Beneath the Crown

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Chapter 41

Zasrus

I laughed as I heard Ash’s screams from behind me as my Mal’net plummeted to the ground below us. The wind burning my eyes and making it difficult to breathe. I could see Raylon in front of me, and Connie just next to me.

As the ground got closer, Raylon pulled on the hair on Damus’s neck and the creature extended its thin, membrane wings at its side. As soon as it did that, the others followed. I felt the tumble in my stomach as the sudden change in direction took hold on me and once we steadied out, and glided above the trees, I turned back to look at Ash.

She hugged onto the neck of the beast as tight as she could, her eyes closed.

I touched the ball under my ear, “Ash? Are you alright?”

She lifted her head up to look at me, “NO! What the actual fuck was that?”

I laughed, “If I told you, you would never agree to go. Look around you!” I shouted back to her and watched her eyes move over the landscape around us. We flew just above the trees, the sky slowly turning to an orange color, the water of the ocean reflecting the last of the sun.

I saw her smile with wide eyes.

“Are you alright?” I asked in a more serious tone.

She turned to me, “Yeah. This is incredible!” she shouted out and threw her arms out to her sides. I laughed as her white hair waved behind her when her head turned to the sky.

Raylon turned Damus to the left, and the rest of the herd followed.

After two hours of flying, and landing by the ocean for a short stop so the animals could rest, a walk through the jungle then coming back to Raylon’s house, we decided that it was time to eat, and have a few drinks. The women convinced us to play a game of cards with them, not that my brother or I knew what that was.

As the last of the light outside vanished, and the night sky light up the darkened trees below us, we all sat around a side table, on the soft carpet, and finished off the last of our food.

“Ok, so this game is called Poker,” Connie said and placed a pile of paper cards on the table. She showed us the pictures on the front, one end in her language and one in ours, and began to tell us the rules of this game.

Sounds easy enough. This is a game of luck and deceit, not of actual skill.

I went to the back of the room, to the stone wall and pressed my hand against the metal door. When it opened I went in and retrieved three bottles of perfectly chilled Pali wines. I brought them back to the table and sat down on the carpet next to Ash. While we waited for my brother and Connie to get everything else ready, I leaned over to Ash, “Did you have fun today?”

She met my eyes, “I did. Riding those things was terrifying, but exhilarating at the same time.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the truth about it,”

“It’s fine. To be fair, if you had, I would never have gotten on it.”

“Would you ever want to do it again?”

She shifted on the floor to face me, “Only if you come with me.”

“Agreed. Perhaps next time, you and I can come here alone. Enjoy everything Parna has to offer for ourselves.”

Her one brow rose and her eyes filled with a look that made me shift in my place, “Just us? All alone, out here, with no one at all to see us,” She paused as she thought about it, biting her lip and closing her eyes, “We could do anything we want.” she whispered.

I leaned in closer to her, “Anything… anywhere we want.” She smiled and I moved back to my place when Raylon and Connie returned with a box full of things. They took out four glasses, a green mat of some kind, and handed out small coin-sized discs of various colors.

*****

We played, and drank and laughed all night. The music playing softly in the background and the more Connie and Ash drank, the more they sang along to these strange songs they enjoyed.

I could feel my head buzzing from the wine, and I was getting tired when Connie finally stood up and dragged Raylon off to bed. I stood and helped Ash to her feet.

“I think it’s best we go to bed as well,” I said and this time it was my turn to blush when she gave me a raised brow look.

“Is that so? And whose bed are we going to?”

Mine or yours, it makes no difference to me.

I chuckled, “Why don’t you let me help you get you into yours, and I will go to mine,”

As much as I wanted to lay in bed with her, holding her all night and wake up next to her, I knew that if I was so close to her, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. I would try to be with her, and she is drunk.

Take her to her bed, and let things happen the way they should.

I took her hand into mine and led her up the stairs. I walked past the door to my room without looking at it and stopped at the next one. I placed my hand on the center and when it slid open, I took Ash inside.

Her room looked almost exactly like mine, and with the glass not frosted, I could see my bed in the room next door.

I turned to Ash, “Sleep well.”

She pulled me closer to her and wrapped her arms around my neck, “Stay with me.”

“Ash, I don’t think that’s-”

“Just stay with me. I don’t want to do anything, not now, but I don’t want to be alone.”

I nodded, “Very well. Come on,” I said and led her to the bed.

She kicked off her shoes and climbed in under the covers. I took my shoes off, pulled my shirt off over my head and threw it to the floor. I lay down next to her, and as my heart raced, she tucked herself into my side and rested her head on my shoulder.

I swallowed and closed my eyes.

Fall asleep. Just go to sleep and don’t think about her. Don’t let your mind wander to her. . . Too late.

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