The king meant what he said. He wanted to get away. A whole escort has been arranged, but not at the front of the kingdom. At the back of the castle.
“I will miss you.” Ismena says as she pulls me in for a warm hug. I hug her back. In all honesty, this may be my last time to see her. I don’t know the kings plan, or his men’s orders. This may be a mission to kill the last ikniri while she’s least expeting it. But then again, Cassian did say he wanted me alive.
I look around at the entire castle staff who have all come to see me off. Some out of respect for their master, and others out of curiosity. Rumors of the Ikniri have been circulating the halls for weeks, and with the castle being so big only a handful of staff have seen me. I turn away from Ismena and see Caius coming towards me with a soft smile on his face.
“The king is waiting.” He says. I look around for Cassian, or even what I might imagine him to look like, but see him no where. I look back to Caius when I hear soft chuckles. He has a blindfold in his hands, and motions for me to spin around. So I do.
I wait patiently as he fastens the cloth around my eyes. I know that this is the normal routine, but frankly I am growing tired of it. But Cassian promised that once this was over he would reveal himself. That’s what this is about.
“Don’t be nervous.” Caius whispers behind me, and I suddenly feel the absence of his heat. And I know he has walked awat from me. I let out a deep sigh, taking in the darkness before my eyes. I can hear the moment Cassian sets foot on the grounds. It’s as if the quiet murmurs, even the breathing stops as they take in their king. Something that they don’t realize how much of a privelage it is.
I can hear his footsteps as he comes nearer to me. And I hear Ismena take in a soft breath as she backs away from me. I can feel the moment Cassian is in front of me. I tense when I feel his hand run the length of my cheek.
“Neytiri. You look radiant.” He says softly. I can hear the smile in his voice, and nod my head slightly.
“Thank you.” I mumur.
“Come.” He grabs ahold of my hand, leading me towards the waiting carriage. He helps me the whole way as I get inside and take a seat. The cushions are soft and feel like velvet against my skin. I can hea him murmuring to someone, but i cant make out what he’s saying because it’s so low.
So I focus on my breathing. I’m scared. I’m not afraid to admit that. He’s taking me somewhere that could very well be to my death. Now that I think about it, I don’t know anything about Cassian. And the little that I do know have been nothing but terrifying and scary rumors.
I feel a dip as he steps into the carriage with me, and the doors are closed, shutting me off from the rest of the world, and locking me away with Cassian.
Silence. Only the random whinny of the horses, or passing over the deformities in the road fill my dark world with sound and proof of existance. Cassian doesn’t seem to be in the mood for speaking, so I do.
“Where are you taking me. ” I say breaking the deafening silence.
“Neigboring kingdom.” He says.
“Why?” I ask.
“I have business there, and I enjoy the pleasure of your company. Besides, I fear if I left you in that castle longer than necessary someone would fill your head with the wrong ideas about me. And that’s the last thing I want from you.” He says. I shake my head.
“Why? Why do you care so much about me?” I ask. He’s quiet as if pondering his next words carefully.
“Because I do.” He says simply. His tone leaves no room for argument, so I sit back in my seat, crossing my arms in front of me.
“How long is this trip going to take.” I ask.
“Should be two days.” He says simply.
“And what business do you have?” I ask. He laughs softly.
“I have major plans for the kingdom that I am currently occupying and I need to make sure I have the support of a friend.” He says. I sense a sinister undertone in his statement.
“What are your plans?” I ask. I jump when I feel his finger tracing my cheek.
“That’s not for you to know, Neytiri.” He says low. I open my mouth, but close it immediately. His tone is angry. Irritated. I let out a deep sigh.
“I just want to understand.” I say.
“I know. But trust me, everything will come to you at once, and by that time, the last thing you’ll want is to understand everything. My only regret is that it’s you.” He says. I want to ask him to elaborate, but I know he won’t. So I just stay quiet the rest of the trip.
The trip really does take two days. Cassian let me take off the blindfold when we made random stops, but he always made sure he was nowhere near when I did so, and that Caius was around to watch me. I’m sprawled out over my seat when I feel a light shake on my shoulder.
“Neytiri. We’ve arrived.” I know that voice, and it isn’t Cassian. I slowly sit up, pulling the blindfold off of my eyes and squinting from the light around me. Caius has his hand outstretched for me to take a hold of, and I do, using him to balance as I step out of the carriage. The castle is magnificent. And made of white stone. I look around the courtyard and take in the similar image that was waiting for me when we left the kingdom. The castle staff are surrounding the area, gazing at me in open wonder and amazement.
I see some whispering to each other, and placing their hands over their mouths in shock, but I keep my gaze level, and make sure that I don’t show any weakness or fear. Caius steps next to me silently, and I take notice that he lets go of my hand, immediately dropping to on knee and bowing his head. As soon as he does I see the reason behind it. A man is walking towards me, dressed in all black. I immediately recognize who he is. He was one of the kings that had come to the castle. The youngest one that didn’t speak.
“What an honor it is to be in the presence of an ikniri.” He smiles as he takes ahold of my hand, placing a soft kiss on it. His grip on my hand tightens.
“Legend has it that just being in the presence of an ikniri brings good fortune. I wonder what the blood kings purpose is for the last one?” He says with an evil glint in his eyes. He obviously knows something that I don’t, and that makes me uneasy. I quickly jerk my hand out of his grasp, backing away and into Caius.
“Don’t scare her, Rykun. Legend also has it that you don’t want to be on their bad side.” He says through grit teeth. The man he called Rikun stares at Caius for a long time, before a smile graces his face.
“My apologies. I’m sure the king wouldn’t appreciate me making his prized possession feel unwelcome.” He says. He snaps his fingers and some women come from around him, and towards me.
“Take the ikniri to get cleaned up and dressed appropriately. She must be exhausted from her journey.” I look to Caius in a panic, but he only has an angry glare at Rykun. I look around for any sign of Cassian but he is nowhere to be found, so I let the strange women take me away.
I sit quietly as the women around me clean me off. The water is warm, and soothes my aching muscles from the journey. Even some of them are behind me, brushing my hair out in the seprate water trough. No one says a word, and I take note that some of them are shaking. What I don’t understand though is why in the world they would be afraid.
After I’m cleaned they dress me in colors similar to the castle that I am in. Black. It’s a beautiful gown, but I hate it. Like I’ve always hated dresses. But I know it will be disrespectful if I do what I’ve done to every gown I was given at Cassian’s castle.
All of the women bow once they finish with their jobs, and leave the room. I look around taking in the scenery around me. This castle is so different than the one I’ve been used to. If Cassian thought I would feel more comfortable at this one then he is mistaken.
I take a seat on the edge of the bed. He didn’t even let me know where he was or where I was going. He just left me, without a word again. It makes me wonder what kind of role he plays in my life. Do I somehow know him? Him and Caius claim to have known me.
“I thought I’d have to die to be able to see an Ikniri again.” I turn quickly to see Rykun standing in the doorway of the bedroom. He has his hands crossed in front of him, and is eyeing me mischeviously. He steps into the room and begins making his way towards me.
“Yet here you are, in my kingdom. Sporting Cassian’s mark of all things.” He’s standing in front of me, reaching for my face. I tense when he lightly traces his knuckles down my cheek.
“How, did you come into his possession of all things?” He says. His eyes are boring into mine. He smiles.
“It seems you’ve been tampered with. What has Cassian done to you, poor ikniri.” His smile is wide and unnerving. I feel my skin beginning to crawl from my unease.
“Rykun!” I jump when I hear Cais’ voice in the doorway. But Rykun keeps his gaze locked to mine.
“I can’t wait to see the moment you come to, Ikniri.” He says. He stands tall and turns away from me, walking towards Caius. I can tell by his expression Caius is angry.
“Don’t worry. I was only teasing her.” He says as he steps into the hallway. I watch him as he leaves, trying to put everything he has said together, but none of it makes sense.
Caius comes into the room coming towards me with a worried gaze.
“Are you ok? He didn’t hurt you did he?” He asks. He reaches out to touch me, but I jerk away. His eyes widen in surprise but he covers it up.
“I don’t want to be alone. Not here. Not ever.” I say expressing my fears. I look at the open door that Rykun disappeared through. He scares me. Something about him is screaming at me to stay away with all my might, but he knows something about me, even Caius knows it. And I can tell he doesn’t want me to know whatever it is.
“Of course you have my full support, your majesty. And I hope that you will consider keeping my kingdom under your protection as well.”
“Of course, Rykun.” Cassian’s voice is like a whip as he speaks. It’s cold and scary as he speaks to Rykun. They’ve been talking for the past hour about everything. Whether it’s military, slaves, crops, or just their kingdoms. I have my back to them as they speak. I already know that I am not to turn around. Not while Cassian is in here.
“She’s so well-behaved, Cassian. How did you ever manage to train her?” Rykun’s voice is back to that troublemaking tone.
“Nothing.” Cassian says. Rykun laughs.
“You do know who you’re talking to right? The Ikniri were never so tame.” He laughs. I tense, but listen more intensly to his words. Cassian continues to speak as if I werent even here.
“She came to me in chains. Her people turned on her and her adoptive mother. She was raised differently than the Ikniri in the history books.” He says.
“That explains why she doesn’t have a sword to your thr-”
“Enough, Rykun.” I jump from the scrape of the chairs. I wan to turn around, and see what’s going on.
“Caius, take Neytiri to her quarters. I need to remind Rykun of his place.” He growls.
“Yes sir.” Caius says and I feel his hand on my arm as he pulls me gently from the room.
We walk in silence along the corridor of the castle.
“What did he mean by my sword being at Cassian’s throat..” I ask. Caius tenses in front of me, but keeps walking.
“I told him not to come here. I told him Rykun would be up to no good, but he didn’t want to listen to me.” He grumbles.
We make it to my room in record time, mostly due to the fact that Caius’ stride and speed is fast. He stands by the door and waits for me to go inside, but I stand outside of the door and glare at him. I cross my arms over my chest, and tilt my chin.
“I want to know what is going on.” I say. Caius narrows his gaze at me, and shakes his head.
“It’s not my place.” He says. I drop my hands by my side, and take in a deep breath. Whipping away from him and going in the opposite direction. I hear his footsteps running behind me.
“where are you going?” He shouts catching up with me.
“To ask Rykun. I’m sure he would be more than happy to let me know the very thing that everyone is so keen on keeping a secret from m-” I’m cut off as I run face first into a hard, solid wall of muscle. I stumble back from the force of impact, tripping over the long fabric of this damn dress, but before I can fall two hands reach out to steady me.
I look up before I know it to apologize for my lack of attention, but my voice catches in my throat as I take in the stranger before me.