Zakiah Adara: Year One

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Part Seven: First Seconds

Devona smirked at the sight of his shocked face. Her plan had worked well so far. Somehow, she was able to convince Arma to leave them alone for a while. Just long enough for her to come up with some crazy story to try and get back at Akki.

If he was going to sell her lips, she was going to take full advantage of it.

The look on his face was worth all of it. Right now Devona didn’t care about the fact that Akki wanted nothing to do with her. Perhaps she really was nothing more to him than a snobby Princess, but she needed this.

Maybe a second kiss really wasn’t as big of a deal as she made it out to be, but it still was a big deal to her. After Mark, all she thought about was, “Who would be next?” Never did she expect it would be Arma.

Plus, she wanted to get back at Akki. Make him suffer too.

Might as well take advantage of the situation, thought Devona.

“You can’t be serious,” whispered Akki.

“Oh, I’m serious.” Devona scooted closer to him, trying her best to still appear to be sad. “Please Akki, this is really important to me. I much rather it be you than him.”

He sighed, leaning his head back against the wall. He still kept his eyes on her, but she could tell he was getting frustrated.

“Devona, you know we can’t,” was all he said.

Her heart jumped, she hadn’t realized just how seriously he was going to take the proposal. It wasn’t something that Devona meant that way. She just wanted someone other than Arma to be her second kiss. It wasn’t serious like…that.

Or was it?

“Listen, I know that we…uh…can’t. But, that’s not what I’m asking. All I want is a kiss. So that my second kiss is not Arma. You don’t have to feel anything for me, and I don’t have to feel anything for you, it’s just a kiss.”

If there is such a thing. She sighed and tried to convince herself that there was.

Then, she knew the perfect thing to say to him. “If you won’t do it as a guardian, than at least do it as a friend. I’m not quite sure how you see me, but I see you as one. Please, Akki, will you do this for me?”

They sat there in silence. Akki’s eyes were tightly shut, as he refused to look at her. There was a strange pain in his face that almost made her feel bad about all of this.

What broke the silence was totally unexpected and it made her jaw drop.

“Just be quick about it, Arma will be back any second.”

Devona stared at him. She had convinced herself that he was going to refuse her. The fact that he actually agreed to it floored her.

She leaned closer to him, trying to erase the surprised look off her face. “Are you…you’re kidding, right?”

All rational thought disappeared as he opened his eyes. There was a deeply intense look that turned her heart over. It was almost, erotic.

“I said hurry up.”

All Devona could do was nod. As she moved to sit in front of him and pulled herself closer to him, she finally realized just how difficult this was going to be.

He was sitting with his back up against the wall, arms above his head. Though he was low enough to the ground that he was forced to sit cross legged, it didn’t really give her much room to work with.

Shaky hands grabbed at his shirt, right at his ribs. Taking in a deep breath, she pulled herself closer to him, only to come in contact with his legs.

Blue eyes met golden ones, just far enough apart that a kiss was not possible.

Taking another deep breath, Devona tried to calm her nerves. “I don’t know how this is going to work.”

He sighed heavily, obviously annoyed

“Just do what it takes,” he said.

Do what it takes? Okay Mr. Hotshot.

Gripping tighter on his shirt, she pulled herself up closer to him. She was leaning way far over that it was uncomfortable, and Devona knew it wouldn’t work. There was another way. He must have seen the flash of white from her teeth as she smirked in the darkness. Without a word of warning, she raised one leg to straddle it over his.

Akki sat up even taller as she moved her other leg into place. There they were, sitting in the darkness, with Devona comfortably positioned on his lap.

After she had done it, she realized just how intimate the position was. Her hands were now flat against his chest, feeling it move as he tried to catch his breath. Her thighs rubbed against his as she tried to settle in.

His breath caught, and he leaned his head back against the cold wall. She watched him silently, feeling her own breath increase. Her heart was dancing about her chest, in both fear and delight.

This is what I have been wanting, said her stupidity. Now I have him!

It’s not like that, replied reason. This is revenge, something he was forced into. This isn’t what I wanted at all!

Stop being so logical and kiss the man already! He obviously wants it!

“This is a little less awkward,” said Devona. She noted her own stupidity again in such a comment. This was far more awkward than leaning over his legs.

“Yeah,” Akki moved his head erect to face her. His slightly too long hair hung across his forehead, draping over his eyes. They shined in the dark, and she saw that same erotic look again.

It’s only a kiss, she thought, it’s only a kiss.

Her fingers laced themselves deep in the fabric of his shirt. She was glad that their captors had taken away his armor. It had actually worked on in her favor. The air was cool around them, but they didn’t seem to notice anymore. The musty smell of the dungeon disappeared, and they could only smell each other.

Denial from the last few weeks was about to run over.

Devona sighed, trying to break the serious tone. “Well, here goes nothing.”

He watched, waited, patiently.

Then she went for it.

In one quick moment, their lips were upon each other. There was no passion. It was a dull, meaningless kiss. Just as she hoped it would be…she felt extremely disappointed.

That was, until she felt his lips part under her own.

His tongue ran across her lips, trying to part them. Her eyes went wide to find his tightly closed in passion. Her eyes closed as her lips fell open to greet him.

They were both eager as she leaned her body close against his chest. Through her chest she could feel his heart racing, as his muscles tensed against the chains.

This kiss was hot and intense. It was something she had never known before. Not with Mark anyway. This was what she had always wanted in a relationship. This was what all people ever wanted.

How stupid it had been to think it would only be a kiss.

Kai looked over at Kestrel. She was packing up a bag, getting ready for the journey. The two of them were still at the inn, but they were ready to move on. The inn keeper had just let them know that the time in the room was up.

As Kai watched his fellow guardian pack her bag, he tried to decide the best way to spring this upon her. There was no easy way, so it was best to just say it.

“Kestrel,” he said. She looked back at him, still closing the bag. “Where are they?”

“They went to the market, don’t you remember?”

“That was a long time ago.”

“Wasn’t that long ago.” She blew him off and went back to packing the bag.

“Kestrel that was noon and it’s almost night fall. That was a really long time ago.”

Suddenly, the bag became less important. She spun around to find him simply nodding at her.

“Oh, this is not good,” she said.

“No, it’s not.”

“I guess we had better go look for them.”

“Good idea.”

This couldn’t be happening. It wasn’t happening. Not to him, not today, not with the Princess.

Yet there they were, he was still chained to the wall, and she was sprawled out against his chest. Her hands were woven deep into his shirt, threatening to rip it to shreds. Oh, how he wished she would.

At first he had tried to control himself, making it a meaningless kiss. But, she didn’t move away. She sat there patiently waiting for more. Who was he to refuse his Princess?

So he initiated and she so eagerly responded. His hands pulled tightly against the chains, wishing he had the strength to break them. It would always kill him that the one time he was able to kiss her he couldn’t actually touch her.

While deep into the kiss, the last thing he expected was for her to pull away. Yet, she did.

Gasping for breath, she shook and pulled away from him. Slowly he opened his eyes to find her staring at the fabric in her hands.

“That was…” she trailed off, turning her eyes up toward his again, “Thank you.”

All he could do was smirk, knowing that one day he would regret his next move. He pulled his legs up so slightly that it caused her to fall back against him. Just close enough so that he could seize her lips once more.

Shocked, it took her another moment to respond, but in no time they were back where they had been only seconds before. However, this was different, this was willingly. There was a passion in this kiss that hadn’t been before.

Somehow he was able to curl his body closer to hers. The feel of her breasts against his chest was far too much for him to handle. Of course it didn’t help when her hands released their tight hold on his shirt and were beginning to explore him.

The sweet feeling of her fingers rubbing against his chest was absolutely amazing. Never had he felt like this before, it had been so long since…

Her fingers worked their way down his torso until they came to the hem of his shirt. As her fingers slipped underneath the fabric, he nibbled on her lower lip. She gasped, drawing her head back just a bit, just enough. He laid small kisses on the outside of her lips, against her cheek, down to her jaw line, and even further down her neck.

She stiffened, pulling herself even tighter against him. A small moan escaped her lips as he trailed his own down the column of her neck. This was his fantasy come true, but who would have thought it would be like this?

Her fingers continued to make their way beneath his shirt. As her hands explored up the flesh of his chest, he was jealous of her, of the fact that she could touch him and he couldn’t touch her.

Yet, he decided instead of being jealous, he should enjoy the moment.

He gently bit at her neck as her fingers trailed higher. The fabric of his shirt followed her hands further up, but he didn’t notice the cool air. All he could feel was the heat of the Princess straddling his lap. Gentle kisses made their way back up her neck. She gripped at his pecks now, causing him to flinch. It was too much, it was too intense.

“Akki,” he heard her whisper as he captured her lips again. It was perfect, it was too perfect.

“What the hell is this!”

They froze.

Neither one of them knew what to do. They were left there with Akki’s shirt pulled all the way up to his armpits, Devona’s hands against his chest, and their lips still pressed together.

Their eyes were wide, staring at each other in disbelief. They had completely forgotten about Arma.

Slowly, Devona turned her head back to look at the pudgy man. Akki had to tilt his head a bit to the side to see around the Princess still in his lap. There he saw a very, very, angry Arma.

“This, now this is far too much!” He was furious, Akki never thought he would be afraid of Arma, but now he knew he could be. “This is insanity! I go through all of this trouble to get you out, I give you some time alone to get ready, and this is how you repay me!”

“Well,” said Devona. Immediately she tugged Akki’s shirt back in place and was on her feet. “I was simply preparing myself to kiss you. It’s been a while since I kissed someone, and I didn’t want to seem inexperienced to you.”

“Oh, please, you honestly expect me to believe that horse shit!” Devona jumped back away from the angry man. “I could look past your disgust for me. I could even ignore the time alone, but this…this I cannot ignore!”

“Arma, we had a deal. Since when are you a man to throw away an opportunity like this?” asked Akki. Arma threw him an evil glare, only to find a very cocky guardian. “Trust me, you don’t want to pass this up.”

Devona shot her own glare back at him. “What the hell is wrong with you?” Her voice was low, but Akki was sure Arma still heard it.

“Is she good?”

Devona gasped and looked back at Arma.

“Yes, she is.”

She gasped again and glared at Akki.

There was silence, allowing the situation to sink in for all of them. Still, Akki couldn’t get rid of the grin on his face. It was the first time he had genuinely smiled in…well God knows when.

Arma turned his attention back to Devona. Those beady eyes worked their way up and down her body. Once again she clasped her arms over her chest. How dare he look at her like she’s some item for auction?

“Alright then,” said Arma, “I’ll let you out, but there is one more condition I would like to add.”

Devona rolled her eyes, “Great.”

“I want you to kiss me like you kissed him.”

Devona fiercely shook her head.

She could take the kissing, barely. But, to kiss him the way she had just kissed Akki? She hadn’t even wanted to kiss Akki like that! It just happened.

Oh God, why are you punishing me?

Arma looked at her with a smirk, licking his lips. How gross, she could see his saliva dripping down his chin. Fighting back a gag, she tried her best to smile.

“So, do you agree Devona?”

I hate you. “Yes, I agree.” I hate Akki even more for getting me into this situation. Damn it all!

She couldn’t watch as the man unlocked the door again. Then he made his way back to her side. He only came half way up her torso. Kissing him was going to be even more awkward than it was with Akki.

Her eyes moved to the open cell door. Thoughts of escape leapt into her head. However, Akki was still chained, she couldn’t leave him behind. She was pretty sure she wasn’t going to be able to talk Arma into letting Akki out before the kiss.

With one last pitiful glance back at Akki, she slowly lowered herself down to Arma’s level. Down on her knees he was now slightly taller than her.

He smirked with delight. This allowed her to see his yellow teeth that were literally falling apart. The man looked, and smelled, as though he had never brushed his teeth in his life. Karma should have at least given him some nice teeth to make up for everything else, right?

“Are you ready, my princess?”

His breath caused bile to rise in her throat. There was no way she was going to able to kiss him without throwing up on him. She gave another pitiful glance back at her guardian.

Akki sighed, “Arma, we need to set up some guidelines.”

Brown beady eyes glared over at the chained guardian. “Are you trying to make another deal, Mr. Wolf? I do believe that you are lucky I’m even still here, don’t you think?”

“I’m not going to sit here all day and watch you kiss her. You need a time limit.”

“A time limit? You can’t be serious Mr. Wol—”

“I am, Arma.”

They were all silent, leaving both Arma and Devona staring at Akki. She had seen him angry before, but never…jealous? Was he really jealous?

“Just relax Mr. Wolf, I won’t spend too much time with your beloved.” Devona swore she heard Akki growl at that word. Arma cracked his fingers and grabbed her chin, turning her to face him. “I’ll only be a few minutes.”

Oh God…a few minutes? I’m going to die.

“Not a few minutes,” said Akki.

Arma moved ever so slightly to look past Devona toward the chained guardian. “Oh, you won’t stand for it?”


“Why not?”

“Arma, you are the one stalling now.”

The man’s smirk hurt Devona’s soul, “Well, Mr. Wolf, I’m simply making up for lost time.”

“How about a few seconds,” finally said Devona.

“How about not,” Arma’s intensely sneer look shut her right up. Now she wasn’t only disgusted by the man, but afraid for herself as well.

Suddenly, as Devona sat there listening to the two men argue about her own lips, an idea came to her. She wasn’t totally helpless, not at all. Taking a deep breath she decided she wasn’t going to stand for this any longer. She smiled her own evil grin, which neither of the men noticed.

There was no warning when Devona shoved her knee into Arma’s crotch. Those beady brown eyes went wide for the first time since she met the disgusting man. He didn’t have long to stare at her though, since she followed the knee with a fist to his face.

Arma choked out a groan of agony as his body fell hard against the floor. His head bounced on the stone, almost making Devona feel sorry for him. The sorrow didn’t last long. Once she realized he wasn’t moving she went to his side, searching for the keys.

With the ring in her hand, she looked back to find an extremely stunned Akki staring at her. The look on his face was a mix of fear and amazement. It was enough to brighten Devona’s mood.

He remained silent as she undid his chains. Once he was free, Akki kept staring at Devona, as if he were afraid she’d knee him next.

Devona shrugged her shoulders, “What? I took a self defense class a couple years ago. Whoever would have thought my mom’s over protective nature would come in handy.”

“I just…I can’t believe that you did that…it was so…so…”

“Impulsive? Rash? Stupid?”


The look of amazement on his face told her that he really wanted to say “hot.” Or whatever the equivalent for that would be in Zakiah Adara. The slight smirk on his lips reminded her of kissing them only a few minutes prior.

It was only a kiss Devona, let it go.

She hadn’t noticed that Akki was up on his feet, having already lost his bold smirk. He glanced impatiently back at her, and motioned for her to follow. Now she knew they were in for a rough ride.

The palace guard entered the throne room, and bowed toward the duchess. She nodded for him to rise while twirling her finger in her burgundy red hair.

“My lady.” was all he was able to get out before she spoke.

“Zen, my lead guard, do you have any idea what time it is?”

“This is important my lady.”

“Yes, it is important.” Darkness swirled up inside of her, flashing her eyes black for a split moment. “My afternoon soup is late. I need it immediately.”

The guard sighed, shaking his head, “My lady, the prisoners have left the dungeon. They are making their way through the palace now.”

“What!” She sat up straight, forgetting all about her soup. “Arma was supposed to lead them into the trap! That bastard, what went wrong?”

“I’m not sure. They are roaming about the palace now and Arma is nowhere in sight.”

Sighing, the duchess sat back in her throne, biting her lip. “Hmm, I should have known, never send a rodent to do a dragon’s job. Let them continue to make their way through the palace, I will take care of them myself.”

Zen clicked his heels together, dropping into a deep bow, “Yes my lady.”

She hardly noticed him leaving the room. Twirling her hair about again, her eyes slowly faded to black. Calamity curled her lips into an evil grin, “This should be fun.”


“So, where are we going?”

“I have no idea.”

“Well, that’s comforting.”

The palace was nowhere near the size of Queen Oriana’s, but it was enormous none the less. Equally large were the amount of guards roaming the hallways. It seemed as though every five seconds Akki was pulling Devona behind another column. Whether he was trying to get her to hide, or just wanted her close to him again, she wasn’t sure.

Letting go of her arm, Akki peeked around the column. The coast was clear, or at least Devona assumed it was. He quickly pulled her behind him. It was nice to have his hand on hers, even if he was dragging her about like a rag doll. As if he read her mind, he immediately released her hand. Her hand was still warm from his presence.

Oh Kestrel is going to love this, Devona thought. Here we are, running about a palace in search of a way out to save our lives, and all I can think about is Akki holding my hand.

A few steps later, they were behind another column. He pulled her quickly and Devona found herself pressed firmly against his chest. Immediately she thought back to the kiss, trying to drive it from her mind. Damn that kiss.

Akki on the other hand didn’t seem to notice at all. His attention was on whatever lay on the other side of the red marble.

“Any word?” said a low gruff voice. It must have belonged to one of the guards.

“No, they have yet to be spotted. I’m sure they can’t be far though,” replied a distinctively male voice, yet not quite as gruff.

They said nothing else, each went their separate ways. A few seconds later, Akki was dragging Devona down the hall again. She would have felt much better about all of this had he had any idea where they were going.

The halls went on for what seemed like forever. Endless rows of crimson carpet with evenly spaced out ruby columns. Gold dressing sparkled against the egg shell colored walls, adding that extra “fancy” that palaces always needed.

But through the decorations and marble columns, Devona noticed something. The whole palace was decorated in three colors: egg shell, gold, and red. On top of that, there was an excessive amount of red. It quickly turned from looking like rich palace into the lair of a vampire. Fear struck her heart, and she halted. Akki actually noticed. He looked annoyed as he turned to her.

“What?” he asked.

“You don’t think Mushin is here do you?”

“It’s quite possible.”

Oh, that was not the answer she was looking for. “It’s just there is something about this place and it’s freaking me out.”

“Then let’s get out of here.”

They didn’t talk after that. A few hallways and dodged guards later, and they found themselves face to face with a dead end. There was a large dark cherry mahogany door with decorated gold handles. Handles were in the shapes of two dragons, teeth bared, preparing to fight the other to the death.

Never in Devona’s life had she seen a bigger “do not enter” sign.

“Okay, next hall way.”

As she tried to turn away, Akki grabbed her wrist. This wasn’t good. She looked back at him only to find him intensely glaring back. If only it were the same intensity she had seen in the dungeon.


“This is the way.”

“You said you didn’t know where you were going! Let’s look for another way out.”

Sighing, he looked back at the doors, “This looks like the grand entrance, so I can only assume that this is the way out.”

“How can you be sure?”

There was no answer from her guardian, just another tug, and shove toward the door. Something just didn’t feel right. As his hand fell upon the golden knob, there was a clap behind them. A soft sound that barely graced their ears, but it stopped their hearts.

Devona gasped as she looked back. There stood a woman dressed in the most elegant gowns she had ever seen. It was red satin with a huge hoop skirt and a tight corset holding her together. Sure the woman was beautiful, but her blood red hair and piercing brown eyes scared Devona. This woman screamed “evil!”

“I knew we shouldn’t just walk out the front door,” Devona grumbled as she hid behind Akki. He didn’t even flinch at her statement. He moved to stand in front of her.

Akki’s body was tense as he reached for something, but there was no weapon at his side that could save them. Devona noticed this motion and immediately shuttered. No sword, nothing, this seemed as though it really were the end of the line.

“Are my prisoners really just trying to walk out of my palace?” If there was any doubt about who this woman was, it was finally answered. She was the ruler of this port town. Devona wasn’t sure how much power she had. But she had this palace, an army, and an amazingly scary blood red dress. It was enough to prove power to the shaking Princess.

Though Akki’s stance became more defensive, his words sounded calm and easy. “My lady, I think that there has been some sort of mistake. I don’t think you know who this girl is.”

From behind his shoulder, Devona could still see the curl of that woman’s dark red lips, a tone of arrogance to go along with it.

“Oh, Ulric, I believe you are the one who is mistaken. I know exactly who this girl is.” The silence that followed seemed to be deliberately placed to allow them time to realize the truth. An instant later, the doors behind them swung open and more crimson clad solders were upon them.

Devona screamed as a cold steel glove grabbed her bare shoulder and ripped her away from Akki. Immediately he snapped around, only to have his face meet another steel glove. The force was so strong, that it literally knocked him off of his feet. Devona tried to go to him, but new gloves held her back.

“Akki!” Devona tried to pull away from the army holding her back, but there was nothing she could do. She was weak, and her only chance of survival was sprawled out on the floor.

When he finally started to get to his feet she had expected to see his eyes black once more, but they were not. Instead of anger, there was a look of defeat in his eyes. At that moment, Devona knew that all hope was lost.

Akki tried his best to keep his anger under control, but the moment he felt Devona torn away from him, he snapped. It took all of his self control not to give into the darkness again. Being left with no weapons, sadly the only option seemed to be dark. But, he couldn’t let Devona see him like that again. He could tell when he looked at her that she was bracing herself for it. No, there had to be another way, somehow.

They were both tossed into the throne room. Akki was able to keep his balance, but Devona lost her footing and fell to the ground. He winced as the Princess struggled to get to her feet with her hands bound behind her back.

The duchess followed the two into her throne room. Once in front of them, she made a wave of her black gloved hand. Her guards left, leaving only Akki, Devona, and the woman in red. Her obsession with the color was turning Akki’s stomach. It was all beginning to become clear now.

“You made this all far, far too easy, you know that right?” She smiled as she cracked her knuckles. “Mushin has been in control of this city for over a year now. I’m sure you noticed that on your voyage over.”

Akki glared at her, “I should have known. I heard that it was Red Dragon royalty that controlled this port, which is never a good idea.”

The woman clicked her tongue and shook her head, “No, it’s not, especially not when one has powers such as I. Of course, as soon as my powers were discovered, I had many Black Dragons beating on my door. What can I say, a world free of the Council sounds much better to me than one controlled by it.”

Devona was confused. “What’s going on?” Her words barely met his ears, but he ignored them all the same. This was not the time to get into discussing politics with her.

“If you seek death, then have me and let her go,” said Akki.

Immediately Devona was at his side glaring up at him. “Are you insane?”

The duchess shook her head. “What a grave miscalculation, Ulric Akki. We might have used that excused to capture you, but you know for a fact that the reason you are here is for the Princess to die.”

Devona’s face went white. Devona must have known the truth, but perhaps she just hadn’t wanted to admit it to herself. Now, as the duchess watched her with predatory eyes, there was no way the truth could be avoided.

“A matter of fact, I think I will let you live. I’ll let you stand there and watch her die.”

The duchess’ smile faded away, leaving a blank look upon her face. A few seconds later, her eyes began to darken, turning from brown to black. Soulless eyes that Akki knew Devona had seen before, once in his own eyes. It was the mark of Mushin, the mark of her power. So much evil that it even consumed one’s very soul.

The air of the room changed. It grew heavy and it became harder to breath. Devona gasped, trying to get her lungs used to the change in air pressure. Akki watched the duchess. Her skin began to glow a light pink color, sending chills down his spine. He had seen many people do this before and it never ceased to amaze and frighten him. Her nails grew long and black as her body began to twist an elongate.

“What’s happening?” was all Devona could get out. Still Akki didn’t answer, running through his head were solutions to the problem at hand. There was only one he could think of, and it scared the hell out of him to even think about it.

The duchess’ skin molded and curved into the shape of scales. All along the exposed skin, moving rapidly across her entire body. Nails turned to claws and curled themselves around growing fingers.

There was no choice, sighing he turned toward Devona.

“Close your eyes Princess,” said Akki.

Devona glared at him with a new fury. “What are you talking about? You want me to just close my eyes and wait to die?”

He leaned closer to her, their mouths almost touching again, but this was not intimate moment. Still, he could see her cheeks become flush.

“I don’t want you see what I’m about to do.”

His words must have struck her as he had hoped. Her anger faded leaving only concern. “Akki, what are you…”

“Please, just close your eyes.” He was pleading with her, closing his own eyes. How he wished he didn’t have to do this, but with no weapons and no rescue in sight, it really was the only way. He opened his eyes to look down at her once more. Slowly Devona nodded, and closed her eyes.

A second later he stepped away from her, turning his attention to the duchess. She now looked more beast than human, more dragon than mortal. Lucky for him it took much longer for her to change than most. Poor dragons, they were so powerful, but yet so vulnerable.

His own eyes darkened as he curled his hands tightly as his own nails grew into claws and began to saw away at the ropes.

Devona did as she was asked. The view of the woman had begun to frighten her anyway, if anything it was a relief to finally not have to look at her. But she was worried about Akki. She had seen him last time he gave into Mushin’s powers. Was that what he was about to do now?

Stupid little human, you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.

She had no idea of the meaning of his words and that scared her more than anything. She also remembered the blank look in his eyes as he reached for her neck. Would that happen again? Oh please don’t let it happen again.

Seconds later, among the sounds of tearing fabric was the sound of ropes being ripped apart. How had he found the strength to do that? Devona wasn’t sure she wanted to know.

Her heart was racing. Sweat was building all over her body. Death was growing into a huge beast in front of her and she had no way out. The doors were locked with guards on the other side, her hands were bound, and there were no weapons anywhere. Her only hope really was to just put her trust into Akki. If only she wasn’t afraid of what might happen.

Low words filled the room. It was a language that Devona had never heard before. The words sounded like a mixture of an old romantic language with growls and shrills embedded within. They were spoken in a low somber tone that sounded like some sort of chant.

She wanted to look, oh how she wanted to, but she was too afraid. She thought the words were coming from Akki. She hoped they really were from Akki and it wasn’t the woman chanting a deadly spell. Though, why would she need one? They were dead already anyway.


“What are you doing!” said an inhuman voice. It sounded like the woman from before, but with another deeper voice attached to it. Much like the words being chanted, there was growl embedded within it. “Stop! This is high treason!”

The chanting voice stopped for a second to scoff, “As if that’s anything new.”

He picked up the chant again. The woman screamed in pain. The scream rattled Devona’s eardrums and she felt her ears would bleed from it.

A strange wind swirled around the room. It was so strong that Devona found it difficult to stand. She fell to her knees, lowering her head to avoid its cruel force. Her eyes drew even tighter together as she prayed that it would all be over soon.


With that scream, it all stopped.

Slowly Devona opened her eyes to find the beast was gone. All that was left was a naked woman. Her eyes were brown again but were completely empty. With one last gasp of air, the woman’s body fell sideways toward the floor. There was a crash upon the marble and a crack of bone. But it didn’t matter, not anymore. She was dead before she hit the ground.

The air was breathable again. It was somber and cool as Devona tried to slow her heart. Only seconds before that she thought she were about to die. Now the threat of death was gone and all that was left was a cold lifeless body.

Devona turned to look at her savior. He still stood tall, his hair blown about his face from the force of the wind. But he looked calm, as if he had not just chanted someone to death. Slowly he turned his attention to her. Devona knew what she would see, but she had hoped she wouldn’t. But there were his black soulless eyes. It killed her that he had to give into Mushin again…for her. She really was going to be the death of him.

She didn’t know what to do. She was completely helpless. It had taken so much to just get to her feet after falling before, there seemed there was no way she would be able to get away if he came after her again. She bit her lip and watched him with fearful eyes.

“Are you alright?”

His voice shocked her. Even through the blackness he still seemed to be Akki. How strange. It was completely different from before. She felt some peace knowing that he wasn’t lost completely. She nodded. He took the few steps toward her. She was completely at his mercy. Hopefully she was right in trusting him and he wasn’t about to reach down and kill her.

He did reach down, but he gently put his hands on her shoulders. Her large blue eyes stared up into his black ones. She couldn’t help but let her cheeks turn pink once more.

“Let me help you.” His voice was low, barely a whisper. She nodded as his hands tightened on her shoulders. He wrapped one arm around her back, while the other staid on her shoulder to balance her. Akki pulled her to her feet and steadied her before letting go.

“Thanks.” She kept her head low, not wanting to look into his eyes again. He must had known too because he turned his head away from her.

“I did what I had to.”

She took a deep breath. “I know.”

“I’ll do whatever I can to protect you.”

It should have been something natural for a guardian to say to a Princess, but it was different. His voice was still in that low tone and so full of emotion that she saw through his façade. He didn’t mean he had to do whatever he could as a guardian. He said it as a man protecting someone he cherished. It was the most romantic thing someone had ever said to her. It meant so much more than Mark’s false words of love. Even though they had only met a few weeks ago, there was a strange bond between them.

Perhaps her attraction for him was kicking into overdrive. Perhaps it was just the kiss they had shared only an hour before. Maybe it was the fact that she had almost died and was looking for love. Or maybe he actually meant it the way it sounded.

He turned his eyes back to her to find her looking at him now. “You are the Princess after all.”

Her heart went a flutter. He was trying to cover up his words. She smiled and nodded.

“Turn around,” he said.

She did and he put his hands upon hers. She knew that he was removing the ropes, but it was still nice. Just the feel of his finger on her skin was enough to bring back the memories of their kiss. She wasn’t sure if that image would haunt her or bless her for the rest of her life. Once the ropes hit the ground, she turned to face him again. He was looking back at the woman’s dead body. Devona was afraid to ask, but she knew if she didn’t it would continue to bother her.

“What happened?”

He looked back over at her, his face still blank of emotion. Slowly he opened his mouth and explained to her.

“She was a Red Dragon, one who has the right to freely choose Mushin or Queen Oriana. According to what she said, her family had chosen the queen until recently.”

Devona was still eager to learn more. “She spoke of powers, what powers? What we just saw her do?”

He shook his head. “No, that is common among the dragons. Some in Zakiah Adara are born with other powers, unique to that one person. Only one at a time is born with such powers. I’m not sure what her power was.”

“How did you…” She wasn’t able to find the rest of the words she had been meaning to ask. But his eyes found her again, knowing the question on her tongue.

“How did I kill her?” She nodded. “I used an incantation that only Black Dragons know. It can be used when a dragon is at their most vulnerable: when they are transforming. To use it, as she said, is punishable by your own death. It is considered cowardly to use against a fellow Black Dragon however…”

“It was cowardly of her to put us in this situation.”

“You almost sound like a warrior, Princess.”

She ignored him, knowing that he was only trying to remind himself that she was a Princess. She went back to her questioning.

“You gave into her again didn’t you?”

At first he didn’t answer, moving his eyes away from hers. But it was obvious, even though they were losing the blackness, his eyes were still a deeper gold then they usually were. There was no denying the truth.

“I did. I had to stop the duchess. It was the only way.”

“But it was different this time. You’re still you.”

“I didn’t completely submit. Last time, on the verge of death, I did whatever I could to stay alive. To make sure she didn’t kill you.” Again her heart hurt, reminding her that it was her fault he had to give in at all. “This time I was able to control the power and only use the amount that I had to.”

She decided that there was enough questioning for one night. Devona’s attention turned then to sores from the rope. Her hands rubbed at the redness, silently cursing the soldiers.

The soldiers…how were they going to get past them?

“Akki…how are we going to get out of here?”

He looked stumped for the first time ever. “Umm…I don’t know.”

All the butterflies that had been swarming around in her stomach died right then. At least he could admit when he was at a loss.

It hadn’t been as hard to get out at they thought. Upon opening the doors they found all the soldiers rubbing their heads and looking confused. One of the soldiers, who told them his name was Zen, tried his best to explain what the duchess had done.

“I had gone to see her almost a year ago and found her in talks with a woman dressed entirely in black. Immediately I knew that something was amiss. I tried to leave to get the other soldiers, but the duchess saw me. After that, I no longer had control over my body.”

Zen deeply apologized to Devona, telling her how sorry they all were about having to capture her and her guardian.

“We couldn’t disobey her,” explained another solider. “No matter how hard we tried. She had some sort of control over us.”

Akki nodded, “That must have been her power.”

“Yes, that’s what I assumed. There were many Black Dragons that we just had to let onto the ships to the First Constellation. There were many innocents that we were forced to kill…”

“It was a living and waking hell,” said Zen. “And I owe everything to you both for setting us free from it.”

Akki must have felt very awkward to hear such a thing from these men. They knew who he was, it was the reason they had arrested them in the first place. Now, they were thanking him for saving their lives. Plus, Akki had lived through a similar experience himself. Devona couldn’t help but smile as the men bowed toward the two of them.

“We did what we had to,” was all that Akki said to them.

“What I don’t understand is how you were able to stop her. You had no weapons. How—?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Devona quickly interrupted.

Akki looked grateful, and the soldiers actually seemed satisfied with the answer, for now anyway.

Their weapons and armor were returned, not that Devona really had any in the first place. They had only taken away the two silver bracers she had become attached to. Feeling the cool metal against her forearms again was comforting. For some strange reason, she had almost felt incomplete without them. The soldiers escorted them back to their inn. Lucky for them, Kestrel and Kai were waiting outside. They both looked destroyed.

“What’s wrong, you two look like you’ve lost something?” asked Devona

Both of their eyes got wide and they turned at the same moment to look up at the two they had lost. Kai gasped and hugged Devona tightly. Devona was shocked. She hadn’t been expecting this sort of reception at all.

“Thank the Lord you are alright! Kai and I thought for sure something had happened to both of you!” Kestrel was overjoyed, but watched from the sidelines. She got to her feet as Akki and the soldiers joined up with them.

“Well,” said Akki, “something did happen.”

They explained everything to them. Getting arrest, Arma’s bargain, getting out of it, getting caught, the woman and her powers, and finally setting the soldiers free. Both of their stories have conveniently left out the part about them kissing.

Devona glanced over at Akki as he finished his version of the story. He neglected to tell them that he had used Mushin’s powers as well. She was sure that at least Kestrel knew better, who knew what Kai thought. Either way, it was something they could tell them later, just not in front of the soldiers.

Once again the soldiers showed their gratitude. “I just want to thank you again for saving us, and stopping the duchess.”

Devona shrugged her shoulders, “All in a day’s work.”

“If there is anything we can do,” said Zen, “don’t hesitate to ask.”


The next day, they were getting ready to leave town. However, they had one stop left.

The woman in the dress shop looked up and sighed as Kai and Devona came in the store once more. They could tell she was annoyed, and they couldn’t help but smile at her.

“Listen, I told you before—”

“And I told you before that she’s a Princess,” replied Kai.

“Unless you have the money, I cannot—”

“Esperanza,” said a new masculine voice. Devona proudly turned toward the two soldiers standing in the door way behind them.

“Lord Zen!” The woman quickly stood from her seat at the counter and bowed toward him.

“Now,” he said and he made his way toward her. “I think you are being very rude to our so honored guests. The Princess and her guardians should be treated with more respect.”

“She’s really…? I had no idea.” Immediately Esperanza turned toward Devona and bowed. “I’m so sorry Princess. I have many people coming in my store telling me they are you. I had no idea.”

“We know you’re sorry, but we just want one thing,” said Kai

“Of course, anything.”

Zen smiled, “Give them your finest dress. I will cover the charge.”

Esperanza nodded, “Of course.” She left the room into the back, leaving the guardian and Princess smiling with the soldiers.

Devona was overjoyed. “Maybe being a Princess does have its perks.”

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