Chapter Five: Arris
“So how are we going to get in?” Ralene asked when they were at the front gate.
When their group went to the gate Ander requested permission to enter the castle. A group of guards came out to meet them, informing them that nobody was allowed entrance. Before Ander could argue with them, Kinsey pulled him back and away from the gate and told him that there was something off about them and that they had to find another way inside.
“Follow me. I know another way inside.” Owen said before walking away from the closed gate. Ander, Ralene, Kinsey and Kira followed him to a group of trees growing next to the castle wall. Ander walked over to one of the trees and pulled on a large branch, testing its strength.
“It seems strong enough to support us.” He said.
“Oh, we aren’t going over.” Owen said smirking before pushing on the trunk of the largest tree there. “We are going under.” Kinsey walked over to where Owen was standing.
“There’s a tunnel.” She started to go in, but was pulled back by Ander’s hand around her arm.
“Let me go first Princess.” He said gruffly.
“Fine.” Kinsey backed up from the tree to let him by.
Ander pulled out his sword before walking through the small archway in the trunk of the tree. Kinsey, Ralene, Kira and finally Owen followed behind, weapons ready.
It was dark in the part of the castle they came into. With a quick look around they noticed that there were no windows and the torches lining the walls weren’t lit.
“Where are we?” Ralene whispered so they wouldn’t draw any unwanted attention.
“The corridor that leads to the dungeons. That’s probably where Arris has Annabella.” Owen whispered back.
“Let’s hurry then!” Ralene whispered slightly louder and frantic before taking off quickly down the hall.
“Ralene! Wait for us!” Kinsey whispered as they followed her.
The sound of their echoing footsteps was the only thing that could be heard as they headed farther down the darkened corridor. With weapons ready, bodies tensed and ears on high alert the finally reached the end of the hallway and a single door.
“Lady, be ready to shoot anything when I open the door.” Ander whispered before grabbing onto the handle. Kira got in position beside the door and nodded to Ander when she was ready. He opened the door enough for her to be able to see if there were any threats on the other side.
“Nothing.” Kira said and Ander opened the door all the way.
The room was slightly brighter than the hall they were just in. They had reached the dungeons. In each cell there was a small high window that was letting in a little bit of light.
“Kinsey, guard the door.” Kira said walking further into the dungeons. Cell after cell was empty until almost halfway down the line.
“Who are you?” Kira asked her arrow aimed at the man in the cell.
“Who are you?” he countered.
Kira glared at him and stepped closer to the cell. “Where’s Princess Annabella?” she asked instead.
“I don’t know. They took her somewhere else this morning.” He answered.
At the door Kinsey could clearly hear the conversation taking place between Kira and the captive. She felt her heart stop as his silky voice met her ears. Before she could think about it, Kinsey was turning around and walking closer to the group.
“Kinsey? What are you doing?!” Ralene asked drawing everyone’s attention to her. She ignored her as she approached the cell. Standing right in front of it, she stopped.
“Aaric?” she whispered hesitantly.
“Kinsey?” Aaric asked just as hesitantly.
“Aaric.” Kinsey let go of the bars to reach for him as hot tears started cascading down her cheeks. “How can you. . . I can’t believe you’re. . . I thought you were dead.” She told him.
“Kinsey. Kinsey. I thought I’d never see you again.” He stood as close to the bars as his chains would allow, but he was just out of reach of Kinsey.
“Stand back Princess.” Ander said trying to push Kinsey aside. She didn’t move though.
“Kinsey.” Kira said placing her hand on her shoulder to get her attention. “Ander needs to try to open the door.” Kinsey nodded her head and backed up.
Ander slid his sword in between the cell door and the bar next to it and swung it down as hard as he could, slicing through the lock with a ping.
“Fairy made.” Ander explained as to how he was able to slice through the steel, at their shocked and confused expressions. He pulled open the door and Kinsey rushed in, running to Aaric. She threw her arms around his neck as his came around her waist holding her as tightly to him as possible. They were so wrapped up with each other that they didn’t realize when Ander came up to them and cut Aaric’s chain until they heard the ping and the chain hitting the floor. When Aaric saw that he was free he picked Kinsey up and spun her around and around smiling uncontrollably at her laughter. Setting her down, Aaric kissed her.
It was like a man who had miraculously survived the desert for over a year and finally found water for the first time. Moving one of his hands to cup her face, Aaric pulled her close to him with the other. Pressing her body against his, Kinsey let all the love and passion she had for him fuel the kiss. It was passionate, electrifying, and everything that a kiss only between two people who were madly and deeply in love could share. After what could have been a lifetime they pulled apart, resting their foreheads against each other.
“I love you Kinsey.” Aaric whispered to her.
“I love you too Aaric.” Kinsey whispered back.
“Uh, Kinsey, Aaric, we have to find Annabella.” Ralene said looking apologetic for having to break up their reunion.
Kinsey blushed, having forgotten that they had an audience. Taking Aaric’s hand she walked back to her friends.
“Aaric,” she said “this is Kira, Ralene, Ander and Owen. Guys, this is Aaric.” She wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his chest as his arm slid around her.
“It’s amazing to meet you Aaric, since up until a few minutes ago we believed you were dead.” Kira said. “Now we really need to find Annabella though. Do you know where they took her?” she asked.
“They didn’t say. They just came and took her earlier.” He said.
“Maybe if we knew why he kidnapped her in the first place then it would help us figure out where he would have her.” Ralene commented absentmindedly.
“He wants Annabella to marry him. He wants to control Pyrius.” Aaric answered.
“What?!” Ralene, Kira and Kinsey exclaimed at the same time.
“She’ll never agree to that!” Ralene said.
“That’s what she told him, but he seemed confident that she would agree. I’m afraid of how far he would go to get what he wants.” Aaric announced.
“Then let’s hope we find her before something happens.” Kira said.
“We better get going. You’re going to need some kind of weapon Prince Aaric.” Ander said looking around to see if there was anything that would suffice.
“Here, you can use my second.” Kinsey told Aaric as she unhooked the sword that was strapped on her right hip and handed it to him. He strapped it on and pulled the sword out swinging it around a few times, testing out the feel and getting use to using a sword again.
“We really need to be going now.” Owen said.
Kira, bow ready, lead the group back to the door that would take them out of the dungeons. Reaching the door, she pushed it open with her foot.
Kira barely had time to duck before the arrow flew past her head and stuck in the door. She found the archer easily in the crowd of guards around the door and released her arrow. It stuck him in the neck and he went down.
“We’re under attack!” she called before shooting another arrow, this time missing her target. As the guards pushed toward her, Kira moved against the door to let the others come through. Ander, Aaric and Kinsey, the more experienced swordsmen of the group, were able to slash through a large portion of the guards. Aiming for the guards that would be harder for Owen and Ralene to take down by themselves and watching everyone’s back, Kira stood with hers to the door.
Ralene was the closest to Kira, lifting and swinging her sword, blocking kill strikes and delivering her own. She was a quick learner and had soaked up the teaching Ander and Kinsey had given her in the basics of sword fighting on their journey to Pyrius, determined to be able to protect herself and not feel like a burden to her friends. She blocked a swing that would have beheaded her if it had been completed and brought her sword up to stab it at the exposed flesh of the guards abdomen causing him to release his sword and fall to the ground. Ralene smacked him with the hilt of her sword in the back of his head, not wanting to kill him if it wasn’t necessary. If he didn’t bleed out, he would wake up in a while with a bad headache and a gnarly cut across his stomach. Just as she was finishing with that guard, another came to attack her.
Owen was fighting off his own guards further down the hall when one came up behind him. Kira noticed the man and rushed forward to get a clear shot at him. Her arrow stuck in his back and he fell forward just as Owen was jolted sideways by a deep slash to his left leg. The dead guard landed on top of one of his comrades, forcing him to the ground and allowing Owen to slit his throat.
Kira looked around and noticed that almost all the guards were either dead or badly wounded by now. Kinsey and Aaric were fighting close to each other, bringing down every opponent that challenged them with a finesse that only came from years of experience. She didn’t take the time to find out where Ander and Ralene were before she started to rush to Owen. Before she had taken two steps, Kira found herself being thrown forward by something heavy hitting her from behind. She slammed into the ground and her breath was knocked out of her. Survival instinct kicked in and she grabbed a dagger from her belt and flipped herself over, ignoring the inability to take in anything bigger than a shallow breath. She immediately saw a guard holding the archer’s forgotten bow a few yards in front of her. Before he could reach for another arrow, Kira flung the dagger as hard as she could toward him. It stuck in his stomach and he dropped the bow and grabbed at the weapon lodged in him, blood soaking his shirt and covering his hands. He was able to pull the dagger out before crumpling to the floor, the blood draining from his face and pouring out of his wound, pooling on the ground around him. Kira looked in front of her to see that Ander was laying there with an arrow in his chest. His breathing was labored and his shirt was soaked with blood around the wound.
“Ander!” Ralene ran toward them and dropped to the ground, releasing her grip on her sword in the process. “Oh my. Ander! Stay with us. Please.” She said, pressing her hands around the arrow, putting pressure on it trying to stop the flow of blood.
“Princess.” He said. “It was an honor serving you.”
“Oh Ander! I wouldn’t have chosen anyone else to travel with.” She told him, tears running down her face.
Kira just sat there shocked by the events that just happened. Then Ander turned to look at her. He reached his hand out and grasped her arm. She took his hand off her arm and clasped it between hers.
“You remind me of my daughter.” He choked out the words, he was so close to death and Kira felt a few tears slip down her cheeks at the man that lay in front of her; the man that hated her since he first saw her, yet just jumped in front of an arrow to save her. “She would have grown up to be something like you; beautiful and independent and if you were my daughter I would consider myself lucky.” Anything Kira would have said to him got stuck in her throat at his words. She squeezed his hand and he smiled at her before looking off into the distance. “Rebecca love. Sweet Kimberly, Daddy’s coming.” Ander was still smiling when his hand went slack in Kira’s and he left them to join his family.
The world was quiet around Kira as she sat there staring at Ander’s lifeless body. She didn’t hear Ralene sobbing and Kinsey pulling her away from him and comforting her as she wept. Aaric walked over to Kira and put his hand on her shoulder causing her to come out of her daze and look up at him.
“We need to go Kira. Owen’s hurt and there could be more guards coming. We need to go.” He told her, grabbing her arm and hoisting her up onto her feet. Owen was standing beside him, leaning heavily on his uninjured leg. When Kira saw him she walked over and he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her against him and letting her cry into his chest. Everyone stayed where they were for a few moments, mourning for their lost friend.
Owen kissed Kira’s head before speaking. “Kira, we need to get going now.” He said quietly. She pulled away from him and wiped her tears away; pushing Ander from her mind she readied herself for what they would have to face next. Her Hillshine upbringing came in handy when she needed to put her feelings aside and focus on survival. Kinsey was saying something similar to Ralene and reminding her that they still needed to find Annabella. Aaric had collected Ralene and Kira’s weapons from where they were dropped earlier and returned them to their owners.
“We should probably be heading toward the North wing of the castle. There’s a ballroom, dining hall, the main hall and some guest rooms that didn’t get destroyed. The fire was centralized around the King and Queen’s bedchambers in the West wing and the royal guest chambers in the South wing. The North and East wings were barely touched by the fire.” Owen quickly explained to them.
“What’s in the East wing?” Aaric asked, easily taking a leading role in their group now that Ander was gone.
“The kitchens, another ballroom, servants quarters in the Southern part of the wing” Owen racked his brain for what else was located there until it clicked. “And Annabella’s bedchambers! I bet that’s where he has her.” Owen said.
“Let’s go.” Aaric started to travel down the hall, stepping over bodies. Kinsey and Ralene followed and Kira started to, helping Owen by letting him lean heavily on her, but Owen stopped her.
“What?” she asked him wondering why he didn’t want to follow.
“Aaric.” He called, making the man stop and turn around and wait for him to continue.
“This way.” Owen nodded in the opposite direction.
“The East wing should be this way.” Aaric told him.
“It is. But unless you want to risk running into more guards before we get to the Princess I suggest we go this way.”
“How would you know where to go?” Aaric was suspicious of Owen and how much he knew about the castle.
“I use to live here. I know this castle better than anybody and that includes all the hidden passageways.” Owen, with the help of Kira, walked down the hall to one of the unlit torches. He reached up and pushed the torch against the wall. Suddenly there was a scraping noise and a small doorway opened up on the wall next to the torch. Owen just smirked at Aaric before motioning him to go in. Once they were all inside the passage Owen pushed the lever causing the door to close, bathing them in darkness. “Just give me one moment.” He said as he fumbled around for something beside the door. In a few minutes he had successfully lit the torch that was beside the door and passed it over to Aaric. The group traveled in silence except for Owen’s occasional word of direction.
Finally Owen told them that they had reached the doorway that should lead to Annabella’s bedchambers. Aaric pressed a latch that was next to the door outlined and it swung open easily. They all walked into the large room and were immediately spotted.
“Ralene!!” Ralene was attacked suddenly and stumbled back by the sheer force of the body that hurdled at her. She couldn’t breathe as two arms wrapped tightly around her neck and her vision was blocked by the mass of caramel brown hair that was in front of her face. She wrapped her arms around the slim waist and held her little sister against her, never wanting to let her go again.
“Annabella, I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry I didn’t get to you soon enough,” Ralene said and pulled back to look at the younger girl. She held her face in her hands, inspecting her to make sure she was really there and that no harm had come to her. “But we’re here now and we’ll get you out of here. I promise.” She hugged her again before pulling away to let Annabella hug their friends and then introduce her to the new additions to their group, but before Ralene could say anything Annabella spoke up.
“Sander?” she asked Aaric.
“Hello again Princess.” He said politely, yet somewhat bashfully.
“I told you we would be rescued.” She said smartly.
“That you did.”
“Sander?” Kinsey said confused.
“Don’t you know him?” Annabella asked just as confused.
“Yes, but his name is Aaric.”
“I think I can explain.” Aaric said, cutting into their conversation. “When Arris had Annabella and I locked in the dungeon I told her my name was Sander.”
“Why would” Kinsey started, but Aaric stopped her.
“I told her that because I didn’t want her to think I was involved with her being kidnapped.” When he was met by blank and confused stares he sighed and sat down in one of the chairs. “Annabella and I were betrothed. She’s the one I was supposed to marry before I met you Kinsey.”
“Wait. He’s the prince you fell in love with? The one that you thought was dead?!” Annabella exclaimed. Kinsey just nodded. “Wow. I guess true love can even overcome death. But you still won’t be able to be together. Prince’s aren’t allowed to marry below their status.”
“It’s a good thing I’m in love with a princess then.” Aaric said, looking at Kinsey like she was the only one in the room. He reached out and held her hand in his.
“Am I missing something?” Annabella asked, now thoroughly confused. It seemed like she was confused a lot the past few days.
Kinsey looked at Annabella, remembering that she didn’t know her secret. “I’m Princess Kinsey of Anthel.”
Annabella, who had been standing since her rescue party arrived, sat down heavily onto the bed that was next to her. “Why didn’t you tell us before?”
“I couldn’t risk my father finding out where I was. I’m sorry for lying to you. All of you.” Kinsey said looking at Ralene and Kira also. They smiled at her.
Aaric cleared his throat and the girls returned their attention to him. “As I was saying, when I found out who you were I didn’t know if you knew about the engagement or not and if you did, I didn’t want you to think that I had something to do with this. So I gave you a false name.” Aaric told her.
“How do we know you aren’t working with Arris?” Owen accused him.
“Owen!” Kinsey shouted in surprise, but Aaric just held up his hand to tell her it was okay.
“You’ve been here for a long time. How do we know this isn’t just some elaborate plan that you put together with Arris? How do we know for sure that you’re on our side and not just trying to gain our trust so you can trick us?” Owen said, not even acknowledging that he heard what Kinsey had said.
Aaric stood up from his chair and walked over to stand in front of Owen. He was only a few inches taller than him, but nobody was paying attention to their height. They were too focused on the heated glares they were giving each other and the tension that was visible in the set of both of their shoulders as well as the palpable atmosphere that instantly settled around them.
“Arris murdered my father. He murdered my men. He took me prisoner. He took my father, my men, my free will and my life away from me.” Aaric said in a low voice. “But the worst thing he took from me was being able to be with the woman I love. If you were in my position would you work with him?” He challenged. When Owen didn’t respond, Aaric took a step back from him. “I didn’t think so.” He said. It looked like he was going to say something else, but before he could, the doors to Annabella’s bedchambers were thrown open and they were attacked.
“We found them in the Princess’s chambers sir.” One of the guards spoke to the man with his back to them.
“How many?” he asked without bothering to turn around and look.
“Six sir, including the Princess.”
“Yes sir. We did find a guard that had the Revens crest on him in the bodies that were in the corridor by the dungeons though sir.” The guard said quickly.
“Ah. That would explain why there are only six. Well done.”
“Thank you sir.”
“Now what should I do with you?” He finally turned around to address the group that was being held at sword point by his guards. He walked closer to them and Kira gasped.
“That can’t be.” She breathed. Her face was pale white and her eyes had doubled in size. Owen noticed the change in her despite being close to losing consciousness.
“What is it?” he asked, ignoring the silent warning the guard holding him gave him by putting more pressure on the blade at his throat.
“Damon. How… how are you here? I thought Arris”
“See, the funny thing about being a magician, Princess, is that I have the power to inhabit another person’s body.” He told Kira, smiling sweetly at her.
“Don’t call me that.” She hissed at him.
“Don’t call you what? Princess? But that’s what you are.” He was taunting her, pushing the buttons he knew would make her react.
“I am not one of them!” She yelled at him, struggling against the guard holding her and ignoring the cold blade at her neck and the warm trickling of blood that ran down from it.
“Hillshine? Oh, I know you aren’t. You never were.” He said calmly.
That made Kira stop struggling and glare at him. “How do you know that?”
“Because it was me. I’m the one that took you and your brother from your real parents and left you in the forest to die. Except somehow you survived long enough for someone to find you.” He explained.
“Why?” Kira asked.
His laugh made everyone’s blood go cold and dread seep into their pores. Kira knew that this was not her brother anymore, despite what he looked like. Arris had completely taken over. “It started with King Cameron, Annabella’s father. I was his magician for years and one of his closest friends. Then one day he found out I was practicing dark magic and sentenced me to be hung. Without hesitation he condemned one of his best friends to death. Fortunately, I knew a spell that would cause my spirit to leave my body, but for the King to be convinced I was dead I had to perform it while I was hanging which was tricky. I was successful, but it weakened me greatly, so I wasn’t able to hold my spirit form for long. I needed a host body to live in until I was strong enough to create a new one. I latched onto a peasant and stayed with that body for a while. I started to plan my revenge. When I found out that the King and Queen had a little baby girl” he caressed Annabella’s cheek as he said that and she flinched away from his touch. “I knew I didn’t just want Cameron dead, I wanted to take away everything he loved; first his family and then his kingdom. Before you were even a year old, your parents arranged for you to marry little Prince Damon when you grew up, so I had to take him out of the picture.”
“Prince Damon?” Kira was confused.
“Yes, Prince Damon of Quintan and his little sister Princess Kira of Quintan.”
“Princess... Of Quintan?” Kira’s head was spinning. Then she remembered something she had heard before. “You’re lying. The Prince and Princess of Quintan were killed by Hillshines.” Kira knew she was probably fishing, but she didn’t want to believe that what he was saying was true.
“No, they weren’t. Their bodies were never found. I took you and your brother and left you in the forest to die. You are the Princess of Quintan.” Kira was silent, totally overwhelmed by what she was hearing.
“If you wanted revenge on King Cameron, then why murder my father?” Aaric growled, looking ready to kill.
“You’re smart. I’m sure you can figure it out.” When Aaric just glared daggers at him, he sighed and continued. “For the same reason I got rid of Prince Damon. I knew you would have to come after me and you were betrothed to Annabella.”
The gears clicked in Aaric’s head. “You were going to try to take over my body.”
“I knew you were smart.” Arris smiled. “Unfortunately, your will was stronger than I imagined and I knew I wouldn’t be able to. Taking you prisoner was the only other option. I couldn’t leave you alive and it seemed like such a waste to kill you.”
“You basta” Aaric started to say, trying to pull out of the grip the two guards had on him, before Arris cut him off.
“Language Prince. There are ladies present.”
“To hell with being a lady, I’d gladly slit your throat myself.” Kinsey told Arris, trying to shake off her own guard.
Arris laughed and walked away from them. He closed his eyes and spread his arms, palms facing in front of him. Then he started speaking, his voice getting louder as he went. “Novas corporis, novas vitae. Aedificabo!”
His hands started to glow and the air started to sparkle. The deep, dark purple magic hung in the air waiting to be shaped by its creator. Arris molded and sculpted, pushed and prodded the magic until it looked how he wanted.
“Implerent tenebris, spiritu animi movent!” Before their eyes, Arris’ spirit left Damon’s body. Disappearing into the magic, it solidified the shape that he had made and it came alive. With dark brown hair and eyes and tan skin, the body of a well built man in his early twenties came into being.
“DAMON!” Kira was filled with such rage that she acted without having to think, relying on her Hillshine training and nothing else. She twisted the guard’s arm that was holding the blade to her throat and heard a satisfying crack and he dropped the sword to the ground, cradling his broken arm against his chest. She snatched up his fallen sword and plunged it into him. Leaving it there, she ran toward the limp body of her brother. His breathing was very shallow and he wasn’t responding to her. “You did this to him.” She spat at Arris, her voice saturated with hate. Her vision went red and she charged at Arris. He deflected her blows quickly and easily and delivered his own. He was stronger and lightning quick and in no time, he had Kira on her knees. He pulled her head back by her hair and held a dagger to her throat. This wasn’t just a warning, he was intent on finishing her and everyone could see it. Owen was cursing Arris under his breath and struggling to get away from his captor, tears threatening to overcome him.
“Stop! STOP!” Annabella yelled at Arris right before he drew the blade across Kira’s neck. Arris looked over at her and just raised his eyebrows. “Don’t kill her. Please.” She begged him.
“Why shouldn’t I?”He pulled Kira’s head back even farther, resting the blade against her neck, none too lightly.
“Please. I’ll…” Annabella was trying to think of something she could say or do, anything that would save her friend. Then she said the words she never imagined she would. “I’ll marry you. Just please don’t kill her.”
“NO!” Ralene and Kinsey yelled in unison.
Both Arris and Annabella ignored them however and Owen was relieved when Arris threw Kira to the floor, still alive but clearly shaken up by how close she came to death. She managed to crawl over to Damon and hold him against her as she tried to bring him back to consciousness. Arris walked over to where Annabella was being held and smiled down at her.
“You would willingly marry me to save your friend?” he asked her.
“If you don’t hurt my friends, I will marry you.” Annabella told him, forcing herself to look into his eyes. He may have had a new body, but his eyes were the same; dark and haunting. She had no trouble believing the saying that your eyes are the windows to your soul when she looked into his. She was staring into a black abyss of darkness and cruelty that was fueled by his thirst for revenge and power that had completely consumed him and would destroy him from the inside out the moment it got a chance.
Arris reached out and stroked her cheek, thinking about her proposal. Annabella tried not to flinch at his touch, but her discomfort was visible on her face.
“I want your word.” He finally said smiling evilly.
“Annabella!” Ralene gasped, finally getting her sister’s attention. “You can’t do it!” she said in horror. When a royal gave someone their official word they were magically bound to uphold it or suffer a painful death. The only way to get out of it was if either of them died.
“I have to.” Annabella admitted in defeat. “I can’t let him hurt you and if this is the only way to stop that then I will do it. I would do anything.”
Ralene had tears streaming down her face at her sister’s willingness to sacrifice herself to keep them from being harmed. She knew that no matter what she said she wouldn’t be able to talk her out of it. She had that stubborn look in her eyes that had gotten them into so much trouble before and Ralene felt her heart break at the bravery of someone as young as Annabella.
Annabella turned back to Arris and took a deep breath before speaking. “I, Princess Annabella of Pyrius and Revens, do give my word on pain of death that I will marry you and become your wife. Sermonem meum.” As soon as the last word was out of her mouth Annabella was engulfed in a soft gold light that was absorbed by her body making her look like a goddess with her golden tan skin and wisps of gold in her brown hair. Her appearance stayed like that for a few minutes before it finally faded away completely.
Arris smiled at Annabella and grabbed onto her arm before turning to the guards in the room.
“Kill them once we are gone.” He told them.
“NO! You promised you wouldn’t hurt them if I married you!” Annabella cried out.
“Actually I never promised anything Princess. But now that you’ve given me your word, there’s nothing you can do.” He said cruelly as he started out of the room. Annabella struggled and tried to pull away from him, but he was stronger than her and had little trouble dragging her toward the door.
Ralene, Kinsey, Owen and Aaric could only watch as Arris got closer to the door and they got closer to their end. They tried to overpower the guards holding them, but with no weapons and swords to their throats, it was futile.
With a renewed burst of energy, Annabella was able to rip her arm out of Arris’ grasp and started running back toward her friends. She was halfway there when she felt arms wrap around her waist, clasping her arms at her sides and lifting her off of her feet. She kicked and screamed, thrashing her body around trying to get free from her captor. Suddenly Annabella was thrown forward onto the floor, hitting her head. Her world went black.
“Get off me!” Annabella yelled, throwing her fists at the body that was attached to the arms around her. She was afraid of opening her eyes and looking into the dark brown eyes of the one person she hated most.
“It’s okay Princess. Nobody is going to hurt you.” A voice she recognized said, but without the cruel venom she was use to hearing. Instead it was like sweet honey washing over her. She slowly opened her eyes, but instead of seeing brown she saw brilliant blue that were filled with concern. He reached up and brushed some hair out of her face before looking at her head.
“You’re bleeding.” He said, carefully touching her hairline. “Kira. She’s hurt.” He called across the room. In a matter of seconds, Kira was by her side, ripping a corner of her shirt off and holding it against Annabella’s wound.
“What happened?” Annabella asked Kira, still slightly dazed from hitting her head.
“When Arris grabbed you he told the guards to kill Ralene, Kinsey, Owen and Aaric right then instead of after you left. While he was distracted, Damon was able to grab the dagger that Arris had on his belt and stab him through the heart with it. That’s when you got thrown to the ground and knocked out. Once Arris was dead, the spell he had on the guards was broken.” Kira explained to her.
Annabella was speechless. The nightmare was finally over and she could go home. They could all go home. Kira and Damon helped her stand up and Ralene ran over and wrapped her arms around her. They embraced for a few minutes before Aaric spoke, saying that they needed to get back to Revens.
The journey home was calm and the atmosphere was joyful. They were accompanied by a group of Pyrius guards who had pledged their allegiance to their princess. Kinsey and Aaric were glad to be reunited and hardly left each other’s side. Kira and Damon were nearly inseparable as well and Owen was often seen with them also. Damon had told them that he couldn’t remember anything from when Arris had inhabited his body and that he was glad he couldn’t. Annabella found herself staring at Damon more than she liked and she even caught him staring at her a few times, a strange expression on his face. It made her uneasy, but made her stomach flutter at the same time.
When they reached Revens a few days later, they had taken their time and stopped to rest and eat quite a few times, King Daxton wasn’t pleased with Ralene for disobeying him, but he was extremely pleased that both her and Annabella were now safe. When Darius heard they had returned and he saw Ralene he swept her up and kissed her in front of everyone. When he eventually pulled away and set her down she had a dusting of pink on her cheeks at how public he was with his affection for her.
Kinsey and Aaric only stayed for a few days before starting their journey first to Hillshire to reunite Aaric with his family and tell them of his plans to marry Kinsey and then to Anthel to do the same with Kinsey’s family. Kira, Damon and Owen left around the same time as Kinsey and Aaric to travel to Quintan. They were going to stop at the Hillshines on their way to visit with Jonathon’s family and then continue on to Quintan. Annabella was going to stay in Revens for a while before she went back to Pyrius to rule her kingdom.