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Chapter 6

2 days later

A day of isolation and sorrow had followed the death of my fellow priestesses.

Then, a day later I was experiencing overriding and numb defeat.

I could not leave my tower, as I was forbidden too. Yet, I had not seen Zarcar since that disastrous night after I fainted. All I knew was that I had awoken in my bed the day after, surrounded by maids cleaning and changing the layout of my bed chamber.

This morning I had awoken in my library, unable to sleep the night prior, nor face Zarcar last night. He seemed to show some ‘respect’ by leaving me alone to my solitude and grief.

Now, I stay on the bottom level of my stolen tower, which is opened up to his fellow war generals to converse in like a casual meeting area. The windows around my tower were open and filled with the thick green garden. The whole ground level hall was a messy overgrown greenhouse but there were gardeners coming through and cutting the natural growth.

I watched the men and women cut green vines and pull weeds while I sat in one window sill, my legs crossed, my palms cupping my knees.

I had been trying to meditate away all my emotion, but instead, it just felt dormant.

I watch as strangers sit on alters of sacred stone, sitting their disrespecting dusty asses on even more marble sculpted benches in the Library of Green. That is what I had called it.

But now it was being overtaken and pruned by invaders.

Just another blow to my heart.

“Enjoying the quiet?” I hear a guard speak behind my shoulder – one who had been keeping an eye on me the last two days. I turn to Holden and I just stare him down as he adds, “Just stay right where you are and you and I won’t have any trouble.”

Holden then proceeds to nod at me and slyly walks past, even though I can feel his eyes still always on me; a knowing in him that I could not be trusted.

Holden was a sweet soldier who worked for Zarcar, but I didn’t trust Holden’s charisma.

He was still the enemy.

A gardener comes closer to me and almost starts to prune the window I’m very obviously guarding.

“Don’t,” I hiss to the woman and her eyes widen as she looks at me, before backing off as if I am vermin.

I watch as she stumbles away to another area, before directing her head up in regards to the hush in my Library of Green.

I look up to see Zarcar has just slid his way in silently around noon, wearing his black hood.

I watch as he smiles bright white canines, clasping hands with other generals and giving some hugs. Masculine murmuring fills my feminine space and I get irked. I am pursing my lips so hard.

Mostly because I am barely keeping in a curse to bewitch the men into running from this Library as if they are being chased by their greatest nightmares; their wives, their ex-mistresses, a rabid dog, a shadow that talks… perhaps their dead friends who they couldn’t save in battles long past.

I wanted to do it, but I bite my cheek.

It was too risky at this point in time. As far as I knew, if children were really spared in the Sun Tower from the burning – like sweet Salt… her and any other young females, could be the only priestesses left.

So, our magic had to be protected.

I stay still, hoping when Zarcar is finished with his greetings, he can simply go up to other levels of the tower and leave me be.

As he is preoccupied with talking to his comrades, however, I see a brown hooded girl scuttle in at the entrance, being guarded by two other men.

I see her approach Zarcar and stop behind him.

I watch the girl slowly lift her head, red strange eyes going over the crowd to reach mine as if by instinct.

She watches me as I stare boldly back.

If she had something to say, she should come up to me and say it.

“Andoll,” I hear Zarcar’s loud drawl as he turns to her when he notices she is by, and he puts a hand on her head as he leans down to ask her something. As he speaks, she nods while looking at me.

After an order is cleared, Andoll, the moon guide, as Kendra had called her… turns and walks away to do Zarcar’s bidding.

So, she was the witch Zarcar had enslaved. Just like me. Except she seemed happy, if a little odd.

Once she is gone, the war generals have also dispersed and I watch as Zarcar compliments the gardeners on their skills.

Until I see one lady approach him.

The one I warned to stay away from my window.

I narrow my eyes as she tugs at his black robe and he turns to address her.

I can’t hear all of it, but I hear enough.

“…that witch over there,” she snaps.

I quickly swivel on my butt and lean against the frame of the green foliage, holding one vine above me. I lean out and look up, wondering if this thick vine is strong enough for me to climb. I had my usual silver ribbons intertwined around the souls of my feet so I could grip the very vines on the outside. I had scaled the walls many times. I would happily do so now to escape this jealous, angry female gardener.

Mortal women were typically jealous of priestesses in general. It didn’t help she came from Zarcar’s intolerant culture.

I bunch my short transparent silk dress at my hip and move my feet onto the sill.

I don’t even bother looking for Zarcar; I was simply leaving.

At least I think I am.

“Hey!” Holden appears out of no where from a trellis of garden shrubs, reaching out and putting a hand in the knot of my bunched up silk by my hip, “We’ll have none of that, Chyronex. Women don’t climb towers from the outside,” Holden chuckles and isn’t as condescending as that would seem, he is actually quite kind in trying to keep me out of trouble. However, it doesn’t stop me from turning and leaning down to gaze into his sweet grey eyes.

“Unhand me or I will curse you,” I whisper, right before I catch my breath at the unexpected touch at my thigh. My inner thigh… near my knee, but still.

I swing my head around to see Zarcar holding my leg from the inside, watching me with an amused nod of acknowledgment to Holden.

“You did well,” Zarcar compliments the guards, before glancing up into my shocked gaze.

“Unhand me!”

“Get down, Chyronex,” Zarcar’s head is level with my waist even as I stand on the stone windowsill and he confidently edges me closer to him. I angrily jump down but he decides I need help by taking his hand from my leg to grab my waist with both his quick hands – slowing my descent.

Zarcar holds me still as I’m inches from his front, while an angry lady peeks her head around him.

“She made me uncomfortable,” the lady complains, “The slave should be disciplined harshly for threatening me.”

“I would watch your words, mortal,” I use the condescending term to scare her, to emphasise that I am more powerful. She is taken aback and open and closes her mouth in shock at my outburst.

“That’s enough,” Zarcar turns to the lady, “I’ll deal with Chyronex, but that’s all you’ll do with pruning for today. Everyone is dismissed; tell the others to leave. Now.”

“But”- the lady tries to get in her say.

Go,” Zarcar drops his tone and gives her a look of pure dominance. She quickly shuffles away while whispering nervously under her breath.

“She is scared of me,” I explain as I have Zarcar’s attention. I slowly place my hands over his own hands which are still on my waist, “And you may unhand me now, war lord…”

“How are you feeling?” he asks, scrutinising me as I fail in trying to remove his hands from my waist.

“I’m still mourning the dead, so get your hands off me,” I hiss.

“I’m looking at what you’re wearing, sweety,” Zarcar ignores me and slowly raises a brow, “Transparent silk – everyone can see your tits.”

“Excuse me?” I reach up a hand to slap him but he moves his head back, too quick.

Chyronex,” Zarcar snaps my name, warning me to calm down as he clenches my hips in his firm palms, “I’ll not have you acting like a child, even as you accept this tower is no longer yours. You’re a guest. Act like one,” he abruptly lets me go and steps back, still looking me up and down, “You will wear proper attire from now on.”

“You may take my friends and my home, but you will not tell me what I can and can not wear,” I use my haughtiest tone, but as my eyes scan over his black robe, I get a sudden idea, “Or I shall tell you how to keep presented well for a mere warrior leading an army. You may not be a king, but you shouldn’t go without washing your infamous black robe and hood… you’ll lose respect. As for my silk, my tits aren’t leaving this tower so what does it matter? I’m not parading around the streets trying to seduce your soldiers. I’m simply wearing what I want in my home.”

Zarcar pauses, then his lip curls.

“…my tower,” Zarcar’s two choice words, have me reeling in anger.

All that witty speech, for 2 words from my usurper?

“Swendula is only a temporary camp for you, no doubt,” I suggest, “Besides, dearest landlord, you can advise me what to do but you can’t make me do anything… although I’m sure you think you can, I wouldn’t advise trying it,” I turn to walk away, weirdly enjoying the frustrating discussion as it was a very easy distraction from the fact all my friends were now gone from this earth.

As I walk away, Zarcar at first says nothing and I believe he is lost for words.

However, he was just considering them, before commanding loud and clear so it echoes through the empty Library of Green, “Chyronex – head up to my bedchamber! I have a job for you.”

I halt as my foot finds the first step of the spiral stair case, which is to the right of the tower.

I turn slowly and glance at him over my shoulder.

For a brief moment, I consider distracting myself by taunting Zarcar further.

All my senses tell me… to…

…to go ahead and irritate him as much as possible.

“Whatever for?” I ask as sarcastically as possible, “To bathe you because you stink like dirty pigs who have been rolling around in mud, blood and piss?”

Zarcar doesn’t hesitate to come after me, with a swift step and a dangerous tilt to his head, nor can I ignore the ferociously lit fire of being disrespected, smouldering with ideas of retaliation within his black gaze.

I smile and turn, my fingers trailing across the brick as I hop up the steps two at a time.

Mindlessly disrespecting Zarcar was refreshing, justifying and it felt like I was avenging my fellow priestesses.

I knew it was nothing to compensate for the loss, but it was a start.

If anything – the least I could do was not bend to his way.

I would not submit to his rule in my tower, my city and under my moon.

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