upon myself, you know that!”

“I know.”

He groaned, and grabbed at his head tightly once more. “I just, I—”

“You need some time alone?”

They both knew the meaning of the words, and as much as Ulric felt the need to deny her, he simply nodded. Taking another deep breath, she gently rubbed her hand across his tense back, trying her best to comfort him.

“I’ll tell you what, tonight is supposed to be my night in the other room, but I’ll let you have it. That way...” she froze, unwilling to say what they both knew she were about to.

“You don’t have to do that,” he whispered.

“Yes, I do.”

He took a deep breath and hid his head from her view. “I don’t want them to know what’s happening.”

“I won’t tell them, not one word. I’ll just say you’re shaken because of the fight, and want some time alone. I will not break my oath to you. Not now, not ever.”

He still refused to look at her, but she felt his tension slowly begin to fade. “You’re a good friend Kestrel.”

A warm smile curled her lips, even though he couldn’t see it. “Come on, I’ll help you to the room.”


Devona and Kai sat in silence.

If he knew what was going on, he didn’t let on at all. Of course Devona had told him everything, even down to the black eyes. Though, for some odd reason, she felt as if she were betraying Akki with her words.

Kai shifted in his bed, glancing toward the door once more time. He hadn’t said much to her. It seemed as though he were afraid that he would say something wrong.

What the hell was going on?

Eventually the door opened, and Devona was immediately on her feet. She was eager to see Akki, to check him over one more time to make sure he was alright. To hold him close to her and remind herself that he was back and the black eyed demon was gone.

Before she could question her own motives, she noticed Kestrel stood in the door way alone. Akki was nowhere to be found.

“Kestrel?” asked Kai.

“Where is he?” was all Devona could get out.

“He’s resting in the other room,” was her simple nonchalant reply.

Devona fiercely bit her lip, “I need to see him.”

“No you don’t,” snapped Kestrel.

Kestrel made her way into the room, slamming the door shut behind her. Kai jumped at the sound, but Devona stood glaring harshly at Kestrel. As the guardian made her way across the room to the third bed, Devona was quick on her heels.

“Kestrel,” said Devona. There was a fierce angry tone that the teenager had not expected to come from her own throat. “What is going on? You have to tell—”

“I don’t have to tell you anything,” snapped the other woman. She glared back at Devona, completely forgetting the friendly talk they had on the deck not too long ago. “It’s none of your business.”

“None of my business? I think it is! I was thrown into a world that I know nothing about, and something is happening to one of my guardians. I want to know what the hell is going on! Now I demand that you tell me!”

Kestrel narrowed her tan eyes at her, “You are a Princess by name, but I am NOT your slave. It is up to us what we tell you and what we don’t and this I choose...” she paused and her eyes shifted to Kai for a second then back at Devona, “we choose not to tell you.”

“I have a right to know.”

Kestrel’s intensity faded and she gently placed her hands on Devona’s shoulders. There was sadness in those eyes that she had not seen in the guardian since Thea and Arthur’s funeral.

“Please Devona, don’t ask. Just let it go. Do it for him,” she whispered.

That did it. Those words were enough to shut Devona up for good. She felt as though Kestrel had just reached into her chest and ripped out her heart. How could such simple words affect her so?

It was then that Devona realized Kestrel was protecting Akki. Protecting her as well from something and Devona didn’t know what, she wasn’t supposed to know.

Sighing, Devona lost the will to fight. Kestrel must have seen her surrender. She turned away from Devona and climbed into the large bed. Slowly Devona glanced back at Kai, to find him staring at her silently. Without a word, he kicked off his boots and slipped into his bed as well. Apparently so distracted that he forgot he was still fully clothed.

Devona made her way back to her small bed and pulled back the covers. Was she really expected to sleep now? It was hardly dusk out and the guardians were all curled up in bed. Perhaps this was just their way of avoiding her questioning.

Well it was working.

With one last glance at the two guardians, Devona climbed into her bed, also ignoring the fact she was still wearing the corset and short skirt.

She pulled the comforter up to her chin, hoping to forget the antics of today. To forget the woman’s lifeless body as Akki kicked her from her sword. To forget that horrid black void in the place of those warm comforting yellow eyes.

To forget the feel of his fingers on her throat as he tried to snuff out her life…

No, she wouldn’t sleep tonight. Who knows, she may never sleep again the way things were going. This was the war they had warned her about. The deaths of Thea and Arthur seemed so distant now, almost like a dream, but now it was all too clear to her now.

War was hell, and she was in the middle of it.


He paced about in the room, alone, trying to forget all that happened only a few hours before. Trying to forget just how close he had come to killing the girl he had sworn to protect.

This can’t be happening, he thought.

With a sigh, he sat down on the ground, allowing his head to fall back to stare at the ceiling. Images of death jumped into the forefront of his mind. Things he could not possibly forget and things he could not forgive himself for. So much blood had been spilled that he could still smell its stagnant bitter stench. He could still feel the splatter of death as it leapt upon his skin.

You deserve to be happy.

Her words were still ringing hard in his head. She had no idea what he had done, or what he had become. Hopefully, she would never truly know.

I know you didn’t do any of that stuff on purpose, and I believe you truly are a good person. You deserve to live like everyone else. Don’t give up on life

He let his head drop low, shutting his eyes tightly. Pain gripped his heart, wondering how she could possibly care about his well being. Though he was sure after today she wouldn’t care at all anymore.

Then again...

Please tell me what is going on. I want to help you.

How could she possibly care? How could she still worry about him after what he had done? After what she saw him do? Not only the woman’s death, but her own life was on the line as well. He had almost killed her.

Devona, her name was soft in his mind. He didn’t know what it meant, but somehow it gave him comfort to know that she cared. Somehow, it meant more to him than Kestrel’s oath.

Why?

Because she’s the Princess, he lied to himself.

But even if it were more than that...it wouldn’t matter. According to the laws he fought so hard to live up to now, she would only ever be the Princess to him.

Still, he would guard her with his life.


The next morning, they met in the hallway. Blue eyes met with the golden ones she had become accustom to seeing. Relief washed over her even as they stood there staring at each other in awkward silence. She waited for him to scold her for being alone. But when she woke up after the two hours of sleep she had finally obtained, Kai and Kestrel were still in bed. She didn’t wake them, plus she still needed some time alone.

Who knew she would run into Akki?

What should she say? Dare she ask how he was doing? Kestrel had made it pretty clear that Devona should just forget about it, pretend it never happened. But, could Akki do the same?

“Um,” she whispered, her cheeks became flush under his gaze. “So, did you sleep well?”

Perhaps that was the wrong thing to ask, but he answered. “Not really.”

She grimaced. Now she had to retract and try to make it better. “Yeah, I didn’t either. Kestrel and Kai went to bed so early and I couldn’t go anywhere after they did. The sun was still out and they expected me to sleep? Yeah right. But I guess that’s why I’m up so early, even though they are still in bed. But, you know, I just couldn’t stay in that room any longer. I think I might be losing my mind or something. Isn’t that silly, hahaa…”

Her babbling didn’t seem to help matters, he still looked worried. Perhaps there was even a tinge of fear, but Devona wasn’t entirely sure. She had never seen that look on him before so she didn’t know exactly what it meant.

She then found the perfect question to ask, “So, what are we going to do when we get to the next Constellation?”

The tension on his face immediately loosened and she knew that she had finally said the right thing. With that question, she let him know that she wasn’t going to pester him about what happened the day before. As much as she wanted to, she decided to take Kestrel’s advice and try to let it go.

It took him a few second before he finally replied, “Well, we’ll stay the night in the port city, and then start making our way across the Constellation. We’ll see if you sense anything, and if not, move onto the next one.”

Devona frowned, What a well formulated plan.

Instead of questioning farther, they separated from each other, breaking the awkward encounter. Still, the look in those horrible black eyes clawed at her soul. Something was obviously not right, and Devona had no idea what it was. That woman, her eyes had turned black as well. What did it mean?

Sighing, Devona slowly pushed open the door to the common bathroom. Knowing she would not get answers to her questions any time soon. Kestrel, Kai, and even Akki’s lips were locked.

Another week passed before they had finally made it to the Second Constellation. All of them were eager to get off the boat and see land again. Devona nearly fell to her knees when she felt the soft soil beneath her feet. Never in her life did she expect to be happy about seeing dirt.

The city that lay at the dock was a very large port. They explained to Devona that many people stayed in the city a long time, awaiting passage to the First Constellation. Apparently there were some extensive tests that had to be run before one was allowed to travel to the “holy” Constellation as they had called it. Tests that would prove if one were a Black Dragon or not, tests that did not detect the woman who had tried to kill her only a week ago.

It was the first city that Devona had seen while in Zakiah Adara. Sure, the palace was immense, but there were no homes anywhere near it. Not to mention the only dwellings they came across were in small villages. It seemed the “holy” Constellation was for few to live on.

Devona gulped as they made their way down the stone path toward the city gates. It was hard to believe that all she had been through already was merely a prelude. The one woman they had encountered was a simple mishap, something that was beyond all reason. It should never have happened, but it did, and it nearly tore her apart. The realization that more harsh battles were to come made her stomach sink. Still she could see the woman’s cold limp body on the floor, turning the hay below her red. It was the first time Akki had to kill to protect her, and Devona was sure that it would not be his last.

As they entered the city gates, Devona stopped, staring at her surroundings in awe. She could now clearly see the old fashioned buildings that looked as though they belonged in the Victorian era of England. Tall Tudor style houses lined the streets with small wooden shops along each street corner. The people of the city moved about leisurely, as if they had no idea about the war that was being waged around them. A few people took a second glance at the four of them, but then ignored them as if they actually belonged.

The stone paved streets were full of horses and carriages that quickly made their way through out the city. Some were fancy, others were barely holding together. Devona felt as if she had just been thrown into a time warp. She could hardly keep herself from staring at the women as they walked about in long dresses with stiff high necks. Immediately Devona felt naked compared to them, and made a quick motion to cover her body with her arms.

Only Kai noticed her movement, and he stifled a laugh. She glared at him, ready to verbally attack him when Akki finally spoke up.

“Let’s find an inn and lay low. We don’t want to draw any attention to ourselves,” he said, turning to face the other three.

Kai smiled and turned his thumb toward the Princess. “Devona seems to already be drawing a lot of attention. Must be they think there is a new harlot in town.”

Akki simply narrowed his eyes at the young prince, and they all prepared themselves for Devona’s outrage. Instead she just looked confused and glared over at Kai.

“I’m not sure what that means, but I don’t like the sound of it!”

Kestrel raised an eye brow at her, “You don’t know what a harlot is?”

“Should I?”

“Alright, let’s get moving,” Akki quickly said, turning away from them. Apparently this was another question that Devona was not going to get answered.

Kestrel put her hands on her hips and eyed Devona carefully, “He may be right though, and perhaps we should get you some more suitable city attire.”

Devona crossed her arms over her exposed chest, which she now was self conscious of. “Well, you aren’t so covered yourself.”

“You’re right. Maybe we all need more clothes.”

They both looked up to see Kai storming back toward them with a very angry look on his face.

“What’s wrong?” asked Kestrel.

Ulric forgot the horses!” snapped Kai. He didn’t stop as he came toward them. Instead he blew on by leaving them in his dust. “So of course, I have to go get them!”

Kestrel shook her head and whispered, “I wish those two would just get along,”

Devona sighed, “I highly doubt that will ever happen.”


After they checked into the local inn, they laid low. Well, as low as two strange people could get shopping for new clothes in a complete foreign town standing out like sore thumbs.

Devona bit her cheek as she glanced over at Kai. Still she couldn’t quite believe that Akki had allowed just the two of them to explore the town alone, especially since they were shopping for clothes to hide their identities. Of course, Kai was forced to go with Devona, even though it was originally Kestrel’s idea. Devona actually felt bad for him. She knew how most guys hate shopping. Perhaps it should have been taken into consideration that they would need to hide their identities before they left the First Constellation.

Or the palace at least, there the clothes were free.

Devona sighed as they entered one of the only tailors in town. This was going to be far more than what she had been bargaining for. Here, Devona thought they could just walk in and buy stuff off the rack, but apparently things didn’t work that way in the old fashioned world of Zakiah Adara.

How she missed J.C. Penny right now.

It was a tiny shop. Devona assumed that was because the real work went on behind the door on the other side of the counter. The walls were wallpapered with a blue that had a pattern of pink roses, trimmed out with white baseboards. There were only a few dresses lining the wall, each was on its own manikin. They were made with gorgeous fabrics: satin, velvet, silk, and many more. All types that Devona could never afford back home, and doubted they could afford them now.

Kai sighed and approached the young woman who sat at the counter. The girl barely looked up at him as he approached her. After taking a deep breath, Devona followed behind Kai, but still kept a safe distance.

“Hello, how are you today?” asked the woman.

Kai tried his best to smile, “Hi, I know this is going to sound a little odd, but I was wondering if we could get some nice dresses made?”

The woman kept her polite smile as she gently shook her head. “I doubt you would be able to afford any of our clothing.”

Devona felt as though the woman had just slapped her in the face. Somewhere deep inside of her, the poor teenager cried out in shock, knowing how unbearably true it was.

Kai finally smiled, “Perhaps if you knew who I was, and who she is,” he said tilting his head toward Devona, “you would change your mind.”

Quickly Devona cleared her throat. Kai glared back at her, and then looked back at the woman. Why did Kai feel the need to go around telling everyone who Devona was? Didn’t the whole “we need to lay low and not let anyone find out who we are” mean anything to him!?

Devona rolled her eyes and Kai continued to pry at the woman.

“And just who are you?” the woman asked with a snide tone.

“I happen to be a guardian, and she is one of the Princesses.”

The woman shook her head and looked back down at something on the desk. “Yes, I’m sure you are. And I’m Queen Oriana.”

Now Kai reacted, “Listen lady, I don’t appreciate your tone. Do you have any idea who you are turning away?”

The woman looked up at him, completely unamused, “Listen sir, do you have any idea how many people we have coming in here telling us they are one of the Princesses? You actually expect me to believe you without any proof?”

“Proof? Oh, I’ll give you—”

Devona quickly grabbed Kai’s arm and dragged him toward the door.

“Thanks anyway!” Devona blurted as she pulled the furious guardian out of the store.

Kai huffed glaring at the closed door, “How dare she turn away a Princess like that? I’m going to tell Queen Oriana about this when we get back.”

Devona sighed, “It’s for the best. We aren’t supposed to be going around telling everyone anyway. You know what Akki will do if he finds out.”

Kai shook his head, “You act as if I care what he has to say. Fine, I guess that’s it for now, let’s head back.”

“What about a disguise?”

Kai shrugged his shoulders, “In the other towns it shouldn’t be so bad. It’s just here everyone dresses so proper, trying to be on their best behavior to get to the First Constellation. Most other places they usually dress like us.”

“So this was a waste of time?”

“Don’t blame me, it was Kestrel’s idea, take it up with her.”

“Oh, I will.”


It was the next day when Akki and Devona walked through the market. After their first night staying in the city, Akki finally mentioned that now would be a good time to stock up on food. Devona was going to miss the complementary meals that were on the ship. Now, apparently they were going to have to hunt for food once they left the city. That wasn’t something she was looking forward to.

In the center of town were all of the merchants. They were selling anything from tiny crabs to whole torsos of cows. It was not a pretty sight, nor was the smell. Everyone around Devona seemed used to it, so she tried to pretend as though it didn’t bother her. With the looks that Akki kept giving her, it was obvious that her attempts were not working. Devona put on a smile, scrunching her nose at the same time. She swore she saw him smirk as he turned his attention back to the piece of meat in front of him.

Why had Kestrel insisted on staying at the inn while Devona and Akki went shopping for food? Kestrel was always the one telling Devona that she couldn’t be with Akki, but yet the woman kept putting them in situations together. Though, shopping in a market place full of rotting meat wasn’t exactly romantic.

After only a few minutes in the market, Akki came to a sudden stop. Devona nearly ran into the back of him, but stopped just short.

“Food here is too expensive,” muttered Akki.

Still after the time in the market, Devona’s stomach was still growling and they weren’t any food richer.

“Can’t we just buy something? I’m about to starve to death!” whined Devona.

He glared at her, “Queen Oriana only gave us enough gold to get us through this year. We can’t go wasting it all on expensive food. Eating is just going to have to wait till tomorrow when we can hunt.”

Devona let out an audible whine, “But Akki, that’s a whole day away! Can’t we just buy something to hold us over till then?”

Akki crossed his arms over his chest, “Do you really think I’m going to pay 5 gold pieces just so you’ll stop whining?”

“I was hoping so.”

He sighed, “Sorry Devona, you’re just going to have to wait.”

“Then why are we wasting money on the inn! I rather sleep outside and eat than sleep in a bed and starve to death!”

Now he was starting to get angry, “Devona, you ate a huge breakfast that came with the room this morning. That was only a few hours ago, I don’t think you’re going to starve anytime soon.”

“But—”

“There he is!”

The two immediately turned toward the voice. Across the market place stood a group of soldiers covered in red armor. Devona had never seen anything like them in person before.

“City guards,” said Akki, “they keep violence and theft under control, throwing perpetrators into the dungeon.”

“Oh, so they’re like cops?” asked Devona.

“Why do you insist on using words that we don’t have when asking a question?”

“They’re like those guys, except minus the armor and the dungeon…well there is jail. They have bars on the cells—”

Devona stopped her sentence short when she realized that the guards were moving with ferocity, pushing people out of their way. The red squad was in a hurry, and they were coming straight toward them.

Devona had a feeling that this was not going to end well.

“Devona!” snapped Akki, but it was too late.

More guards appeared from behind them just as the other guards reached them. They were completely surrounded. The red armor glistened in the noon sun as they each lowered their swords toward Akki.

“What’s going on!” cried Devona.

“Black Wolf, you are under arrest,” said one of the men in armor. Devona couldn’t tell which because of the helmets, but had she known…she probably wouldn’t have done anything anyway.

Akki quickly drew his sword, and tried to put himself in front of Devona. Doing so just put her even closer to the group of guards that was behind her. A few sharp ends of swords brushed against her skin. She really wished that she had staid back at the inn.

“Lower your weapon, you have no chance for escape!” snapped a different guard.

Devona leaned close to Akki’s ear and whispered, “What are we—”

A man grabbed her from behind, clasping a cloth over her mouth. Her vision became blurry and the last thing she heard was Akki screaming her name.


Pain was the first thing that Akki felt upon waking. Every fiber of his body ached. Even parts that he didn’t even know were possible to hurt. Rolling his head, trying to wake up, he noticed that the majority of the pain was coming from the back of his head. Slowly, images of the market place came back to him: the crimson guards, the swords in his face, Devona falling to the ground.

Devona.

He tried opening his eyes, but all he could see was a haze of gray. All around him was one big blur, shapes were indistinguishable. Trying to force his eyes to focus wasn’t helping anything either. It only made his head hurt even more.

“Shit,” he whispered, knowing no one could hear. Or at least, he hoped no one could.

Trying to move his arms only resulted in a heavy restraint that he wasn’t expecting. His hands were bound together above his head. Feeling around he found cool steel wrapped around his wrists. Connected to the steel was a chain, and on the other side of the chain was the wall.

He was trapped.

The feel of the room let him know that there was someone else in there with him. It was a scent that he had grown accustom to and was so relieved to smell. Even if he didn’t know how to get them out, at least he knew where she was.

He growled, pulling hard against the chains that bound him. Of course all they did was protest against the wall and his wrists. Frustrated, he slammed his head against the wall, which was not a good idea either.

“Damn it,” he growled.

Almost an hour later, his vision finally began to return to him. Now he could see that Devona was lying on the ground next to him. She too was prisoner to the wall, but she had a chain around her foot which allowed her to lie on the ground. Akki was slightly jealous.

She hadn’t moved the entire time since he woke up. He could see that she was breathing, but that was the only movement she had made. Not one stir, nor a mumble in her sleep, nothing. Before he could worry about it anymore, his thoughts were interrupted by an odor he hadn’t smelled in years. One that he had hoped he never would have again.

It was a musty stench, the one that clings to old men. But it wasn’t just that, it reeked of a rodent that rolls in the dirt and lives on trash, something that isn’t even worth being called a human.

A blurry round shape appeared on the opposite side of the bars. It was only then that Akki noticed that they were actually in the dungeon that he told Devona about. He should have realized it sooner, but he was going to blame that on the head injury.

There wasn’t time to worry about that though. As the figure came closer to the cell, Akki could see his balding head that was too small for his fat round body. The only thing that matched the size of his body was the size of his protruding nose. Long straggly nose hairs hung from its depths lined with perspiration.

Akki felt his stomach turn at the sight of the man, for more reasons that one.

“Well, well, well, long time no see, eh, Mr. Black Wolf?” asked a scratchy voice.

“Arma,” said Akki.

“I’m pleased that you actually remember my name.”

Akki scoffed, “It’s more that retched smell that I remember.”

“And yet, you still remember me. You can’t insult me Mr. Wolf. I know it’s all in love.”

Akki refused to respond to that. It had been so many years ago when he and Arma worked together, when Arma worked for the ‘Black Wolf’. Even then the only reason he used Arma was for a distraction. The people would be too distracted by the horrible stench that they wouldn’t notice his group escaping.

It actually worked too.

“What do you want Arma?”

The man shrugged his pudgy shoulders, “What would make you think that I want something, Mr. Wolf? Perhaps I’m just here to help out an old friend, or at least the body of one.”

Akki growled at him, “Cut the bull shit, why are you here?”

“I’ve come to be your savior! To set you and that perky little friend of yours free. Nothing more, nothing less, except…”

“Of course,” whispered Akki.

Arma smirked, “I will need some payment for letting you go.”

Akki didn’t even dare ask him what the payment would be. Whatever it was, knowing the sick demented minds he used to be around, it was not going to be good.

The bald man played with his holey tweed collar. It was a gross brown color that seemed to fit him and his smell perfectly. Not to mention those disgusting rotting teeth.

“The payment isn’t much really, actually for you it’s nothing at all. For the girl though…”

“Forget it.”

He turned his head away from the old man, looking down at the sleeping blonde. Whatever Arma had in store, it had to be perverted. There was not a waking moment in that’s man’s life that he wasn’t having tainted thoughts.

And Akki would rather die than let Arma touch Devona.

“Oh come now, you didn’t even let me finish. It’s simple really, extremely simple, Mr. Wolf.”

“I don’t care, the answer is no.”

“What about, a kiss?”

That brought to mind a horrible image of Devona pinned down to the floor under Arma’s roly poly body. Her face turning blue as his cracked lips forced hers apart, and his tongue down her throat.

“No way in Hell, Earth, or Zakiah Adara!” snapped Akki.

“Fine, but it’s not just your life you are throwing away, Mr. Wolf. Think about her, don’t you think that she would much rather kiss someone than end up dead?”

As much as he didn’t want to think about it, he kept doing so. There was no way. He couldn’t let Arma do that to Devona. Especially not before Akki did…he pushed the ridiculous thought from his mind. He knew that he didn’t want to be with Devona, that he couldn’t be with Devona. Yet still, the idea of being with Devona…

It always brought him back to that first chance meeting at the carnival. When he had helped her to her feet, he had pulled too hard and she ended up leaning up against him. Her breath grazing his neck, her fingers clinging to the front of his silver shirt, her eyes locked intently on his.

But that was before he knew who she was. If only he were a less cautious man, maybe he would have kissed her like he had so desperately wanted to. Maybe, he would have leaned his head toward hers until she could feel his breath on her lips. She would have let her lower lip drop open, just enough to let him know he could seal the deal.

His lips would be pressed against hers, firmly but not too hard. It would be just enough not to let her know what he wanted. She would wrap her arms around his neck, dragging her fingers lightly through his hair. His arms would drop and mold around her waist. He would pull her close, feeling her breasts against his chest. At that, she would drop her head back and moan as he would lay a chaste kiss on the corner of her mouth. Then on her cheek. Then her neck.

Her mouth would drop open in a gasp as he would begin to suck on her pulse. Both of their blood would be racing, demanding more than just a kiss. Demanding that they both throw caution to the wind and simply enjoy each other.

She would roll her head to the side, exposing more of her neck for him to explore. The bites and sweet nibbles would cause her to moan and grab at the back of his shirt. Nails would rake up and down his back in passion.

Her mouth would whisper his name, begging for more.

“Mr. Wolf?”

Akki snapped back to reality to find the round man still standing on the other side of the bars staring at him. Hopefully the man had no idea what Akki was just envisioning, hopefully no one ever would.

“The answer is still no Arma, now leave.”

“What’s wrong, is she yours?”

That struck a nerve and Arma had no idea how deep. Or maybe he did, maybe he did it on purpose. Either way, it made Akki’s blood feel as though it were about to burst from his veins.

“No,” was all Akki could reply.

“Then it shouldn’t matter. Are you really going to throw away both of your lives just to keep me away from her?”

“Maybe we won’t die.”

Arma laughed a horrible noise that cut deep to where Akki’s soul should be. “Why, haven’t you figured it out? Why else would the guards have captured you? You are better off dead. The girl might have a chance, but you, Mr. Wolf, you are dead.”

Could he really sign Devona’s lips away to this man for his own freedom?

It is only a kiss, he tried to convince himself. Would she care?

“I’m waiting,” snapped the old man.

Akki narrowed his eyes, “Just a kiss?”

“Yes, of course, just one little kiss, that’s all.”

“If you touch her anywhere else, I’ll kill you.”

Arma smiled, “Are you agreeing to the deal?”

Akki scoffed and looked away from the very ecstatic man. There really was no other choice that Akki could see. It was either take Arma's offer, or remain there and end up dead.

Sadly, regretfully, Akki nodded.

Arma clasped his hands together, “Amazing! I’ll be right back with the keys!”

He couldn’t watch the round man as he scuttled off. He was so disappointed in himself for actually accepting the deal. How could he do that to Devona? She had no say in it, and he knew she was not going to be happy.

From the ground he heard a small groan. Turning his attention to the blonde he noticed she was finally beginning to stir. Fear grabbed as his heart as she raised her blue eyes to meet with his yellow ones.

“Akki?” she whispered.

He gulped and tried to hide the worry from his face. “Yes?”

She winced as she pushed herself off the ground to sit next to him. Her head came level with his shoulder, and she turned those beautiful eyes again to look at him.

“Where are we?” she finally was able to ask. She seemed to be trying to focus her eyes as she glanced around the dark cell. “Please tell me we aren’t in that dungeon you mentioned earlier.”

Akki let out an exasperated sigh. “I wish I could tell you that Princess.”

When she tried to get to her feet was when she finally noticed the chain around her ankle. Immediately her eyes went wide, a loud gasp fell from her lips.

“We’re both chained,” said Akki. He moved his hands around in the manacles to show her.

Devona still looked shocked. It took her a few more seconds before she could finally look at him again.

“I’ve never been chained up before.” Devona ran a shaky hand through her blonde hair, separating long strands from the rest. For some reason he couldn’t look away from her as she pushed the golden strands behind her ear.

Snapping back to reality, he shook his head and looked away from her. “It’s something I’m used to,” he said. “Hopefully, you won’t get used to it as well.”

“Why?”

“Why shouldn’t you get used to it?”

Furiously, she shook her head and she crossed her legs in an attempt to get comfortable.

“No, why did they capture us?”

Akki tried his best not to laugh, she was still new to all of this. Perhaps she hadn’t quite grasped the meaning of everything, the meaning of him being the Black Wolf.

He looked at her with intense yellow eyes. “They captured us because I’m the Black Wolf.”

“They recognized you?”

He nodded.

“If it’s that easy to spot you then…”

“Why haven’t I been captured before?”

“Yeah.”

He leaned his head back against the wall. Why was it that she had to ask so many questions? “Not everyone knows what I look like, but I’m assuming they had to have recognized me. It wouldn’t be the first time.”

“Oh, sorry.”

The two of them sat in silence for a while. Devona joined him in leaning against the wall. The brick was cold to the touch, but it was the only comfort they could find. Devona watched him intently, as if she were waiting for him to make a move. There was no move he could make. Except…

He could tell her about the deal.

Instead he laid his head to the side so that he could look into her eyes. There was worry lines frowning her forehead. Sighing, she closed her eyes for a second. Whether she knew it or not, she was slowly leaning closer toward him. Perhaps her body was just seeking heat or even comfort. All he knew was he could hardly breathe when he felt her breath on his cheek. Damn, why was he feeling this way?

“It’s so cold,” said Devona. Her small frame shivered lightly.

He wanted to help her. He wanted to wrap an arm around her and pull her close to him. Regretfully, he tugged at the chains that encompassed his hands. Why was it that his life had to be full of such torment?

She crawled closer to him, until the chain holding her leg was stretched as far as it would go. She was pressed against his side, just barley. It was enough so that she could lean her cool cheek against his shoulder.

His fingers twitched above his head, damning who ever captured them. Didn’t they know the hell they were putting him through? He knew he was not supposed to be with her, he didn’t want to be with her, but they put her so close to him…

“Damn it.” He hadn’t realized the word left his lips until he saw her eyes open.

Lazily, she looked up at him. Without a word she reached out her hand. Slowly it moved to lightly touch the fabric covering his ribs. Her small fingers wound themselves in the fabric. What was she doing?

“I thought you said she wasn’t yours, Mr. Wolf.”

Immediately Devona was back on the other side of the cell. Both went rigid, sitting up straight and tall, as if that was how they would normally act.

Akki’s eyes turned forward to find the round man had returned. A mischievous smile curled Arma’s chapped lips. How Akki longed to be free so he could reach through the bars and tear that smirk off of Arma’s face.

“This is an interesting predicament, wouldn’t you say?” asked Arma.

Akki scoffed, narrowing his eyes intently at the man. He was going to try and change the deal now, but there was no way Akki was going to budge.

“About time you got back,” said Akki. There was a snarl in his tone that even made Arma shake a bit. With those predatory eyes glaring at him, Arma would probably agree to just about anything.

“Well,” Arma stumbled a bit over his words, “I…I…uh…had trouble finding the keys. Now, back to the situation at hand, Mr. Wolf. I’m sure you already informed the perky young woman of our agreement.”

Devona’s arms crossed tightly over her chest as she now glared at Arma. “What are you talking about?” Even though Akki wasn’t looking at her, he could hear the blush in her voice.

“You didn’t mention it? Naughty, naughty, Mr. Wolf.”

“Just get us out!” Akki was serious now, but still Arma didn’t budge.

“Now, now, you should probably inform the young woman of the deal.”

Devona turned her glare to Akki, burning holes into his flesh with her eyes. “What deal is he talking about, Akki?”

Regretfully, he glanced back over at her. She must have seen something bad in his eyes because she immediately went from anger to worry.

“He wants you to kiss him. It’s the only way he agreed to let us out.” For some reason, the explanation didn’t sound that bad to Akki.

However, the look on Devona’s face told another story. “You told him no way, right?” No answer. “Right?” Still no answer and he looked away from her. “What the hell!”

“I’m sorry Devona, but we have no choice.”

“There’s got to be another way,” she said. Akki was barely able to hear her whisper, “God, please let there be another way.”

Arma laughed harshly, drawing both pairs of eyes back to him. “At least I didn’t ask for your body young woman. I simply want your lips.”

“No way! You’re so…gross!”

“But you are beautiful. I’ve never been with such a beautiful woman. Would you like me to up the price of the deal? I would gladly do so.”

Akki’s muscles tensed and his hands fought hard to break from the chains. Even thinking about the pudgy man touching Devona made his blood burn. There was no way around it. Akki just hoped Devona would see that.

That way they could just get it over with, so he could kill Arma later.

Devona stuttered. “Uh, no, that’s okay. I—” she paused, looking back over at Akki for a second. “I—I guess you’re right.”

“Glad you finally see it my way Devona.

Swollen fingers reached for the barred door, keys in hand. It didn’t take long before the man was in the cell with them, making his way toward the shivering Princess.

Akki couldn’t watch. He turned his attention to the opposite wall. Hopefully he wouldn’t hear too much either or he might not be able to stop himself from killing Arma.

“Um, can you at least let me out of my chain first?”

Bargaining still? She’s trying to get out of it…or prolong the wait, thought Akki.

“Young woman, we should not stall, the guards could return at any moment.”

He’s smarter than he looks.

“But, I can’t really get into it if I can’t stand up or move.”

“Fine, if you insist.”

A few clinks, and then there was a small clang.

“Thanks, much better.”

Her feet shuffled as she stood up. Dirt twirled beneath her foot as she moved it around, making sure that it still worked.

“Um…could you uh…give me a second before we do this? I need some…time to let my foot stop hurting. I can’t focus if I’m in pain.”

“Devona…”

Akki cringed at Arma’s usage of Devona’s name.

“Just, a few minutes, I swear.”

Silence.

“Alone.”

“This is insanity! I offer to help and you just take advantage of me. I’ll give you your time Princess, but you had better be ready when I return, or you can just rot here!”

Akki looked up just in time to see Arma storming out of the cell. He tried not to notice the man’s fat as it bounced around underneath his tweed suit. Once on the other side of the bars, Arma slammed the door shut, locked it, and disappeared into the darkness.

There was a heavy sigh to his left and he looked to see Devona leaning against the brick wall. Her blonde hair was smashed up under her body as other free strands hung across her face. Now he finally noticed that she was covered head to toe in dirt. There were smudges noticeable on her bare arms and cheeks.

“I thought he would never leave,” she sighed as she slid down the wall. She ended up sitting next to Akki again, back to where they were before Arma showed up.

“He locked the door, so that didn’t help any,” said Akki. Though he was trying his best not to sound like his normal angry self, but it was automatic to give such an answer.

She answered him with an angry glare, “I just need some time to prepare myself that’s all. You’re not the one who has to kiss that…thing.”

Yeah, but I have to watch you kiss him. “It’s the only way,” answered Akki.

“I know…I don’t like it, but I know.”

With a sigh, she laid her head against the wall, close to his shoulder. His muscles tensed at the feeling of her breath on his skin. Why was it that when she was so close he had to feel this way? Why did he have to be so attracted to her?

Devona opened her eyes again, turning her eyes up toward Akki’s. They made eye contact, and he could see just how upset she was. There was something that she wasn’t telling him.

He asked, “Is there something else bothering you?”

With a sigh, she closed her eyes tightly and shook her head. “No, it’s nothing.”

“Devona, just tell me.”

She looked at him again, and he swore he saw the slightest smirk on her lips. “It’s just that, I can’t believe that gross man is going to be my second kiss. My one and only second kiss!”

“I’m sorry about that.”

She immediately sat up straight, with an intent look in her eyes. Now whatever else was going on was seriously starting to worry him.

“Devona…”

“You just don’t get it! Maybe a second kiss is nothing to you! But, it’s a big deal on Earth!”

He must have looked confused, because she continued to explain.

“Okay, so, just look at it this way. Usually, your first kiss, you never end up with that person. Now, second kiss, that’s the person you’re going to marry! Or at least, the second one is someone you care more about! Get it?”

He raised an eyebrow at her.

“So, obviously, a second kiss is way more important than a first kiss. I just can’t believe he’s going to be my second kiss!”

Exasperated, she dramatically flung her body against the wall again. She slumped down toward the dirt ground, turning her attention away from Akki.

His eyes narrowed at her. Devona’s story made no sense, but was that simply because he didn’t know what to think of it? Because it wasn’t a tradition he was used to? Or maybe it was because she was being so damn dramatic about it.

Her shoulders began to quiver and short gasps came from her. The smell of salt bit at his nose, his stomach sank. She was crying and there was nothing he could do to help her.

“Devona, I’m sorry, I wish there was something I could do.”

The quivering and sniffling stopped as she glanced back at him. “There is one thing you could do.”

“What’s that?”

Immediately, she turned to face him, a firm hand grabbing his shoulder. There was a pleading look in her eyes that made his instincts scream RUN! Too bad he couldn’t move, so he was left there staring into those beautiful blue eyes.

His fingers grasped at the cool metal around his wrists, begging to be free.

“Please Akki,” she whispered. “Will you be my second kiss?”


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