Firelight from the torches was the only illumination in this cold dungeon. He always liked to keep it cold. I could feel the goose bumps, at least where my skin wasn’t covered by leather restraints.
My senses were coming back to me after Sabir gave me some liquid potion to drink that had no taste. It has the desired effect. My senses are no longer clouded and I can hear, see and think straight again once more.
I stare up into the torch Sabir is holding over my eyes, checking to make sure the pupils are responding correctly to the presence and absence of light.
I lie shivering on the couch, my wrists, ankles and neck restrained down onto the chair.
When he takes the light away from my eyes I look up at him trying to contain my fear. I didn’t want to give away that I knew anything. Unless he somehow already knew.
He looks me over with calculating, unblinking eyes. Now that my memories were back I could compare his mannerisms to male humans more clearly. Even though he seemed like he was simply just taller, more masculine and more intelligent... he was so much more.
The animalistic base of a human’s instinct was undesired and hidden on Earth. Humans did not desire to be known as animals, even though scientifically that is all they were.
Gems were completely different.
They ruled on instincts proudly, their emotion was often far more intense than the average human. They lived by instinct, desire, want and passion. They did not care so much for law – as long as it secured them power in the animal kingdom.
Gems were so strongly connected to magic and power that half of our soul seemed to be made up from that very power source that gave us unimaginable gifts over the elements. Yet at the same time we didn’t just control those elements, we were a part of a selected one and only the most talented could transform themselves into the very element itself.
The very idea of me being a princess makes me laugh. If only the other girls knew my true origins.
“How are you feeling? Not too sore from all that crawling around, I hope,” Sabir asks with sarcasm, a slight tilt to his lips igniting his all too common cruel smirk.
“Inflexible,” I answer, looking up at the cold stone ceiling, “Just a little, especially with these restraints. So you lot really are like animals. You chase us down and you actually did eventually tie me down, like you initially wanted to.”
“Let me remind you, Sapphire,” Sabir leans over my face, leaning in so close I can feel his breath on my lips as his eyes inspect the skin near my cheek bones and eyebrows. He reaches up a hand and pushes some of my brown curly locks away from my forehead, his eyes narrow in concentration, “I thought I’d see some of this,” he mutters to himself, rubbing a finger along the top of my left eyebrow.
“Oh, that’s sweet, isn’t it,” I say dryly, “You rubbing some grit off my forehead?”
My sarcastic reply is met with angry eyes, burning with accusation.
“I knew you’d pass it off as dirt,” he says, leaning back he inspects his finger in the light, “Charcoal – I would know it if I ever saw it.”
Impossible. I thought I had washed it all off.
“So you are barbaric and a little insane. But sure, charcoal. If you want it to be that, go ahead, believe it,” I smile up at him when I see his eyes lock with mine, an idea shining behind those unreal blue eyes. Commander Sabir, Huh? Since when did he get upgraded from an interrogator to a Spaceship Commander?
“You’re awfully cocky since the first time I spoke to you, Sapphire,” he notes, intrigued.
He was noticing a change in my confidence with him. This wasn’t good. I had to act more terrified.
Taking a step closer I watch as he lays his hand on my thigh, slowly moving that strong hand, excruciatingly up the inside of my leg. Not too far, but enough to make me shiver uncontrollably.
Like I use to every time.
“You were going to remind me of something, what was it?” I blurt out, quickly trying to distract him.
Now I was caught, strapped down, all I had were words to defend myself with. To win.
Unfortunately, he had words, touch and power to confuse my thoughts, and he knew it.
“That you can speak our language,” he smirks as he taps a finger lightly against my skin, sitting down on a stool he brought up next to the leather couch, “How you so obviously lie to me, about many things. You have even escaped into the forest, only to come back with charcoal on your forehead.”
“I’m Star Cursed,” I say, sticking to it as an explanation.
“Perhaps, but Traegr says you skilfully used your water magic to attack him by surprise –”
“Again, Sabir, I must be Star Cursed. I was scared he’d hurt Celeste or myself. He was so angry,” I explain, trying to move my leg away from Sabir’s hand unsuccessfully. I glare at it as best as I can, trying to avoid his gaze.
“You do realise you aren’t leaving this chair until you start telling me the truth,” Sabir runs his hand down towards my knee and back up again, closer, but not close enough – No, no, oh gosh no. Thoughts like that weren’t going to help, Sapphire! I scold myself, trying to regain composure, “Do you... want... something, darling?”
“Yes. Food. Food would be fantastic,” I blurt out, “I’m hungry.”
Anything. I had to do anything to distract him from confusing me.
“Oh, really? Too bad. You’re going to stop delaying, very soon, Sapphire,” Sabir snaps, “Or you’ll be on this chair all day and all night – and I will start draining your magic.”
“You and I were never good for each other,” I hiss back at him.
“Now we’re getting somewhere,” Sabir rests his hand back on my knee, giving me some distance in reward for my slip of control.
“I have some memories of the old Sapphire,” I decide to say slowly, avoiding his gave. I decide to play along with the idea that only hints of me remained. I did not need him thinking I was the same girl. Otherwise he’d know all my weaknesses. If he believed I was somehow different, I’d still have a chance of winning the game.
“What sort of things do you remember? Tell me, do you remember how you were transferred to the Golden Palace?” Sabir asks, finally letting his hand come off my knee, he leans back and crosses his arms over his chest. I’m distracted by the bulging muscles and quickly close my eyes and relax my head back into couch, away from the neck restraint.
“Let me think,” I play along, pretending to search my ‘distant’, broken memories of another soul.
I knew all too well how I was brought here.
“I was running late for school...” “You’re not going into school until you help your father and I clean up this house before the inspection begins,” my mother scolds, blocking the doorway. I look at her, exasperated. I needed to get to school because the Royal Gems were Scouting for their own Royal Breeds, “I have to be there, mum, it’s compulsory!” I try to get around her by drawing out water from the wash bucket at her side. Like the sly little snake that I was, I manage to slide past her with my bare feet along the flow of water. I grin as I make it past – but only until she grabs my ear and halts me. “Not this again, Sapphire!” she pushes me back into the house, “That really hurt!” I yell at her, grabbing my sore ear, the tears well up. However, I turn from her furious gaze towards my father who is swearing and yelling at me to come over and help. Angry but having no choice, I stay back and help clean. “Why are you so eager to participate in the Scouting?” my father snaps, deciding to go to the rickety kitchen to grab some breakfast while I do the rest of the work. “Maybe because it is compulsory for every boy and girl...?” I mutter under my breath. “Don’t talk back to me. You secretly think they’ll consider you for the Golden Palace? It’ll never happen. You’re not Royal, Sapphire. You have some skill with magic, but you are not descended from power. A Madeira Citrine female, has fire a thousand times stronger than your water magic.” I had heard this rant from my father before. I had the ability to play with water from a small rock pool, real power from female Gems could move oceans of water. I didn’t care though. I was proud of my magic, whether it was pitiful or not! My parents keep me over an hour cleaning. It’s not until I’m an hour late for the Scouting that I’m allowed out of the house and I begin to sprint to school. I run past rock and mud roads, along the grassy footpath, my bare feet hitting the freshly rained upon ground and marking my legs with splatters of mud. I pass by small cottages, which got progressively nicer closer to the school. Even though the little cottage we lived in was very basic, the school itself, provided by Royal Gems – was exquisitely furnished and designed. My school population was a mere 100 kids. Surely they’d gotten through most of them in the last hour. By the time I reach the assembly area inside the gym, I burst through the doors completely out of breath. I chuck my hand woven school bag on the floor and straighten my shoulders, meeting eye to eye with the headmistress of the school. “I can’t believe this,” she whispers through gritted teeth, “I knew if there was anyone late, it’d be you, now hurry up. You’re the last one.” I nod and look up at the high row of seats, filled with students who had already participated. They looked bored and angry that I was holding everyone up. The headmistress takes me to the middle of the gym, towards a chalk drawn X. I finally build the courage to look at the Royal Gems. For a moment I’m shocked to see they are all male. Ten of them, dressed in black suits, hands in pockets as they watch from the sidelines near the other kids. Two figures catch my eye. The King himself, Traegr, with his blond hair styled to perfection. And the man beside him, who watched me with unblinking eyes, which slowly travelled up and down my body with appraisal. Who was that creep? And why did he have to look so damn attractive? “I suppose this one is special if she tried to avoid this day?” Traegr speaks, amused. His voice shocks me with how deep and powerful it is. I stand frozen to the spot as I realise these Royal Gems weren’t who I thought they’d be. I guess I didn’t expect to feel so intimidated. They were fairly young but their Royal genes made them so much taller and muscular than those of any adults I had met in the past. “Actually she is quite unimportant,” the headmistress comes to his side and sighs. “What is her name?” Traegr asks, reaching into his pocket for a electronic device which he brings up in front of him, putting it to the headmistress. “Sapphire,” she speaks. “Last name?” Traegr asks. “I told you, she is unimportant. She only has one name. Sapphire.” I get offended by this last remark by the head mistress and I quickly raise my voice and speak out, “My name is Sapphire only but that doesn’t mean I don’t have skill with my magic,” I state proudly, knowing only powerful Gems had a second name, “I taught myself how to dance with my magic –” The headmistress shakes her head quickly and cuts me off, “There will be none of that today, darling. Just show them what you can do in a simple task. That is all they require.” I smile at the headmistress, “Dancing I shall do then,” I blurt out, raising my eyes I find a kid holding a water bottle. I pull the magic towards me and the lid pops off, flying up into the air as the water streams towards me. Twirling it around me I raise my hands above my head, touching my fingers together and getting up on my toes. I twirl around. Just like a ballerina on Earth, while the magic flows around me. “Do the giant spit!” one of the boys yells out from the stands, and then my other friends start encouraging me to do it also. I stop twirling and grin, seeing that the headmistress is about to intervene – I act first, “Everyone duck! Here comes the giant spit!” I yell out, pushing a hand forward I do what no other water user my age of 16 had learnt how to do yet. I could change water into fast flying mist. I direct it to my school mates and water sprays down from the sky, everyone grinning and laughing. Not that it was exactly like being spat on, but we pretended it was because it was funny. “That’s quite enough, Sapphire,” the headmistress walks up to me to grab my arm, but I jump to the side and do a bow instead for the crowd. The Royal Gems were speechless as I continue to dodge the headmistress’ attempts to grab me. I couldn’t stop laughing because she was too slow, and clearly had no magic left because her husband drained her too much. So I easily continue to dodge, poking my tongue out at her. I jump to the left and when my feet skid on the gym floor my whole body comes to an abrupt halt as my skirt and shirt harden to stone. Scared my father was here, because he was the only male Gem that had used this power on me to force me to do chores – I look around in fear for his presence. Instead I see the King himself walking towards us, with the dark haired, cobalt eyed body guard in tow. “I’m so sorry for her antics,” the headmistress apologizes. “Don’t apologize, Ladonna,” Traegr says, “We have a special place at the Golden Palace for performers such as her,” the headmistress goes awfully quiet and then whispers back to him, “But she is not a Royal breed?” It is at that point that the tall Gem with the midnight hair and flawless bronze skin steps forward and intervenes, “That isn’t your issue, headmistress. If you’d like to keep your job, perhaps you’ll keep quiet about this.” Traegr adds in a smirk to his friend’s words while I remain immobile in my stone outfit, “I don’t think I trust you not to speak about it, women do love their gossip,” Traegr adds condescendingly, “Ladonna, you’ll be coming back with us too. Understood? Sabir? Get the girl ready for departure,” Sabir, the one who I felt funny about, turns to me and when he meets my gaze, suddenly my clothes become soft against my skin and I try not to tremble. “I’ll walk you home, little one,” Sabir comes forward and runs a hand through my hair, messing it up, “Come on, you have to pack.” I remember following him out of the gym, confused about what was happening. I never spoke a work on the walk back and neither did he. The silence I felt was in his favour. But then again I knew something wasn’t right. I didn’t trust this magnificent Royal Gem or the lot of them actually. I didn’t trust their looks or their power. When we reach my cottage, Sabir is the one to knock and my father opens the door. My parents are shocked as Sabir enters the little cottage without so much as asking, grabbing my arm and pulling me in with him. His head nearly touches the ceiling in our little cottage, and he smiles at my shocked parents with arrogance, “Your daughter’s about to become a princess. I hope you are very proud of her, go pack your things, Sapphire. Make sure you shower too, you’re filthy,” At Sabir’s order I run to my room and eagerly slam the door shut for some privacy. I pack my things and shower. As I walk out of the adjoining bathroom between my parents room and my own, I open the door to see Sabir going through my wardrobe. I hold my old scruffy short towel close to me for protection as he turns around with a dress he has picked out and a cruel smile. “Put this one on,” he says, handing it to me. I awkwardly put it on while still holding the towel close to me. I manage to get changed while not exposing too much naked flesh. Then I finally find the will to ask a question. “Will I see you at the Golden Palace?” I ask, hoping the answer is no. A part of me was hoping the answer was yes. A part of me I didn’t understand very well. Sabir sits on the end of my bed, deciding to recline on it and watch me through half closed eyes. Assessing me yet again. A long silence stretches between us. “If you misbehave, Sapphire, you’ll be seeing me quite a bit.” It’s the only question I ask and the only conversation I get as Sabir stands up and takes me away from my home, forever. I remember being terrified and scared about the consequences of being chosen. Thankfully, soon after I arrived that is when I would meet Celeste for the first time. And we would become the closest of friends, in the most unlikely of circumstances.