Sabir stays on his knees and keeps his head low as the Dark Gems finally make their approach. Traegr is holding a draining whip of his own, long and twitching on its own with the charge of his dark energy, which reacted to the close proximity of our female magic.
“So it begins,” Traegr drawls out slowly as he thwacks a fern to the side and slides down the muddy slope towards Sabir and I.
Standing within metres from us, he glances up to the tree tops where Seraphine is still pointing the gun at Sabir and Traegr smirks slowly in response. There was dangerous intent in his eyes.
I didn’t know what he had planned but it seemed he expected Seraphine to be lying from the beginning.
“Watch your step, ugly,” Seraphine snarls out, referring to his half scared body. She consequentially draws all of the attention from the other Dark Gems, who fixate upon her up on her branch, reaching for their own weapons.
They all draw forth smaller versions of the gun she is holding, which assumingly shot out beams of electricity to taser those it targeted.
“Traegr, do as she says... listen to her, please,” Celeste adds softly, waving her hand gently through the air, making the plants start to grow. A thorny barrier is built between him and Sabir and I.
Traegr simply looks on in amusement and shoots Celeste a look of warmth. If there was one person that could ever soften him, it was her and her alone.
Probably because when she was even on the side against him, she still spoke with manners that were just so typical of Celeste.
“Seraphine, the one who cannot die...” he replies, calmly, choosing to ignore Celeste and focus in on his greatest enemy instead, “You may have been miraculously lucky the first time you were caught by us. But I know one of you is injured, we followed a trail of blood here. You don’t have to pretend, I know it’s you, Seraphine... I sent my best warrior after you, your subjugator, the only Dark Gem who you can never defeat,” Traegr is confident in his words, “I already have this whole area surrounded and a newly formed technology locked onto your positon in those tree tops right now. Surrender peacefully, and we’ll let you live and welcome you into the Golden Palace as a respected slave. A new start. How about it, Seraphine?”
“I appreciate the offer, but I’ll politely decline,” she replies without smiling, “Now you will hear my terms, the unharmed return of your favourite punisher and warrior, for my Seraphine Rebellion Squadron and the CU Documents. You did not follow the blood of me here, Traegr, you followed the blood of Hraken himself,” Seraphine explains, “If I was injured, Celeste would have healed me.”
Traegr pauses and so do I. CU documents? So the acronym from the document about Pharis, was important after all! I look up again to the tree tops and notice something I did not see before.
Celeste’s hand, resting upon the tree trunk and hidden by some leaves, was bloody.
It was Hraken’s blood and to be honest I am not surprised.
When Celeste harnessed her magic, no one could conquer or outwit the way she manipulated the forest. I knew this because she was taken from the forest itself, where she grew up in a village, always practising her hold on the plant life around her. That’s what she had told me when I first came to the Golden Palace as a young teen.
“I apologise, dear Seraphine, but it is not possible, even if you wanted your girls back, they are nowhere in the vicinity. They are secured in the Volcan Laboratories,” Traegr replies.
“Where you held the hybrid-Gem, Pharis?” I add in, wanting to catch Traegr off guard.
He focuses in on me, the whip violently twitching as he clasps it even tighter.
“You’ve been snooping around, princess? How typical,” he growls low, angry that I’ve found out something that obviously passionately angered him.
“It’s only typical you’d want a boy dead, you are probably jealous a female Gem slept with a human and bore them a child,” I smile and take a step closer to Sabir and run a hand through his soft, black hair, petting him, “You lot were never that appealing anyway, you’re far too alike, human men have more depth. Dark Gems, on the other hand, are nothing but shallow, your souls consumed by greed.”
I’m aiming to upset him further, but he just bursts out laughing.
“Your attempt to suggest we are subordinate to humans is amusing, Sapphire. However, I’m done negotiating –” Traegr starts to raise his hand, to signal an attack. Except Seraphine swiftly turns on her weapon to full charge, loudly buzzing to life in her hands.
“Not so fast, you make one move and he’s dead!” Seraphine raises the gun to her shoulder and aims it perfectly at Sabir’s head, “You’re going to go back to the palace, within the next five minutes. You’re going to arrange the return of my Squadron and the papers for CU, and you’re going to do it quickly. I suggest you make a move on, Hraken is in the trees along the way back, and he will bleed out in the next few minutes. If you hesitate, he will die, if you refuse to listen to me, both Sabir and Hraken will die. Your best friend and your best warrior. Choose wisely, King of the Dark Gems, if you don’t, I do not doubt there will be a rebellion against your rule...and your closest allies will not be around to fight with you.”
He pauses at her words, now that Hraken’s life is also in the picture. He also knew Seraphine wasn’t lying this time. If he carelessly let Hraken and Sabir die, the other Dark Gems would not respect him any longer, nor would they trust him to rule.
“Celeste?” Traegr growls low and catches her eye, his mind was racing, that much I could tell.
“She is telling the truth,” Celeste shows him her bloodied hand, “This is Hraken’s blood, one of his carotid arteries in his neck is pierced and he is losing blood quickly. I only healed it partially enough so that if you find him soon, he will live. If you disobey her... you know what the consequences will be.”
“Where do you want the deal to take place?” Traegr eventually asks Seraphine, believing Celeste, his face going red from the admission.
He had to give into her orders, it was the only way to save Hraken and Sabir.
“Same place,” Seraphine relaxes enough to sit down on the branch and swing her legs while grinning, “You come back here in 2 hours with what I want, and I’ll give you Sabir unharmed. Thank you for your co-operation, Traegr... also, I want you to know, by my Seraphine Rebellion Squadron I don’t just mean the girls you have locked up in the Volcan laboratories, I also want every girl in the Golden Palace here as well, they belong with me. Do you understand, your highness?” she gives him a wink as his cheek twitches in barely held back frustration and fury.
Before he turns away, he eyes me as I hold the rope around Sabir’s neck and I tug on it, pulling Sabir’s head up so he can finally look up at his King. They hold each other’s gazes for a moment, as they are forced to bend to the will of their supposed slaves.
“Soon, you’ll also be wearing a leash just like him, sweety,” I speak with as much joy as I’m feeling right now, especially since I get to say it to Traegr.
His eyes darken a tad, but Traegr does not respond.
He spins around and yells at his men.
“Clear out, find Hraken, now!” his words send the other Dark Gems into a flurry.
“How are you feeling, Sabir?” I ask him, catching his attention.
“I feel like some justice, darling,” he smiles at me and slowly gets to his feet, using my Earthen term against me. I stand still as I continue to hold the rope leash and he takes an unexpected step toward me, leaning down slowly to whisper in my ear, “It won’t be long now, I promise you that,” before I can react, he places his warm lips against my cheek, they linger before he pulls back.
Blood instinctively rushes to my face at the intimate contact.
Seraphine and Celeste make their way down off the tree as Sabir assesses my quick and unexpected blush.
Even if it was just on my cheek... I guess it had just been a damn long time since I had been kissed by him.
“Tie him to this tree,” Seraphine hits the ground lightly and nods at me, worry in her eyes.
I know why, she saw him kiss my cheek and she saw my reaction.
Those sort of responses to the Dark Gems were the reason we got pulled back into slavery time and time again.
I had to be careful.
I knew Sabir.
He could be as evil as all hell or he could be as sweet as an angel.
I had to watch myself and most importantly...
...I had to listen to Seraphine.
“I’ll tie him up,” I agree with her command and she nods before glaring at Sabir, who is staring intently at her, especially now that he wasn’t blind folded.
“You don’t want to show me your secret hide out, Seraphine?” Sabir asks with attitude.
“I doubt you’ll like it there,” Seraphine responds dryly.
“What are we going to do for the next two hours?” Celeste asks, worriedly clearing the thorns from around Sabir and I so I can lead him to the big tree next to us, where I can tie him up.
“We should plan for unexpected surprises,” I reply, “But first, I honestly can’t wait any longer... Seraphine... why don’t you answer the question we all want an answer to?” I suggest, eyeing her with interest.
Her eyes light up, she expected this to be brought up again and she said before that she’d explain later.
Now was as good a time as any.
“I was not dead, but I was near death,” she explains slowly.
“So how did you live?”