I am withdrawn in awe with each step I take through the Scouting Stadium corridors. The air is heavy with gazes of recently entered Gems, watching me and Sabir with intense scrutiny. Sabir is leading me back to the chamber that I had been previously getting ready in with Celeste and Seraphine. Neither of us speak, he simply leads and I simply follow. I have to stick close behind him as the corridors are quickly being over crowded with close on-lookers.
With a couple of threatening glares from Sabir, whom towered over the smaller regular male Gems, he had everyone backing off. Some were more curious, however, and wanted to have a closer look at me. The clothes of these commoners are not the tree leather I remember from the villages I grew up in, but more refined.
“Princess,” one whispers as they approach and Sabir has to completely halt and put out a hand, shoving the older man backwards.
“Keep your distance from her, she is royalty,” Sabir growls, which has everyone falling silent and taking nervous steps backwards.
I watch as a little girl raises her hand, waving at me, her eyes so wide they are almost popping out of her head in delight.
“Princess!” she calls out, grinning. I nod and smile at her, just as my heart aches.
If only the plan tonight would succeed.
I was suddenly so nervous; filled with a thick dread. What if it all fell apart? I reach up a hand, feeling my shock collar, wondering if these commoners even knew what it was.
I get distracted, however, as Sabir makes a detour for a window overlooking the stadium and I stand next to him as he puts a hand on my back and ushers me closer to the glass pane so I can see everything.
“The stands are being filled,” Sabir points out, “Tonight will be historically momentous.”
“Yes,” I mutter, “It will be.”
“This way,” he grabs my arm and then leads me a few more metres to the left, where the stairs to the bedchambers have suddenly appeared. I didn’t realise we were this close. I follow him up as gazes watch me from below, people following our progress.
When we are finally in privacy at the top of the stairs, Sabir gives me a kind smirk.
“Do you feel important?” he asks me. I do not answer, I only frown as he gets to the bedchamber door and opens it to let me through. I walk briskly past, curious about the progress that Celeste and Seraphine would have made.
My heart lightens as I see Celeste, sitting on a chair by Seraphine, her blonde hair piled on top of her head with flowers filtered through the smaller braids. Green eye makeup enhances Celeste’s grey-silver eyes, and she is wearing a long silver, sequenced dress. She looks stunning, while Seraphine has chosen to wear her usual black leather pants and bra. Not that she could try anything else on, being restrained and all.
There is an unexpected guest however.
He has brought over a spare wooden chair to sit opposite Celeste and Seraphine and he sits back with his arms crossed over his chest and a leg crossed at his knee. He has a cruel smirk as I enter the room with Sabir close behind.
“Good afternoon, my King,” I do a mock bow and he laughs instantly and robustly.
“Only a princess well worn out would greet me so warmly,” Traegr mocks my recent act with Sabir and I just roll my eyes while Sabir comes to stand by my side. He slips an arm around my waist, pulling me in a bit closer so he can smell my hair.
“Well used is an understatement,” Sabir growls and I try to dig my heel into his foot but I miss. He just pinches my arm in return and I slap his hand away. I look up at him, briefly, and I have to look away with what I see.
His eyes look a little less dark. They even look almost warm.
But I was scared to believe it.
“I’m sure you both enjoyed yourselves,” Celeste says kindly, giving me a wink.
“I thought you were preparing the paperwork,” Sabir speaks up, directing this to Traegr.
“Yeah,” Seraphine adds in, smiling, even though her arms are still restrained behind her back, “I thought you were preparing ‘the paperwork’,” she feigns interest but her sarcasm also indicates she doesn’t believe Sabir’s chosen words.
Traegr abruptly leans forward and spreads his legs to clasp his hands under his chin with his elbows resting on his knees.
“Girls, girls… girls…” he murmurs, “So amusing, the lot of you. But,” he looks up now, a more dangerous glint in his eye, “I’m not here to chat.”
“What’s gone wrong?” Sabir asks, a warning to his tone, he wanted to know. Traegr looks up to Sabir as he puts a hand into the back of his pocket, bringing out a little square red device.
“A certain something, is the focus of my attention right now,” Traegr plays with the flashing device, “This morning, a specific storage section in the city burnt down, where that certain, specific something, went amiss,” Traegr’s eyes meet Seraphine’s now.
Her lips are sealed.
“What are you holding?” I ask, pretending to sound curiously innocent, “What is that red thing?”
“A tracking device for the contract,” Traegr does not break eye-contact with Seraphine as he says ‘contract’, “A slither of paper… none of you could ever comprehend it’s existence, let alone be able to read and understand it’s contents.”
Seraphine slowly smiles and we all know a bunch of insults are about to come pouring out of her mouth. Her temper was short, quick and often lethal.
“Take off these light restraints and then we’ll have a real discussion, King of Empty Words and Meaningless Threats. You are the ashes beneath my feet. You are comparable to vermin. The worst of the Dark Gems to ever have been born. Ametrine scum – ” Seraphine snarls this and she abruptly comes to a halt as Traegr jumps to his feet, reaching into the back of his pants he pulls out a sharp thin knife.
“You will tell me where the contract is before I skin you alive, sweetheart,” Traegr warns Seraphine, “Tell me,” he waits, patiently and is only distracted when Celeste shuffles uncomfortably in her seat, rearranging the fabric of her silk dress.
The dread hits me when I see her downcast eyes, the tremble in her hands… the fear literally seeping from every millimetre of her body.
“What contract?” Seraphine asks, trying to distract Traegr from his full focus now upon Celeste and her nervous fidgeting.
“Why are you worrying, sweet maid?” Traegr asks, palms out, like he means no harm, but the knife is still in his possession, “I’m questioning Seraphine, she knows where my paper is. All I need. Is to have it back in my possession… oh, but, I forgot,” he drops his tone now, his eyes rolling towards Seraphine, “The Queen of the Rebellion… apparently no more…” Traegr gives me a dangerous condescending smirk, next, “Congratulations, Sapphire. You’re about to be my new arch nemesis… at least not yet… I correct myself, dear Seraphine,” he looks back at the Obsidian Royal female with clear hatred. And when I glance at Sabir he is watching on with interest, “Former Queen of the Rebellion,” Traegr speaks quietly, “You will not speak. Even if I shoved this knife into your pretty little eye, even if I cut your mask into your face to scar you, you wouldn’t speak. No. You simply would not. What’s more amusing is I’ve never seen you so quiet and lost for words so suddenly, Seraphine. Are you scared I’ll do something like this?” I get the biggest shock of my life, as Traegr reaches for Celeste.
As he grabs her, he hauls her to her feet and back against his chest. A split second later, the vines from the corner of the room come shooting out towards him violently.
They stop inches from his scared face as he drains Celeste; hard, causing her eyes to roll back into her head.
“Please, stop!” I gasp, reaching out a hand, I try to gather my magic but it is gone.
Sabir had drained it all.
“Stop what?” Traegr asks, far too calmly as he hoists Celeste’s now slumped body up a bit further. He holds her back with an arm around her neck and he taps the hilt of the knife against her cheek, to wake her back up, “Don’t fall asleep on me now, little maid.”
She comes back to consciousness with a gasp, her hands coming up to claw at his arm. She struggles wildly until he positions the tip of the knife, at the corner of her eye.
“You wouldn’t hurt her,” Seraphine whispers, “You can’t! She’s your bonded partner!” she yells this last statement.
“She’s nothing but a maid, a silly girl and a fun whore… my contract, on the other hand,” Traegr exhales loudly, “Is. My. Everything. If blinding this one isn’t enough, the princess is next –” I see Sabir tense beside me at the King’s words.
Sabir is not comfortable with this.
Traegr had never sounded so out of his right mind. He was no longer just drowning in Dark Gem desire… he was simply hungry for power. It was greater than any love, or lust and his eyes were consumed with fury.
He wasn’t going to stop.
He wouldn’t, until he had the contract.
Celeste’s eyes focus on mine, her breathing coming in little gasps and a lone tear rolling out of the corner of her eye.
One look at Traegr made him out to be the most repulsive thing I had ever seen in a long time.
My own rage consumes me, but I stay still, I try to keep it rolled up as a little ball in the back of my chest. To use for later.
“Sapphire,” Seraphine forces out the words, looking at me while gritting her teeth, “You have it. Get it. Now.”
“You?” Traegr directs his rage at me now, the knife unmoving from the corner of one of Celeste’s precious eyes, “Of course you’re hiding it, you sneaky little bitch.”
“Careful, my King,” Sabir growls, respectfully enough but also in defence of who he was speaking down to.
“I will fetch it, my King,” I murmur quickly, eyes downcast, choosing the term ‘my King’ to hopefully calm him as I slowly walk backwards towards the door.
Traegr just rolls his eyes at Sabir, who is standing stock still, his eyes focused on Celeste and the knife still at her eye.
None of us expect to get interrupted.
The door abruptly opens, heightening the tension in the room and making everyone jump.
I hear Celeste cry out as Traegr has accidentally nicked her skin as Ladonna swings the door open. It is quickly followed by her gasp and her almost scream.
“Shut up, woman,” Traegr snarls, “Where the hell have you been?”
“Celeste,” Ladonna’s hand is shaking as she reaches for her mouth, trying to keep calm, “What have you done?”
“Princess,” Traegr growls at me to hurry up and I run past her so I can make my way to my own bedchamber. For the bookcase.
I sprint once I’m out the door.
I make it back under half a minute with the paper in my hands.
When I open the door, Celeste is now on the floor, crawling back from Traegr as he simply waits for my arrival. I approach him with a fast step, holding out the contract.
“Let’s go,” Sabir suggests to the King and when I glance at him he looks closed off. He looks uncomfortable. No one, not even him, had seen this side of Traegr.
“You have what you want, leave,” Seraphine snarls as Celeste has shuffled back to Seraphine’s chair and is leaning against her in shock, “You got what you came for.”
“My reign and the Ametrine blood will rule for eternity. It is about to be set in stone and set in law, throughout the entire universe,” he has snatched the paper off me and chuckles arrogantly.
“We have work to do, Traegr,” Sabir growls, he is trying to hurry Traegr out of the room, and I simply stand back as Traegr smiles, utterly in love with the paper in his hand.
“Yes, we do and I need a scribe… I know the perfect one,” he looks up now, smiling as he faces Ladonna, “Who rules, Ladonna?”
“You, my King,” she drops her hands to her side and I watch as she puts on a tough, hardened face.
“Who dominates the planet; magic wielding female-Gems or the voided partners who control their power usage and the law?” he asks.
“You answered it yourself, very clearly, my King. Dark Gems. Male Gems, they are the ruling entity of Kiyr,” Ladonna chooses to glare at us, and I see the pain in her eyes, “Not these scum, these little girls. No. Little whores who don’t know any better.”
I jerk from the ferocity in her tone. She sounded so sincere in her hatred.
“You know why I have always loved you, Ladonna?” he asks, taking a few steps forward he literally shoves me out of the way and holds the contract out to her, “You know you’re place. You respect your place. As you respect mine. As a reward, you will fill this in, to your deepest knowledge of your teachings… but wait…. I believe I need some signatures first,” he quickly holds it back out of her reach as he grabs my arm and drags me closer to the nearest dressing table. He slams down the contract, scrolls to the bottom and grabs a makeup pen on the table.
“This will do, it inscribes digitally, just needs a point,” Traegr speaks to me like I’m a dim-witted child, “Get to your feet, Celeste, you’re next.”
I find my hand goes in slow motion as I sign the contract. Celeste eventually stands back up to her feet and shuffles close to stand by me, her fear now replaced with anger as she also grabs the makeup pen next and scribbles down her name. She picks up the paper, turns and then shoves the contract into Traegr’s chest.
“Why do you need our signatures?” Seraphine spits onto the ground.
“Nothing greater than having your demise signed by yourselves,” he mocks, “And then the rest will be written by a female Gem. It will be the greatest joke of our history,” he turns from us, nodding at Sabir to start heading off.
Traegr hands the contract to Ladonna who takes it with a firm hand while Sabir edges past, giving me cold eyes now as he grabs the door and stalks out.
Before Traegr leaves he holds the door open, ushering Ladonna out as he gloats over the rest of us.
“All those rebellions,” Traegr murmurs, “Only for you to sign your own defeat. How do you feel, girls?”
Celeste, Seraphine and I simply watch as he slams the door shut.
For a few moments we are all silent, and I gaze over to see the tremble in Celeste’s hands quickly turn to outright shakes.
Seraphine and I watch as Celeste throws one hard punch at the dresser’s mirror – as hard as she can – shattering the glass and cutting up her fist. She pulls away from us as silent tears run down her cheeks. She moves quietly as she walks herself into the adjoining room.
I watch the mirror, feeling numb, as the shattered glass tips out and falls slowly onto the dresser, leaving one prominent, big, fat, shard.
I look towards Seraphine, feeling lost and confused.
But then I see her eyes flick from the glass shard, to over her shoulder.
I look down behind the chair and I instantly know she has just pointed out her light restraints.
I turn to the shattered mirror, inhaling and exhaling slowly. When I finally look back up to Seraphine to confirm her proposition, to see if she is sharing my thoughts, I see her corresponding, satisfied smirk and her feverish, impassioned eyes. A furious, blazing gaze.
“Set me free, Sapphire.”