When I slowly peel my eyes open, I’m alone in a huge unfamiliar bed and it takes me a moment to figure out where I am. I turn my head left and then right, searching for Hraken.
I see the curtains are open, the morning sun light spilling over the pillow I had been resting my head. It’s what had woken me up.
I slowly sit up, stretching my arms.
I’m surprised to see my slave clothes folded neatly at the end of the bed.
I scramble for them, paranoid that I would be jumped upon by Hraken himself, or perhaps Sabir or Traegr.
Once I’m changed, I think of Celeste. In no time at all I am bounding out of Hraken’s room and flying down the hall to Traegr’s door. It is left gaping wide open and when I peer inside – no one occupies the room. It is empty.
My eyes momentarily narrow at the messed up bed before I make my way downstairs to where everyone would be eating breakfast.
As expected, as I make my way down the stairs and near the Dining Dens, they both sound alive with activity.
As I pass the men’s, I only pause momentarily to see if I can spot Traegr or Sabir.
My eyes scan the room and it’s not long before I focus in on the loud laughter coming from the head of the long table. I try not to scowl as I spot Traegr from his booming laughter. I gasp, however as I see a sparkle of silver-blonde hair near his lap.
Celeste is on her knees by him and there is a familiar face sitting on the other side of her – Sabir.
I watch him laugh along with Traegr while Sabir’s hand slides through Celeste’s hair.
I gulp down a lump of newfound jealousy and I scamper away from the Dining Den’s entrance – towards the female’s dining hall.
I didn’t want to think about what they did all night without me.
At the same time I feel guilty, as if I should have approached to help out Celeste when I saw her as the only female in the Dining Den. But I wasn’t going to be much help in a room full of Dark Gems.
I was also hungry.
I storm my way into the dining hall and find a seat, clasping my hands together as I sit by myself at the end of one of the long tables so I’m near the exit. I arrive just as some of the girls working in the kitchen’s start bringing out food.
I eat my fill of a plain breakfast and get up abruptly to start my daily chores, hoping to run into Celeste by the time I walk out into the garden. It is a short walk from the dining hall and not surprisingly – she isn’t here yet.
It seemed Traegr wanted her around for his morning. Which meant I had to do the chores alone.
For some reason I feel consumed with loneliness, like I was being completely left out. Unimportant, and forgotten. Deep down I knew these were ridiculous thoughts, but still, I couldn’t help but miss her company.
I get to work finding our buckets near the fountain which we secretly stashed in the overflowing ferns behind the fountain. I grab one bucket and set to watering the garden in the massive courtyard.
“I could really use your help right about now...” I mutter to myself, thinking of Celeste.
After awhile I’ve lost the will to continue my first chore and I sit by the fountain with my arms crossed over my chest. It wouldn’t be long until I saw the Dark Gems head over to the indoor pool Temple.
I notice more Dark Gems patrolling near the edges of the forest in the distance and I can’t help but smirk to myself as I realise that is because of increased security.
If only I could figure out where Kaelyn and her group had been taken.
But I honestly didn’t have a clue.
If you stuffed up, you got punished back here. You had tight restrictions enforced upon you, you’d be drained of your magic constantly. You wouldn’t be completely forced to stop living, but you would remember your punishment. They’d always make it memorable.
And if you had been lucky in the past... the Dark Gems would have be too distracted from setting up task units directly associated with bringing in the Seraphine Rebellion Squadron.
I keep my eyes focused on the Dark Gems patrolling the surrounding forest, trying to think like Seraphine. 1000 years later they had developed new technology, we had to figure out what new weapons they had created.
Eventually my thoughts turn to Celeste, Traegr and Sabir and I quickly want to distract myself again. I convince myself I’m bored of thinking and I get back up to my feet.
I was honestly just disappointed Celeste still hasn’t appeared yet.
Perhaps we’d go back to how it use to be, Celeste being treated like Traegr’s pet, always by his side. While I, the ‘princess’ did boring old chores like the rest of everyone else while keeping an eye out for Sabir over my shoulder at all times.
I remember how he had a knack of surprising me at all the wrong times, like when I bathed. Usually he would be acting aloof like I wasn’t of any importance during the day, and he’d always find a way to lure me back to his bed at night.
I smile to myself as I pour water over the ferns as I reminisce about 1000 years in the past and the good times that had been rolled in with the bad.
However, I don’t get to daydream for long. I’m abruptly distracted by someone yelling out, in a panic, by the edge of the forest.
I quickly spin around and my eyes focus on two of the Dark Gems. They were congregating by the edge of the forest, jumping from foot to foot, searching the trees.
For a moment I am momentarily confused about what they could possibly be looking for.
Then I remember Pharis.
He had been travelling after escaping, in this direction. The young Gem-Human Hybrid.
I excitedly drop my bucket of water and start sneaking my way closer to the guards, curious to see if I’m right.
I watch as they get more and more agitated and eventually one of them decides to brave a foot into the forest.
He doesn’t get very far.
I watch as a flashing small metal ball is flung at the Dark Gem patrols. They jump back and seem confused as they lean in to see what the heck was thrown at them.
It was a stupid mistake made by beings so intelligent.
Grey smoke emits from the smoke grenade, the same type as the one me and Celeste had been caught off guard by.
I watch in morbid fascination as the Dark Gems drop to their knees and start crawling around blindly.
I edge my way to the corner of the Palace walls, sneakily getting closer as I watch the drama unfold.
The smoke eventually dissipates and then there is simply silence.
I don’t give up that something won’t eventually appear from the forest.
As the Dark Gems collapse onto their faces into the dirt, there is finally movement in the bushes.
My eyes widen. I was right!
I watch as a tall, lanky kid jumps out of the bushes, looking around suspiciously at the Palace Grounds, but he doesn’t seem frightened.
He sighs, turns around and disappears back into the branches.
Oh crap, I couldn’t let him leave yet!
Without another thought I start sprinting towards where I just saw him disappear.
“Wait!” I call out, as I get closer. I run along the soft grass and slow when I see him again. He is facing me suspiciously, eyes wide as he zones in on my approach, “Please don’t run!”
He remains still just in the shadows of the forest and I can’t believe my luck. I thought he would have tried to make a run for it.
“Can you help this girl?” he asks and I know he is putting a small amount of trust into me.
I come to a halt at the edge of the forest and finally see that he is actually cradling someone unconscious and covered in blood, in his arms. He must have turned back before to pick her up after he had done fighting the Dark Gem patrols.
“Who is she?” I ask, and I watch him gently lay her down at his feet for me to take over the duty of caring for her. I suddenly realise he might take this as his moment to leave, “Wait! Don’t go just yet. I know your name is Pharis, I have something important to ask you. I know you’re running from a science research laboratory. Do you have anywhere to go? The Dark Gems are looking for you and will kill you if you don’t hand yourself over peacefully,” I say this carefully, knowing that behind his calm demeanour he was truly nervous. He didn’t know who I was, so how could he trust me?
“How do you know my name?” he asks, suddenly curious that I would have those details.
“You’re a hybrid Gem,” I blurt out, making up this next fact, “You don’t really think you haven’t been shown on the news, have you? Of course you have! Everyone knows who you are and they are all searching for you. If you want to be safe, you need to trust me that I’m on your side. I’m against the Dark Gems. You need to keep running – that way. Until you reach a field of diamond soil. I’ll recruit you later. There’s lots of food there.”
“‘Recruit’?” he asks, his eyes lighting up like he might be interested but I could tell he wasn’t sure if I was joking or not.
“Do you want to live or die?” I ask, seriously.
He stays silent and I stalk my way forward until I stand before him, hands on hips.
“Run that way, now, I’ll explain later. If I can get there. You just have to wait. But you’ll be safe there. Go, there will be more people coming.”
Pharis pauses and eventually holds out a hand towards me.
“Thanks for the advice...?” he asks for my name and I accept his outstretched hand. I clasp his hand without thinking first and I’m about to smile as I answer ‘Sapphire’, until I feel a rush of energy leave my body. My knees tremble with an onslaught of sudden weakness. In one hand shake, he had managed to drain almost half my power! I jerk my hand out of his grip, gawking, my head spinning from the rush of the loss of magic.
It would come back full force eventually, but still!
“What the hell?” I yell at him and he shrugs. That was so rude of him!
“I’m still testing out my abilities, I’m pretty powerful, as you can tell,” he winks and I just glare at him, “Uh, so... nice to meet you, Sapphire,” he glances down at the girl he has laid at his feet, “I hope you can help this girl. I found her escaping some enslavement camp. I think she’s one of the humans taken from Earth.”
“That’s okay, I’ll deal with her. But please trust me, Pharis, you don’t want to be caught by these guys,” when I see the look of confusion on his face I quickly explain, “There are more than 50 Dark Gems inside that Palace right now. So if I was you, I’d get going and quickly. After you so rudely drained me, I’d start running before I change my mind to help you out!”
Now Pharis looks panic stricken.
“Crap, yeah, bye,” he takes an energized step backwards, eager to start running away from the Golden Palace and me, “But hey, I’m only going to that... did you say diamond soil? If I need to, Sapphire. You’re kinda sweet, so thank you.”
“Don’t try to suck up to me now, Pharis,” I roll my eyes. Typical nervous 16 year old boy trying to be confident and getting himself into trouble, “If you feel sick as you approach the diamond soil, stay away, but I don’t think it will affect you –”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll figure it out. I don’t have time to hang around if you said their are 50 of those guys back in that palace. But, ah, thanks?” he nods at me after cutting me off. I just cross my arms over my chest as he turns and then heads off quickly into the forest.
Yeah, keep running, buddy.
I let out a sigh of relief as he heads off, he was going to be more work than I realised if I tried to recruit him. He seemed eager in getting my attention, but not too keen on listening to what I had to say.
At least I had convinced him to stay away from here which means I had saved his life. I hoped. Whether or not I had done a good job at ‘recruiting’ him was another story. I hadn’t explained anything or even told him the name of our group.
I couldn’t worry about him now, however.
I knew I couldn’t be out in the forest too long unless I wanted to get into more trouble and disappear like the other girls did so...
I get on my knees to see if I can wake up the injured girl.
She was definitely from Earth. She was wearing blue, badly ripped jeans and a black tank top.
I push the hair and dirt off her grimy face.
I pause as I scrutinise her very familiar features, it doesn’t take me long to pick a match in my memory with...
“Seraphine...?” I whisper her name, hoping she’ll wake up to confirm what I was now seriously considering a delusion.
This couldn’t be real.
I feel for her pulse at her neck, it’s weak but there. She was so pale, like she had lost a lot of blood from a wound at her hip.
A tear escapes my eye as I’m suddenly overwhelmed with emotion.
I quickly look over my shoulder to see the Dark Gems making their way from the Palace to the pool Temple.
I start to panic as one of the Dark Gems points out the unconscious Dark Gem patrols.
“Oh shit,” I watch as almost all at once, all the males start making their way over to the area, “No, no, no, fuck,” I get to my feet, unsure of what to do.
I was so torn on what to decide. This girl needed medical help, whether she was Seraphine or not.
I just didn’t know, either way, if she’d survive being brought into the Golden Palace.
I stare down at her unconscious form.
It’s not long before the Dark Gems spot me standing in the forest.
I feel numb as hands grab me, dragging me backwards.
I just stare at my feet, feeling like throwing up.
“What the hell did she do?” I hear Traegr somewhere close by as he approaches but I just stare at the forest grass. I was confused and I was terrified of what would happen next. I didn’t want to look up because that would involve making eye contact with them and making a decision.
I felt like either way, whether I told them about her or not, I was going to betray her.
“Tell us what happened,” one of the Dark Gems shakes my arm and I realise I can’t tell them about Pharis either. I had to take the blame.
“Nothing,” I mutter, shrugging.
“It’s alright boys,” I hear Sabir talk and my hands clench, but I do not look up, “Hand her over to me.”
I’m shoved forward and I see Sabir’s leather pants as I lay a hand on his bare torso to keep him from getting too close to me.
“Clearly you need more discipline than I originally thought,” he growls out and when I don’t respond straight away I feel him grab my chin, forcing me to look up.
I don’t say anything but I don’t have to. His midnight eyes read me too well.
His eyes finally search the forest. He knew something wasn’t right.
“Over there, there’s a girl on the forest floor,” Sabir points out, “Bring her in.”
“A stray runaway, hmmm?” I watch as Traegr is the one to investigate the unconscious girl hidden, just out of sight.
It’s not long before Traegr emerges with her in his arms.
He does not look impressed.
“Get a meeting sorted right now, round up all the girls and get me Celeste. Sabir? Don’t let Sapphire out of your sight. She has something to do with this,” as Traegr gives the order, the name Seraphine starts being whispered around the Dark Gems who notice the resemblance of the girl in the King’s arms, “We don’t know who she is yet. Stop speculating!” Traegr snarls at the Dark Gems who try to get closer to have a better look.
“But she looks like...?” Hraken speaks up from the edge of the crowd, his eyes focused on the unconscious Seraphine look-a-like.
Traegr’s response gets the men moving quickly to follow his order.
“We’ll find out soon enough, won’t we? Get moving!”