Chapter Four: Pyrius
“Did you sleep well Princess?”
Annabella hadn’t even heard him enter before he spoke to her. She looked up into the eyes of her captor and she was surprised to find that he was handsome. Tall and toned, he had sandy blond hair and beautiful deep blue eyes, but there was something dark when she looked into them that sent shivers down her spine. The thing that surprised Annabella the most was that he looked about Ralene’s age.
She involuntarily took a step back and he let out a haunting laugh.
“What do you want with her Arris?” Sander asked, standing in front of Annabella.
“Never.” Annabella said sharply.
“You’ll change your mind eventually Princess.” Arris said smiling at her.
“I’ll never marry you.”
“We will see.” He snapped his fingers and a guard came over with food and water. Arris walked away as the guard unlocked the door and slid the tray inside before locking it again. Annabella gasped when the guard looked at her and she found herself staring into glazed, emotionless eyes. The guard walked away and she found herself alone with Sander once again.
“It’s not poisoned.” He said when she hadn’t moved a few moments later. She looked at him and smiled before bringing the tray closer to him.
Once they had finished, Annabella looked at Sander.
“How long have you been here?” she asked him.
“About a year I’d guess; could be longer though. I stopped counting a long time ago.”
“Did you ever think somebody was looking for you?”
“No, but I use to dream about getting out of here and seeing the people I love.” He said sadly.
“Do you have any siblings?”
“I have an older brother and a younger sister. She’s a few years older than you, but you remind me of her.” He gave her a small smile which she returned.
“We’ll get rescued and then you’ll get to see them again.” She told him.
“What happened back there?”
“I don’t want to talk about it Owen.” Kira said. They had been traveling almost all day and would have to find a safe place to camp for the night soon.
“It’s good to talk about things that are bothering you.” He pestered.
“The only thing bothering me right now is you.”
Owen held up his hands, showing he was dropping the subject.
“So why are we going to Pyrius?” he asked, trying to make conversation.
Kira, Ralene and Kinsey exchanged looks before Ralene answered his question.
“My sister, Annabella was kidnapped by Arris and taken to the old castle in Pyrius.”
“King Cameron and Queen Lilli’s castle?” Owen asked, slightly surprised. Kira nodded.
“I grew up there.” Owen said.
“What?” Kira asked, not sure if she heard him correctly.
“My mother was a maid in their castle so I lived there until I was nine and the fire destroyed most of it.” Owen explained to the girls.
“So you knew Annabella?” Kinsey asked him.
“No, not personally. I knew who she was, but I wasn’t allowed to talk to her. My mother considered me a problem child and a bad influence on the other kids who lived in the castle so she forbade me to go anywhere near the Princess. I use to sneak off when she wasn’t paying attention and use the tunnels and passages to spy on people though.” Owen reminisced with a mischievous smile on his face. It slipped off his face at his next sentence though. “I never thought I’d see something that would haunt me the rest of my life.” He said solemnly.
“What did you see Owen?” Kira’s voice was hesitant and questioning.
Almost as if it was never gone Owen’s infuriatingly cocky smile was back when he looked at her. “What did you do before you left Hillshire Kira?” he asked back.
Kira narrowed her eyes at him before catching up to Ander to talk about where they should camp for the night.
“What did you do to get this?” Owen asked Kira when they were sitting by the fire that night. Ralene, Kinsey and Ander were sleeping a few feet away. Kira had offered to take the first watch and Owen said he would stay up with her. He had reached down and picked up her left hand, tracing the tattoo on her wrist with his fingers before asking her. When a thief or gypsy was caught doing something illegal, they were tattooed with the GT, but the Hillshines add the crossing loops themselves afterward. Kira tried to ignore the shivers that went through her body at the feather light touch of his fingers on her wrist.
“It doesn’t matter now.” She whispered just loud enough for him to hear.
“Why not?” he asked, whispering also.
“Because I’m not one of them; I never was. My whole life was a lie.” For the first time she didn’t try to stop it when her eyes started to mist.
“What do you mean?” He had stopped tracing her tattoo and started absentmindedly rubbing it with his thumb as he looked at her. When she continued staring into the fire, salty tears sliding down her face, Owen gently grabbed her chin and turned her face to look at him. With her defenses down he could see a tornado of different emotions swirling in her eyes; hurt, betrayal, sadness, pain, loss and something that didn’t belong with the rest, trust. He felt his heart constrict as he watched the girl in front of him breaking.
He wiped her tears away. “Kira.” He breathed when she closed her eyes.
“My parents aren’t really my parents. They found me when I was two. Everything I’ve known has been a lie and now I don’t know who I am.”
Owen released her arm and brushed her hair behind her ear before cupping her face in both of his hands. She opened her eyes to look at him as he spoke. “Yes you do. Who raised you or gave birth to you don’t change who you are. You are beautiful Kira. You are strong and brave and independent and scary as hell with a bow.” She chuckled at that. “You are also kind and determined and would do anything for the people you care about. You never back down from a challenge, but you know when not to cross the line and take it too far. Somebody as amazing as that wasn’t shaped by the people who gave birth to her or the people who raised her. She became that was because she was confidant in herself.”
Kira found herself being drawn closer to him and felt the fog of confusion starting to clear with every word he said. By the time he was done, they were a halves breath a part.
“Thank you Owen.” She whispered, her lips brushing lightly against his as she spoke. A second later his lips were on hers and his hands were in her hair and on her face. Kira’s hands came up around his neck. Owen’s kiss was so different from Cody’s, but it was so right. When she kissed Cody she felt comfortable and cared for and his kiss made her feel warm, but this kiss with Owen made her feel new and alive and wanted and on fire. She felt the electricity flowing between them and never wanted it to go away.
When they finally broke apart for air, Owen’s cocky smile was on his face, but this time when Kira saw it, she didn’t feel the usual irritation, instead it just made her want to kiss him again. So she did.
“Where do you think you’re going boy?” Ander growled, grabbing onto the reigns of Owen’s horse before he could head away from the group.
As the group traveled the rest of the way through Revens and into Pyrius there had been an ease between them. Their silence was as comfortable as their chatter as they got closer and closer to Annabella’s castle. When they reached the little town of Cray, that was right before the castle, it was near supper time.
Kira had been walking beside them at the moment talking to Ralene so she didn’t notice the exchange going on.
“I know people here. I’ll meet you guys back at the inn after I’m done.” Owen tried to pull away from the older man.
“I don’t think so boy. You aren’t going anywhere by yourself.” Kira walked over to them when she heard what Ander had said.
“Let him go Ander.” She said.
“I don’t trust him Lady Kira.” After getting an earful from Princess Ralene about how he treats friends of the royal family, Ander had to stop calling Kira ‘thief’ and had to start calling her Lady Kira, even though it pained him to do so.
Kira sighed at the older man’s stubbornness. “I’ll go with him. I know you don’t trust me Ander, but Ralene and Kinsey do so you don’t have to worry about us abandoning or turning against you.” She reached a hand up for Owen to help her into the saddle behind him.
Ander looked like he was going to protest before Ralene cut him off. “We’ll see you in a few hours. Ander, let’s go to the inn. I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.” She said in a voice that left no room for argument before continuing down the road, leaving Ander to reluctantly follow behind her.
“So where are we going?” Kira asked Owen, her hands wrapped gently around his waist.
He turned their horse to the right and started heading down a road before answering. “To visit my mother.”
“Ma?” Owen said hesitantly pushing the front door of the house open.
“Owen? Is that you?” a gentle voice called.
“Yeah. It’s me.” He walked into the room, Kira following behind him.
The room was small. There was just enough room for a few chairs and a low table. A doorway lead to a kitchen that looked like it could only fit two people at the maximum. She could see that there was another door in the kitchen that probably led to a bedroom. Looking around the tiny house, Kira almost failed to notice the figure sitting in one of the chairs. Like the house, the woman was small. She had a round face full of soft wrinkles and long gray hair that was pulled into a neat bun at the back of her head. Despite her age, she was still a fit woman.
As Kira was observing her surrounding and the occupant of them, Owen stood next to his mother.
“Come here and let me see you boy.” she said reaching out a hand to where he was. He took it and she led him to stand in front of her before kneeling. He took her other hand with his free one and guided her hands up to his face. She worked her fingers across his face feeling every feature, memorizing them, and storing them in her mind. She smiled when she was done, dropping her hands into her lap when he placed a kiss on her forehead.
“I’ve miss you Ma.” Owen said.
“Well if you didn’t go gallivanting off to who knows where, then you wouldn’t have to miss me.”
Owen rolled his eyes before standing up. “Yes Ma. I brought a friend with me Ma.”
“A friend? Well where are they?” the woman asked impatiently. She wasn’t use to waiting.
Owen walked over to Kira and took her hand, leading her toward his mother. She looked hesitant at first, but then consented when Owen smiled at her. She followed him over to where he had stood just a few minutes before.
“This is my mother Abigail.” Owen told her as he placed her hand in Abigail’s. Abigail smiled when she ran her fingers over Kira’s hand.
“A girl?” his mother raised her eyebrows at Owen and he rolled his eyes at her before replying.
“Ma, this is Kira.”
“Sit down so I can see you honey.” Kira did as the older woman said and kneeled down in front of her. Much like she had done to Owen, Abigail ran her hands over Kira’s face.
Kira noticed that Abigail had green eyes with a cloudy haze over them. She couldn’t help but stare as the older woman’s hands softly caressed every inch of her face, learning it for the first time.
Finally Abigail pulled her hands back and clasped them in her lap. She didn’t even try to suppress the proud smile that graced her wrinkled face.
“So when can I expect some grandbabies?”
“Ma!” Owen exclaimed, his cheeks reddening slightly.
Kira was shocked by how blunt and unashamed Abigail was. “Umm… We’re not… It’s not like that…” she stuttered, not sure what to say.
Abigail laughed and Kira blushed. “Sit down. I haven’t had good company in ages.” She said as they sat down. “Sariah only comes around to help when she can and she never stays as long as I would like.”
“Sariah still comes by?” Owen asked.
“Just because she’s upset with you, doesn’t mean she’s going to forget about me. I still think you should apologize to her. I know she’s still sweet on you Owen.”
“Well I don’t feel anything for her Ma. She knew that before I left.” He fidgeted under his mother’s words and Kira’s questioning gaze, missing the satisfied smile the older woman wore. He rubbed the back of his neck nervously before speaking.
“Sariah and I use to be”
“Owen.” Kira cut him off, placing her hand on his knee. “You don’t have to explain anything. I understand.”
“Okay.” Owen smiled at her and put his hand over hers.
“So do you have a family Kira?” Abigail asked her.
“I have an older brother, but I haven’t seen him in years.”
“And what about your parents? Where are they?”
“I don’t know who they are. A couple found my brother and I in the Quintan/Hillshire area of Durham forest when we were young and took us in.”
“Quintan/Hillshire area? Isn’t that Hillshine territory?” Abigail asked brow furrowed.
“Well you’re lucky you were found by good people and not Hillshines. They are terrible people. The Hillshines are the reason Quintan is in the state it is now.” Abigail stated.
“What do you mean Ma?” Owen asked before Kira could.
“King Jesse had two children; a boy and a girl. One night Hillshines snuck into the castle, kidnapped the children and murdered them to get back at the King for a raid his soldiers did on the Hillshines a few weeks earlier. When Queen Maria heard the news she hung herself in grief. After that King Jesse was never the same.”
Owen felt Kira tense beside him so he squeezed her hand to remind her that she wasn’t a part of those people anymore.
“It’s getting late Ma. We should probably get going.” He told her.
“Alright.” Owen stood up and gave her a hug. “Don’t let this one go Owen. She’s special.” His mother whispered in his ear before releasing him.
“It was lovely to meet you Kira.” She said to the young woman.
“You too mam.” Kira replied back politely.
Suddenly she was being pulled down and Abigail was whispering to her.
“He may seem tough, but he’s been through things that have left him broken, like you. Maybe you can heal each other Princess Kira.”
Kira’s eyes widened in shock. ‘How could this blind woman have known I was called the Princess of the Hillshines? Owen doesn’t know that and I never told her I was Hillshine.’ She thought. “I’m not Hillshine anymore.” She said.
“I know.” Abigail released the grip she had on Kira’s arm and leaned back in her chair. Kira returned to Owen and they let the little house.
“Be safe.” She said to the now empty room.
“What did she say to you?” Owen asked when he couldn’t handle Kira’s silence anymore. She had been trying to figure out why Abigail had called her Princess and what exactly had “broken” Owen as she had put it. Then she remembered something he had said when he talked about living in the castle.
“What did you see in the castle that haunts you?” Kira blurted out before she could stop herself. Owen jerked the reigns back in surprise causing Kira to tumble off the back if she hadn’t of used her quick reflexes to grab onto him at the last second.
“What?” he was hoping he hadn’t heard her correctly.
“I want to know what you saw in the castle.” She repeated. When she saw that he was going to try to change the subject she added, “Please Owen?” he sighed and snapped the reigns so they would start moving again.
“My mother’s the only one who knows what I saw.” Kira was silently waiting for him to continue. “It was late and I was sneaking through the passageways. I liked to go to the kitchens and see what leftovers they had. Even when I was younger I was a thief.” Owen chuckled at that. “There was this room in the middle of the castle that must have been the last magician’s secret room because there were all kinds of ingredients and spell books. When I first found the room everything was covered by a layer of dust and that’s how it was every other time I went there too, except that night. There was someone in the room. At first I thought I was seeing things, but then he turned around and I felt like I had turned to stone. I couldn’t look away. His eyes. There was something about his eyes that just wasn’t right. After what seemed like an eternity, I started to back away quietly so I could leave without him seeing me, but it was like he felt my movements because he looked directly at me. I knew I was in trouble so I got out of there as fast as I could and he didn’t follow me. I ran to my room and tried to sleep, but his eyes kept appearing whenever I closed mine. I was too scared to tell anybody what I saw, but now I wish I had because then maybe a lot of people would still be alive.”
Kira had been listening so intently to what Owen was saying that she was confused when he stopped.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
Owen sighed heavily and stopped their horse in front of the stables of the inn. He dismounted and helped Kira down before continuing. He looked at the ground, but kept his hands on her waist as he spoke.
“The night I saw the man was the same night as the fire. He was the one who started it, I just know it. And if I had told someone then everyone who died that night would still be alive.” He looked into her eyes and her heart shattered at the amount of guilt and shame that were shinning from his beautiful hazel eyes. “It’s all my fault.”
“Owen.” Kira breathed, cupping his face gently between her hands and pulling it close to hers. “Nothing is your fault. Nobody can blame you for being scared and you had no idea that something bad was going to happen. You can’t carry this guilt around forever. It’s not your fault.”
Kira could see Owen’s eyes brimming with unshed tears at her words. She pulled him to her and let him bury his face in her neck, pulling her body flush against his. To anyone else it would just look like two people embracing before parting ways, but they couldn’t feel the slight shaking of Owen’s body or his hot tears sliding down their neck or his ragged breath on their skin.
“It’s okay. It wasn’t your fault. It’s okay.” Kira kept whispering to him.