I explain to Pharis the trade that will take place and the risks associated with it. Obviously Traegr would not make this simple, and even if it appeared so it would not necessarily go according to plan.
The whole time that Pharis, Celeste and I wait for Seraphine to return a few hours late, Sabir all the while listens in intently.
“So we should really be prepared to fight, what if we lose?” Pharis is increasingly excited about the prospect of brawling with the Dark Gems.
“Your death is imminent unless you surrender, considering you’ll be fighting with us, that means if we lose, you’ll die,” I say it bluntly, it was better to be straight forward.
I glance at Sabir, expecting that he may now have something to say, but I see him just assessing us and listening as before.
Sabir had been quiet since the moment I sat next to Pharis and explained to him in detail as much as I could about everything he would need to know.
“They’re on their way!” All our heads turn to see Seraphine gracefully jumping down from a branch, a smile on her face, so bright, so sure and confident. I swear I hadn’t seen her look that happy since her last victory, “I saw them leading the girls from the palace and the girls from the laboratory – the deal is on,” Seraphine clasps her hands together and then glances at Sabir, “You’ll get to go home, punisher, empty handed – but you’ll have freedom to discuss the future of our race with your King. I hope you discuss the importance of the other half, female Gems are not just slaves –”
“You just care about war, sweetheart,” Sabir accuses her and Seraphine’s cheeks instantly flare up with a pink blush of emotion.
“Incorrect,” she snaps back, “We will unite peacefully on agreeable terms. There will be no more fighting. I have faith that we can stand together.”
“Gem’s emotions and instinct cannot be controlled –”
“Oh, shut up. I don’t talk to half-wits,” Seraphine raises a hand then looks away from the prisoner, “Pharis, since you seem to have some human sense about you, why don’t you tell Sabir, what are some techniques to control rage, anger and the need to dominate.”
Pharis perks up, happy to answer.
“Well, lots of things! Breathe, count to ten, remove yourself from the room, think before you speak. All the things we’ve learnt on Earth, am I wrong?” Pharis brags proudly to all of us.
I see a twitch in Sabir’s cheek and I try not to burst out laughing.
“Take note, sweety,” Seraphine walks up to Sabir and pats his cheek, “The next time we speak, perhaps we’ll reach a resolution.”
“I don’t doubt we’ll reach a resolution,” Sabir eyes me over Seraphine’s shoulder, “It might be a painful, torturous end for you girls but an end, nevertheless.”
“I don’t appreciate your tone, dude,” Pharis gets to his feet, his fists clenched, “What makes you think you’ll ever be able to control all the females of your race?”
“They like being controlled,” Sabir smirks, “Initial resistance is inbuilt in their genes but once they find the bond, they will submit... eventually. It is the reason only one man, has ever beaten your leader in a fight of magic, wills and strength. Hraken is Seraphine’s downfall... and I am Sapphire’s downfall... as Traegr is Celeste’s...”
Everyone goes quiet at his words.
Bonds were forbidden to be spoken about on Kiyr, the order being enforced since Traegr’s decision years back, his words ...no one should speak of such a stupid, reckless idea, something that will be nothing but a foolish concept, until the end of time.
The idea of the bond was like a soul-mate connection, on a magical level.
It was like a myth, a fairy tale in Kiyr because it could never be proven, yet people had written stories about it for centuries. People had spoken of revelations and bragged about in awe of their bond with their life-mate.
That was until Traegr had banished the term; bond, magic-bond, or any term that even hinted at the mysterious connection no one could scientifically prove.
“You just spoke against your own King,” Celeste speaks up, her voice shaking with emotion as she glares at Sabir with tears in her eye.
I knew this bothered her deeply because Traegr had enforced the ban on the mention of the bond, a day after meeting her. Coincidence? No way.
And now Sabir had put it into words, when no one dared to mention it.
“It’s probably the only thing we’ve ever disagreed on, him and I... but Celeste... you’re such a shy little thing... is it not mildly interesting now when talking about such a taboo ‘concept’, that raw passion fills your voice in response to my words?”
"I think that’s enough said today, Sabir,” everyone’s heads turn dramatically towards Traegr as he stalks into view suddenly, holding his palms up to show he holds no weapons, “The girls you wanted are all here, take a look for yourself.”
Seraphine uses her magic to fly up and do a quick headcount of the girls in the forest behind Traegr.
Once done, she drops back down to the ground and puts her hands on her hips as she faces the King of the Dark Gems with a cocked eyebrow.
“I believe you owe Sabir his release–”
“Not so fast, Traegr, where are the CU documents?” Seraphine demands the rest of the deal and Trager clasps his hands behind his back and shrugs.
“I misplaced them... don’t look so angry, sweetheart, it’s been a thousand years since you wanted your hands on them. They are hardly important anymore and like I’ve said, I misplaced them,” Traegr couldn’t sound anymore dishonest.
“I’m sure if they are so unimportant, they’d be gone to this world,” Seraphine’s drawl drips with sarcasm as she burns through the rope around Sabir and then places her gun on full charge, once more pointing it at Sabir when he walks forward to stand next to her. His wrists were still behind his back, the orange Light Restraints still secure, thank goodness, “Since you broke half of your promise, you can tell the girls to come forward now, and only when they are under my protection and you are walking your way back to the Golden Palace will I release your best friend and adviser.”
“I may not be a man of my word, but I know I can count on you to hold to your honour, Seraphine,” Traegr teases and shrugs before turning on his heel, his back now to us, “You’re free to go to her now, girls, on your way,” I watch in morbid curiosity as he willingly lets the slaves come forward.
Where was his surprise attack?
I’m soon to find out, there is none.
The girls come forward, most of them nervous and confused, their memories unreturned. Some of them were joyous to be free of slavery. I also spot the girls just released from the Volcan Laboratories and I grin from ear to ear.
Seraphine’s plan had actually worked!
I instantly search for Kaelyn but I do not see her.
Odd, but she was probably lost in the crowd.
I turn to finally watch Seraphine release Sabir from his Light Restraints.
“I’ll be watching until you’re well out of reach, punisher,” Seraphine warns him as he is released.
As soon as he is free, he turns to face me.
Pharis waltzes between us and he points the way Traegr has left.
“On your way, don’t even think about looking at the princess – she doesn’t even like you!” Pharis musters all his boyish, reckless confidence towards Sabir.
Sabir rubs his sore wrists as he takes a step towards Pharis, unblinking as he eyes him up and down.
“Oh, she doesn’t like me?” Sabir asks, pretending to be oblivious but it just makes the sarcasm stronger.
"On your way,” Seraphine reminds him to hurry, turning on the gun to full charge again.
All the girls around watch on, curious to the drama unfolding.
“I detest you, now get lost,” I decide to rub it in, it was my chance to get some of my own back.
“You heard her,” Pharis backs me up as Sabir literally comes to stand nose to nose with the tall lanky kid asking for a death wish, “You better respect a lady’s wishes, Dark Gem, you’re not welcome here any longer.”
“It’s curious that she supposedly hates me. With my advanced senses I can literally smell her need for me. You won’t be able to satisfy her desires–” I come forward at Sabir’s words, to put a comforting hand on Pharis’ shoulder and to see the kid blushing tomato red.
"Go,” I snap at Sabir.
“I promised you... cheeky little whore... soon,” Sabir backs off and gives me a wink coupled with a dangerous look in his darkening, hungry eyes.
“Jealous asshole,” I mutter under my breath when he finally disappears into the trees.
“You don’t need him, Sapphire,” Seraphine reassures me before rolling her eyes at Pharis, “Stop blushing like a fool, kid, you have no idea what lengths they’ll go to, to express exactly what they’re thinking. They won’t hold back and they don’t care if it sounds ‘politically incorrect’.”
“Oh, r-right,” Pharis replies, his voice wobbling with embarrassment.
“Where’s Kaelyn?” I call out, hoping to comfort Pharis by distracting all the staring girls who are enjoying his nervous blundering. I was also curious as to solve the problem of a missing Kaelyn. If she was here, she’d have made one hell of a loud entrance.
“I haven’t seen her,” Celeste adds, worriedly.
Seraphine quickly scans the crowd, swearing under her breath.
“Where is she?” she calls out, hoping someone will have an answer.
“We don’t know, she went missing,” Lilo comes forward, “Sapphire... is this really... her?”
“What are you talking about?” I ask before I think properly and I suddenly remember; the girls from the laboratories were looking at Seraphine like she must be a ghost, their faces drained, frowns shared.
This was their first time seeing her alive when she had been ‘dead’ before.
“It’s her,” I confirm, “I can assure everyone who just arrived from the Volcan Laboratories – Seraphine is alive. She survived!” I expect to see grins and cries of delight.
Instead most of them look on wearily.
Seraphine witnesses their looks of reservation and I see the resounding hurt in her eyes.
“We want our memories back too, we’re all confused,” one of the slaves from the Golden Palace steps forward, raising her hands, “What do we have to do?”
“Follow me,” I nod at them, “It’s this way. I can assure you, you’ll all get your memories back.”
As Celeste decides to show the way, Seraphine walks close by me and I see a vulnerability shining in her eyes.
“Same as I, princess,” Seraphine admits reluctantly, “Believe it or not, I am still missing some memories.”
“Like what?” I ask, shocked. I knew she drank only half the potion for memory loss but she had explained that her memories had come back. But perhaps she felt safe now – that Sabir was gone – to admit not all of her memories were restored, “But how do you know you are missing memories?”
“Hraken,” Seraphine mutters, “I remember most things about him. But I do not remember him beating me in a fight.”
I try not to laugh, despite it being serious that some memories were still lost for her.
Perhaps she couldn’t remember the fight where he conquered her. Or perhaps she just simply didn’t want to remember.
Another question remained and it bugged me to get an answer right away but I knew the girls were acting strangely hesitant.
What did they mean by their vague answer that Kaelyn was missing? Where the hell was she?