2 - love is selfish
Phaedra scooted further back against the scattered bushes she was hiding in. Her soft, plump cheeks were stained with her tears. Her eyes wide with shock at the spectacle before her.
She swallowed hard as she watched the overbearing shapeshifters that were Malachi and Xander stand knee-deep in the wide river as they washed their bodies of the blood of their victims.
On top of the trauma of witnessing them massacre nearly all of her family and friends, it was her first time seeing the naked male form.
They were both already significantly tall in stature, but the absence of their clothing made her heart race with anxiety. The hills and valleys of their muscular forms was truly a sight to behold. Her eyes traced every line, her mouth parted in awe at the level of detail their bodies showed evident of a fairly active life for that of a warrior.
She tried to keep her eyes from lingering on their most distinct traits dangling between their legs, but she couldn’t help it. For she had never seen one before. It seemed strange to her. The size didn’t make any sense. Why were there so many veins? And was it supposed to curve like that? She thought perhaps it might have been broken, damaged during the momentum of their battle.
“That lasted longer than it should have...” Malachi grunted as he scrubbed blood stains from his bicep.
“It was just a bit of fun,” Xander shrugged as his head fell back. His fingers ran through his long curly hair as he thoroughly rinsed it with the water from the river.
“I can still hear that cunt’s screaming in my ear. I would have killed her sooner if you had arrived on time,” Malachi said throwing water on his face.
“I did arrive on time. You’re just impatient, Mal,” Xander grinned. “Besides...”
Xander glanced at Phaedra who was ineffectively trying to hide in the bushes. “We have much to do ahead of us...”
Malachi wiped his face before he glanced in the direction that Xander was looking. He eyed Phaedra before he started walking out of the water.
Phaedra immediately started to panic as she tried to find another form of escape. She tried to extend her wings, but they were still scrunched together from being crushed by her fall. She frantically glanced to the side, seeking out Fiona, but even her dear sprite was nowhere to be found.
“Where else do you have to go that you would try to leave?” Malachi said firmly as he walked up to her.
“P-please!” Phaedra begged fearfully, scooting on her butt, further back into the bushes.
“Stop moving!” Malachi demanded.
Phaedra instinctively froze out of pure fear. His voice was so loud and icy that it made her heart skip several beats. She looked up at him in awe. Droplets of water ran down down his shoulders and over his chest, dripping from every cliff on his body. His damp, long dirty blond hair hung lik a curtain over his broad shoulders as he eyed her curiously.
She took short breaths as she watched Malachi crouch down in front of her. His muscular legs widened, baring his entire manhood to her and she instinctively turned her face.
“Why do you turn away from me, Phaedra?” Malachi asked annoyed. “I have brought you no harm.” He grabbed her chin and forcefully turned her head to face him again. She looked into his cold grey eyes and tried desperately not to panic.
“She’s probably never seen a naked man before,” Xander said from behind Malachi. Xander walked out of the water, wringing the water from his hair before he strolled up to the two of them. “You did say she was untouched...”
“The queen said her daughters were untouched,” Malachi said eyeing Phaedra. “She said nothing of this one.”
“Well, she didn’t very much like this one to begin with, now did she?” Xander smirked. “Her loss. Our gain.”
Phaedra tried to turn her face away as Xander also crouched down in front of her.
“You’re gonna have to get used to this, little bird,” Xander grinned quite amused by her bashfulness. “We’re shapeshifters. We’re naked most of the time... as will you be...”
Phaedra looked at him wide-eyed by the implication. Xander stood to his feet and reached up to grab a red apple dangling from the branch of one of the trees. He leaned down and handed it to Phaedra.
“A peace offering...” he smiled at her.
Phaedra looked at him like he was a crazy. “A peace offering?!” she growled angrily with tears streaking down her face. “You think an apple will make up for what you did?! You killed my father! You-”
“We did you a favor,” Malachi said quickly. “This kingdom and its people treated you like filth.”
Phaedra’s watery eyes bulged. “Iris was irritating, yes, but that didn’t mean she deserved to have her face ripped off!”
Malachi scoffed as he stood to his feet. “She was going to die either way.”
Phaedra swallowed down a sob as she looked at the two of them. “Why are you doing this? Why did you attack my people? We were peaceful. We bothered no one.”
“Your people were weak,” Malachi said, folding his arms across his bare naked chest. “Your father was corrupt and lacked principles.”
“Says the one who just murdered my entire family!” Phaedra snapped angrily at them. “You have some nerve-!”
Phaedra’s words were cut short from the forceful way Xander grabbed her face. He squeezed her cheeks together as he looked down at her with intense dark brown eyes.
“...that is no way to speak to the ones who saved your life, little bird... or did you prefer the same fate as your pathetic sisters?” Xander threatened with flared nostrils.
Phaedra instinctively let out a helpless whimper as tears ran down her face, and it only seemed to excite Xander. He handed her the apple again. “Peace offering... for our lovely bride,” he repeated with a charming smile.
Phaedra reluctantly took the apple from him.
Malachi and Xander looked over their shoulders to see one of their guards kneeling on one knee with his head bowed. “We’ve counted a total of 36 captives. 2 of which are from the royal family, including the queen.”
“I thought you killed her,” Xander said with a raised brow to Malachi.
“I got distracted looking for Phaedra,” Malachi grunted. “We’ll finish her off when we return to our keep.”
“Would you like us to provide a horse for her, my lord?” the guard asked.
“No. She’ll travel with us and us alone,” Malachi said firmly. “If I see any man, creature or shapeshifter land a finger, talon or hair on her, I will rip his spine from the flesh holding him together. Is that understood?”
The guard looked at him wide-eyed and nodded.
“Spread the fucking word,” Xander snapped impatiently.
“Y-yes, my lords!” the guard said quickly. He bowed anxiously before he took off in the other direction.
Phaedra watched the guard runoff. She couldn’t make out what they were saying but she thought she heard them say something about the queen still being alive. She squinted her eyes and leaned forward, trying to get a better listen of what the two shapeshifters might be saying when the both of them turned to face her again. She quickly backed up in a panic.
“There is no reason for you to fear us, Phaedra,” Malachi spoke slowly. There was a bit of tension in his voice. She could tell he was trying to be as restrained as possible. He leaned forward to grab her hand and she immediately flinched.
“Don’t touch me!” she said angrily.
“She’s feisty, this one,” Xander grinned with his arms crossed over his chest. “I don’t think she understands the circumstances of her situation. Perhaps you should explain to her, Mal.”
Malachi let out a frustrated growl, both irritated by Xander’s playful teasing and Phaedra’s defiance. “I don’t have time for this!” he snarled, reaching for her again.
He felt a shock to his fingers and quickly retracted his hand. Phaedra looked at him shocked when she noticed Fiona fluttering in front of her.
“Did that little insect just electrocute you?” Xander laughed hysterically.
“Fiona!” Phaedra blurted.
“Run, Phae! Run!”Fiona squeaked as she fluttered around Malachi, zapping him with her wings.
Phaedra quickly turned on her hands and knees. Her wings barely budged, so she took off running through the bushes.
“Look at that... our little bird wants to play...” Xander mused with a Cheshire grin.
Phaedra could feel her heart slamming painfully against her rib cage as she ran as fast as she could through the bushes. She let out a cry as pointy thorn bushes sliced against her brown skin. She didn’t know how far she’d get, but she knew she had to at least try.
“Please! Let Fi be okay!” Phaedra breathed out in a panic as she tried to see through the trees.
She spotted another opening through the trees when a large black horse ran in front of her and jumped up on two hooves.
Phaedra let out a terrified screech as she raised an arm to shielf herself and fell backwards on her butt.
She heard the horse neigh loudly when she glanced over her shoulder and saw Malachi stalking towards her. His face was flushed red and he looked mad as hell.
“Please!” she said looking at the horse as she scrambled to her feet. “Where is your rider?! I can’t-”
But the horse simply neighed even louder, causing her to fall backwards again.
“He has no rider,” she heard Malachi say before he roughly grabbed her by the arm. “Run away from me again, and you will regret it,” he seethed.
Phaedra breathed heavily as she looked up into Malachi’s irritated grey glare. She noticed several red marks on his face from where Fiona had shocked him. She swallowed hard, afraid to ask. “What did you do with Fiona?”
Malachi’s jaw tensed and Phaedra’s eyes widened.
“Please tell me you didn’t kill her!!” Phaedra blurted.
Malachi’s brows narrowed. “There’s only one way for you to find out.”
Phaedra felt her heart sink as her shoulders fell. Malachi eyed her for a few moments before he looked at the horse and nodded his head.
Phaedra glanced over her shoulder and her mouth parted in shock when she saw the horse transform into a lean man with short black hair.
“Gather the others and head back to the keep,” Malachi ordered.
“Ai, my lord,” the man nodded. He didn’t even bother to look at Phaedra as he stalked away from them.
She heard a low growl and turned back to face Malachi, only to see him in his lion form. His large main flayed out like sun rays around his face. His honeydew eyes looked at her expectantly. His form was massive. His paws had to be larger than her face.
She took a step back as he walked up to her. Her brows furrowed in confusion when she saw him lower his back legs.
“I... I d-don’t understand...” she said meekly.
He let out a low growl and gestured with his large head. When Phaedra caught on to what he wanted, she reluctantly walked towards him and tossed a leg over his large back. She held onto the back of his mane as he stood on all four paws again. She nearly fell off as he took off through the trees again.
There was an unbearable pain in Phaedra’s chest from the tightening of her heart due to the anguish she felt. Her mind still couldn’t comprehend that her father was gone and she could no longer feel Fiona’s light.
She glanced to her side and saw Xander’s bear pick up speed as he took off in front of them with such powerful force.
Her thighs clung tightly to Malachi’s waist as his lion finally slowed down. She lessened the death grip on his mane as a large, dark, and foreboding castle came into view.
Phaedra’s breathing shortened as Malachi’s lion carried her through the tall black gates that towered above her. Several people surrounded them as they entered, immediately bowing at Malachi and Xander’s presence.
She quickly looked up when she heard a loud growl and saw Xander’s bear standing tall on two legs. His large mouth wide enough to show all sharp teeth.
Several horses, oxes, bulls, cheetahs, and jaguars ran by her followed by eagles and crows flying above her. She could hear the banter of monkeys screeching at each other as they swung over the gate.
Despite how terrified she was in her predicament, Phaedra had never seen anything more magnificent in her life than seeing all these creatures shift back into their human form.
Her body jostled as Malachi sat back, allowing for her to dismount him. Her eyes widened yet again in pure amazement as he shifted again.
Malachi stood tall in his naked form, his hair practically hiding his face.
Phaedra looked around to see those that were once animals get down on one human knee.
Phaedra barely had a chance to respond before Malachi was already heading towards the castle doors where Xander was barking orders.
“Take the captives to the cellar!” Xander shouted.
Phaedra watched as 3 wooden and medal wagons were dragged by 3 oxes around the back of the castle until they disappeared.
She glanced behind her at the tall gates that had closed shut behind her.
She looked ahead of her to see Malachi glaring at her impatiently. She tried to gather her courage and bunched her dirtied dress in her hands before she reluctantly walked after him.
She could hear fallen leaves crunching beneath her feet as she kept her eyes to the ground. Her mind raced with a million thoughts. What was her future to look like? Was there any chance of escape? Who exactly were they?
“Head up, beautiful.”
Phaedra stopped short when she nearly bumped into Malachi’s backside. She looked up and saw Xander smirking down at her from the top of the stairs by the entrance.
“Welcome to your new home,” Xander smiled.
Phaedra begrudgingly followed Malachi up a long, winding stairs. At least they were wearing pants this time. She was already out of breath not knowing how many stairs she had climbed thus far. Yet, neither Malachi in front of her nor Xander behind her seemed at all fazed.
“I just... I-I n-need a minute...” Phaedra stopped halfway on the stairs. She leaned on the railing, trying to catch her breath.
“Unnecessary,” Xander said walking up behind her.
She let out a startled squeal as Xander wrapped an arm beneath both of her legs while the other supported her back.
“Better?” Xander grinned down at her.
She blinked at him in slight shock as he continued up the stairs, carrying her body in his possessive hold.
She inadvertently wrapped her arms around his neck just to have something to hold onto while he carried her the rest of the way. Her fingers accidentally got entangled in his long brown hair and his skin was slightly sweaty against hers.
“By the gods... you smell so fucking good...” Xander groaned as he looked down at her.
Phaedra stopped breathing momentarily as she looked at him with a mix of dread and confusion.
“Keep looking at me like that and I might not be able to wait until our wedding night to fuck you senseless...” Xander said to her.
She quickly averted her eyes and it brought an amused chuckle out of Xander.
By the time they reached the top of the stairs, she could hear other voices.
“Welcome, my lords,” she heard a feminine voice say.
“Did you prepare the room?” she heard Malachi ask.
“Yes, my lord,” the woman answered. “Though we did not think you would actually bring a bride back this time.”
“Our plans changed,” Malachi said looking at Xander who seemed completely enraptured by the brown-skinned faerie trembling in his embrace.
Phaedra barely got a look at the woman Malachi was talking to as Xander carried her inside. He was so tall that he had to duck slightly so as not to hit his head on the curved frame.
She was immediately hit with the smell of vanilla and chamomile. The room was significantly warmer than outside with only the many candles around the room providing light.
Xander placed her down on a large circular bed that she immediately sunk into. She watched as Malachi walked to the windows and closed the curtains while Xander closed the door.
Phaedra panicked and immediately crawled backward on the bed. It brought an irritated scowl to Malachi’s face.
“There is nowhere for you to go. This will be your room... when you’re not in ours...” Malachi said.
Phaedra felt her heartbeat pick up at these subtle threats. “Why can’t you just let me go? I’ve done nothing to you.”
Xander smirked amused with his arms crossed over his bare chest. “She still doesn’t get it.”
She quickly backed up as Malachi leaned forward on the bed, caging her between his arms. The dark glare in his eyes set her completely on edge.
“You don’t seem to understand how a conquest works,” Malachi said. “Allow us to lay it out for you.”
“Do you know who we are, little bird?” Xander asked.
Phaedra hesitated to answer. “... you’re... you’re the Lords of Argon-”
“We are the masters of the Shapeshifter Kingdom,” Malachi cut her off. “A kingdom that your kind and all other woodland creatures have treated like fucking scum since the beginning of time.”
Phaedra looked at him confused. “...what-”
“Your father was part of the Circle of Thirteen,” Malachi continued. “The Circle of Thirteen was made up of kings and lords, dark elves and mad faeries alike who ruled over their respective dominions and unified against the shapeshifters. Our kind. Your people enslaved ours when they weren’t committing mass genocide through violent acts of magic.”
Phaedra’s eyes widened in shock. “What? No. No, you must be mistaken-”
Phaedra’s words were silenced by the way Malachi roughly grabbed her neck to silence her protest.
“Do not. Speak. As if I imagined the atrocities committed against my kind,” Malachi said darkly.
“The lies these faerie folk live under,” Xander said sucking his teeth. “I bet your bastard father made you believe you were a ‘peaceful’ species. His death was too gracious. I should have prolonged his suffering.”
Phaedra’s eyes welled up with tears. Was everything her father told her a lie? Was he truly responsible for the violence committed against her captors?
Malachi noticed her tears and softened his grip on her throat. He caught her bottom lip trembling and hungrily pressed his lips to hers. He sucked her fat bottom lip into his mouth as a carnal growl escaped his lips.
“Come now, Mal. After all that lecturing you gave me about being ‘patient’,” Xander teased with a smirk as he walked up to the bed. “If I knew you were going to steal a taste I would have taken her hours ago.”
“She makes me hungry...” Malachi groaned against her lips before he finally pulled back. A string of saliva still connected them as he stared into her deeply confused and terrified brown eyes. “I forgot what I was saying, she’s so fucking distracting.”
Xander snickered as he sat down next to Phaedra. “You were explaining to our mate why she’s in this current predicament...”
Phaedra tensed up when she felt Xander’s large hand firmly grip her thigh over her dress.
“Right...” Malachi said rubbing his thumb against the skin of her neck. He looked into her eyes again. “We have conquered 8 of the Circle of Thirteen... including yours.”
“It’s pure revenge, little bird,” Xander said pushing his face into her neck as his hand pushed into the opening between her thighs. “Revenge as sweet as the nectar between your legs I am so fucking desperate to taste...”
Phaedra couldn’t control the multiple emotions she was feeling at once. What the hell was even happening? Where did this insatiable hunger for her come from?
“She looks confused...” Malachi said eyeing the look on her face.
“That’s because you haven’t finished your fucking story, Mal.” Xander’s impatient voice was muffled from the way his lips attacked her neck. Phaedra tingled all over as she felt his tongue lick against her skin before she felt his teeth graze against her neck.
“W-Why-” Phaedra choked out as she tried to stop another pending panic attack. “..w-why m-me?”
She felt Xander finally pull away from her as Malachi removed his hands from her body.
“You were supposed to die with them,” Malachi said looking at her. “We never leave anyone alive.” He tilted his head to the side as he gazed at her. “...but you caught my eye...”
“He means his dick,” Xander grinned. “You made it twitch. Fuck, you made me throb.”
Malachi rolled his eyes. “Instead of killing you with the others, we found you better suited to be ours.”
“Our mate,” Xander added. “Aren’t you lucky...”
Phaedra looked at them incredulously. “Don’t I have any say in this?”
“No,” Xander and Malachi said simultaneously as if it should have been obvious.
Phaedra let out a short breath of disbelief. “If you hate faeries so much, then why take one as a bride?”
“You’re the exception, Phaedra,” Malachi said heading to the door. “Count your blessings.”
Malachi looked at Xander. “If I stay here any longer staring at her I’m going to fall victim to my desires. We must wait until after the ceremony.”
Xander rolled his eyes. “Foolish. But it’s just one day.”
Phaedra looked at them startled. “One day?!”
“We still have business to take care of or we would have married you within the hour,” Malachi said opening the door. “Tindry.”
A tall, slender woman with stringy black hair quickly came to the door and bowed her head. “My lord.”
“See to it that our bride is cleaned, dressed, and prepared for tonight’s dinner,” Malachi ordered.
“Yes, my lord,” Tindry bowed. She moved out of the way for her masters to pass through.
“Wait!” Phaedra blurted before they could leave. Malachi and Xander paused to look back at her.
“Fiona? The queen? Are they still alive? I heard you say-” she started.
Malachi raised a brow. “What do you care for the queen?”
“I don’t want you killing any more of my people,” Phaedra begged.
Xander rolled his eyes as Malachi let out an irritated breath.
“After dinner, Phae,” Malachi said firmly before he turned on his heels.
“Phae... I like that...” she heard Xander say as the door closed behind them.
Phaedra stared at the door in shock before she threw herself on the bed. She cried hysterically as she sobbed into her pillow.
Tindry tilted her head to the side as she stared at Phaedra curiously.
“A queen does not cry in front of her subjects,” she said loudly.
Phaedra looked up at Tindry with reddened eyes. “You’re my subject?”
“Yes, my lady,” Tindry nodded.
Phaedra sat up on the bed and stared at Tindry seriously. “Then as my subject, I order you to help me get out of here.”
Tindry smiled. “You’re not queen yet, my lady...”