T H I R T Y - O N E
My boots crunched underneath the dusty gravel as I took in the scenery around me.
“When I pictured Hell,” I commented, looking around the fire wasteland “This is exactly what I had in mind.”
“Thank God it isn’t like this” Zephyr laughed “Or else I’d be bored out of my mind.”
I smiled “So I have a question.”
“Uh oh” he looked at me, an amused smile gracing his handsome face “Should I be worried?”
“It depends.” I teased
“On whether or not you’ll answer truthfully.”
“Okay then” he said “Ask away.”
I bit my lip “What did you Dad take from you all those years ago? The time that you were crying? The last time we saw each other ”
He lost his smile “It was nothing...”
“Hey” I grasped his hand and pulled him to a stop “Don’t do that. Don’t shut down. If we’re going to make this work, you need to be honest with me.”
He brightened “Make this work? You mean...”
He smiled but then sighed “I...oh look...we’re here!”
I looked at him in confusion “What?”
“We’re here” he pointed to the map in his hands “See.”
I looked to where he pointed and frowned “And where is here exactly?”
“Um...” he squinted “Arcadia?”
“Why do you sound so unsure?”
“Because I’ve never been to this part of the area” he frowned, looking down at the map “Which is unusual since I’ve traveled to all parts of hell.”
“Why does this keep happening?” I asked, looking at the town like it was a disease “Why does it seem like Hell is changing from what you know.”
Zephyr’s frowned deepened “You noticed it too?”
“I mean, I don’t know what it was like before but it definitely seems like this journey has been the opposite of what you’ve promised would happen so far.”
I looked back to the small town “Is that normal for this part of Hell?”
“I don’t want to say anything for sure because apparently anything I do say is wrong but sometimes similar souls do tend to settle down in the same proximity with each other after they get judged.”
A man covered by a thick robe, who was walking past us to enter the town, suddenly collapsed and feel to his knees a few feet in front of us.
Zephyr ran to him “Are you okay?”
The man coughed, rasping out something to him that I couldn’t quite hear.
Zephyr gave a look of surprise but nodded before helping the man stand up.
He motioned for me to follow and I walked behind them as we entered the town.
The man pointed to an older building on the left and Zephyr nodded, taking the man towards it.
Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the building was an older Tavern.
I also noticed that while this place seemed like a ghost town, I felt eyes watching our every movement.
The sign on the bar read “Nyctimus” and while the building was much more quaint than the dark forest with Archane, my gut was telling me that this was a bad idea.
This place just didn’t feel right.
“Thank you” the raspy voice croaked said when Zephyr sat him down in a bench “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
“No problem” Zephyr said, standing to his full height “Well... we’ll be on our way now.”
The man grabbed his wrist and I tensed “No, please stay for supper. It’s the least I can do for all the trouble.”
Zephyr shook his head “Thank you for the invitation but we really should get going. We are already behind schedule as it is.”
The man stood and nodded “At least let me walk you out.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“Yes,” the man said “I really do.”
I narrowed my eyes at his words but said nothing.
Zephyr nodded for me to go first.
I did and was halfway out of the tavern when I heard a heavy thud.
I turned just in time to see Zephyr hit the floor like a sack of potatoes.
I growled and took a step forward when the man stopped me “One more step and I kill him.”
I gaped as the man, who was just limping and weak, held a knife against Zephyr’s throat.
It was so tight against his neck that a thin line of blood ran spilled down.
“You tricked us” I accused “Just to get us in here.”
The man shrugged, his hood still obscuring his face “Nice guys finish last.”
With those words, he move like lightening.
Faster than anything that I’ve ever seen before.
One second, he was three feet away from me and the next, he was right in front of my face, pistol whipping me with the handle of his big knife.
When I woke up, I noticed three things at once.
The first, I had yet another raging migraine.
The second, I was tied and gagged to the chair.
And the third, Zephyr was nowhere in sight.
I couldn’t even smell him anymore, something that left me panicked to the point where my Wolf went crazy.
I started moving in my chair to lose my restraints when a ‘tsk tsk’ sounded from behind me.
I turned and found an older man making his way to the table. His hair was grey and to his shoulders and his dark eyes watched my every movement like a predator.
He was much more in shape that I would have thought and without his robe covering his body, I could tell that this man was much more than he was letting on.
‘Oh god, please don’t let him be a giant woman eating spider.’ I thought to myself.
“She finally awakens” the strong voice murmured in my ear “I thought I would have to wait forever to see those beautiful eyes open again.”
I yanked my head to the side, disgusted.
I glared at him but he just smiled and sat down next to me, at the head of the table.
The man just stared at me, his eyes roaming over my whole form.
I would have thrown up if I wasn’t gagged and at risk for suffocating myself.
“That boy doesn’t deserve you” he said “If I was him, I wouldn’t let your pretty little self out of my sight.”
I snorted and he leaned forward to lower my gag.
“Where is Zephyr?!” I demanded “What did you do to him?”
“Don’t worry about him” he dismissed me “He’s just stewing over somethings in the back.”
“Zephyr! Zephyr answer me!” I yelled for him.
“Quiet girl, or I’ll gag you again” the man warned “For now, it’s just you and me. Let’s enjoy out time together while it lasts.”
“What do you want?” I snarled at him “Who are you?”
He raised a brow “What makes you think I want anything?”
“Because everyone in this fucking Hellhole wants something from me” I growled “Something I obviously don’t have.”
“Or something you don’t know you have” he rubbed his beard “And I am called Lycaon.”
“I’m telling you I don’t have anything that you want.”
His eyes roamed my body again “That’s not particularly true.”
I spat at his feet and he just laughed before backhanding me across the face so hard I saw stars.
I didn’t even see it coming.
’With how many times I’ve been hit in the head, it’s a wonder how I don’t have some type of brain damage yet.′ I thought bitterly to myself.
“Ooh... what a strong man. Hitting a bound girl across the face because she hurt his little ego” I chuckled, hiding my pain “That must make you feel real proud of yourself.”
He smiled “Back in my day, women would receive much worse for talking back to her King.”
“You’re no King of mine” I growled “And don’t give me the ‘Back in my day’ crap. Abuse is just a defense mechanism for men with tiny...egos who can’t handle a strong woman.”
I lowered my eyes towards his ‘area’ to make sure he got my point.
Lycaon smiled “I don’t like to be disrespected.”
“And I don’t like to be bitchslapped by a little bitch” I growled “Looks like both of us can’t always get what we want.”
The man looked at me with an impressed expression “You are different than what I am used to.”
“Yeah, I’m one-of-a-kind” I spat “Now, enough of the chit-chat. Tell me what you want.”
“It’s simple” he said “I want the key.”
I groaned “This damn key again.”
He raised an eyebrow “You’ve heard of it?”
“Oh, I heard of it alright” I said “I was nearly eaten by a giant spider woman for it.”
He looked even more surprised “You defeated the Spider Queen?”
“If she was looking for it, that means others will as well” Lycaon muttered to himself, before sharpening his gaze on mine “You must have the key if the Spider Queen was interested in you.”
“I have no stupid key!” I growled.
“YOU MUST!” Lycaon slammed his hand against the table.
He took a deep breath before sitting back into his chair.
“No matter, I’ll find it after dinner” he rapt his knuckles against the table and a mousy man came out pushing a dinner cart.
I glared at Lycaon “I don’t want to eat dinner with you.”
“You will or I’ll force it down your throat.”
The mousy man unveiled the plate and I glanced down at unconsciously.
With horror, I cried out anguish, my heart dying in my chest.
“No!!!!” I wailed, looking at the murky broth with two floating eyeballs staring back at me.
Eyes that were Violet and Crimson.