Disclaimer: I do not own the Black Jewels Trilogy or any other of Anne Bishops works, I just enjoy the stories. Asha and Akira are my own creations.
"In to bed now, little ones." Emma said as she pulled the covers down to tuck in her charges.
The two young girls kissed her on her aged cheek as they settled into the large bed in the nursery. The girls were considered half breeds or bastards, they were abandoned according to the court rumors and both were suppose to grow into vicious cruel Queens that would continue in Dorothea's footsteps, although if it was up to Emma it would never happen.
"Will you be telling us more of the Blood's history?" Asha asked first, her golden green eyes sparked with interest.
Long dark red hair fell around her young face and pooled on her pillow, her skin held the golden glow of the sun though she did not spend much time outside. It was her eyes and skin color that spoke of a Hayllian heritage.
"Or can we hear more about the Old Ways, and how courts truly were suppose to be like." asked the other girl, long wavy black hair gleamed in the low light, sliding like silk over her pillow brushing against Asha's tresses.
Her skin was pale and seemed to glow from the inside; her unusual eyes were framed by long black lashes that caressed her cheek when she blinked. Her eyes, pools of silver shone in the light. No one had any idea what race this one came from but whatever combination she was there was no denying that she would grow up to be a very beautiful woman.
Emma adored both the girls, but she was old and entering the last phase in her life; she couldn't be happier that she could spend it with these two promising Queens. She was determined that neither girl will be pulled into the corrupt ruling body, a complete mocker of a Court. She spent a couple of hours each night as she tucked them in to teach them about how the courts used to be ruled by honorable and just Queens, and to tell them stories of the Blood.
With a tender smile she settled into her favorite chair and began spinning a story about a magnificent Queen whom by sheer will stood against the coming darkness to bring light to her people and the land, she than told about the people of her Court and the roles each played. By the end of her story both girls were asleep, small smiles touching their lips.
A couple of years later…
The dark hair girl woke to a pain filled scream in her head, waves of torment and agony seemed to pour into her body, arching her spine as she lay in bed. The voice in her mind wasn't her own or even female, the scream was a male, someone she wasn't familiar with. Panting as the first wave ebbed she reached out to the man, pushing through the pain to reach him.
Hello? Who are you? Are you all right?
Who are you? You should not be doing this, go before they continue
But I can help you; you don't have to go through this alone
The man's voice was pleasantly deep, and though full of crippling pain he was gentle in his words and tone. Having never had any pleasant experiences with males, it was a soothing change but still made her heart race with anxiety. There was something about his voice that called to her, that somehow just exchanging a few words, he had become important to her at level she didn't quite understand yet. She would not let him suffer alone.
I may not know who you are, but no one deserves to suffer like this for nothing. I may not be very strong or very experienced, but I will not let you do this alone, I will not!
Lady… his reply was cut off as the pain came again.
Gritting her teeth, she dug in. She found that she could take most of the pain from him if she concentrated hard enough. The endless agony seemed to last for hours, but lasted no more than several minutes. Just before the man passed out he reached out one last time.
Everyone was screaming, except the guards that were dragging Emma away from the girls. The Opal jeweled Queen stood by screaming accusations at the nurse. The two girls were held by other guards, were screaming and sobbing trying to help their nurse and only friend. The guards holding on to Emma forced her to her knees in front of the girls.
"You treasonous bitch! How dare you try to rise above you rank! You will pay with your life!" the enraged Queen yelled at Emma.
With an unseen signal from the captain of the guard, another soldier stepped forward a blade in his hand. Grabbing a handful of Emma's hair he yanked her head back exposing her throat. With one smooth move she slashed the nurse's throat, the crimson sprayed over the girls. Their only friend in this world was gone; there would be no more stories of honor and courage, no more hugs and kisses before bed.
"Get them out of here, it's time they find out what it means to be treated as traitors." the Queen's voice held only contempt. The guards holding the girls dragged them out the bedroom door and down the hall, going down a stair case and down a couple more hallways. A few people passed them, but no one offered any help, one male Warlord Prince though stood out to the dark haired girl. He was tall, well muscled and his dark eyes pinned the girl where she struggled with the guard pulling her away. There was something about him that seemed too familiar, like she should know him from somewhere. It came to her in a rush; this was the male that was in pain a few months back. From the look that flashed in his eyes, he was aware of whom she was as well, but there wasn't anything he could do to help them, and she knew that.
Please don't do anything, there's nothing to be done. She begged him, praying he just walked by. He seemed to flinch as he walked by, like he forced himself to stop from acting. He paused in the hallway staring back at the girls as they were dragged away to the cells.
Several months later…
A raging witch storm rolled through the realm of Terreille by the time the storm passed hundreds were dead, many were broken and even more struggling to pick up the pieces. Huddling in their cell the two girls jumped when their cell door opened and a Warlord Prince stood in the doorway. The girls recognized him quickly; it was the man the dark haired girl had helped. He came into the room moving quickly he kneeled by the girls on the floor.
"Come on, we must move quickly. We need to leave now, the ladens are rioting against the Blood and we do not want to be caught in the middle of it"
Asha got to her feet first; reaching down to help her friend to hers, when her friend stumbled; the Warlord Prince scooped her up and led them out of the building.
I jerked awake; sweat coated my skin as I struggled to push back the memories. It had been almost three year since we had gained freedom, but still I was plagued by memories and nightmares. I'm sure that Asha also had them, but she seemed to be moving on with her life. Either that or she had become quite adept at hiding them. Shaking my head I dragged the covers off me and went to the dark window in my small room, the sky was just starting to brighten a little, brushing my hair out of my face I smiled. Even the darkest night has to brighten at some point. With that thought I pulled on my work clothes, today Asha and I had to weed the garden, we had kept putting it off as long as we could preferring to enjoy the sunny days and the quiet. There was a light knock on my door as I was just finishing up tying my hair back. Asha stuck her head in the door when I opened it a little.
"Oh good I thought I would have to wake you up, so glad you were able to get up on your own, you know how hard it is for anyone to wake you sometimes." She said as a way of saying good morning.
"Good morning to you too, Asha. Just how long have you been up anyway?"
"Get up? Wouldn't I have had to have gone to sleep in order for me to wake up?"
"You didn't stay up all night again, did you? You have any idea how hard that is on a person's body let alone mind, well than I guess I shouldn't be too worried since you have long since lost what little mind you ever had."
"Ha ha you think you're so funny! Well for your information I do have a mind; it's just too complicated for someone like you to understand."
"Oh please! How about instead of standing here trading insults like a couple of crowing roosters, we get something to nibble on and actually try to get some work done today?"
"Fine than, but I get some coffee before we even consider any task other than breathing."
"Works for me… try not to drink too much, your impossible when you've had too much."
"How is it possible to have too much coffee? It's my life's blood, the essence of who I am the utter soul of my being."
"Enough, I'm hungry." I laughed as I passed her leaving my room and headed towards the kitchen. The house was quiet this time of day, usually since our guardian had passed away shortly after we settled in this home. It was hard to believe sometimes that he took us from that horrible place and has since left us on our own. He had done all he could to make sure we were hidden from the prowling Warlord Princes who were always looking out for anyone who may have had any connection to the horrible courts they were once locked in. I felt sorry for them even as I feared them, there was little doubt in my mind that given a chance they would probably kill Asha and me on the spot rather than listen to anything we might have to say. Every night I would say a prayer that whatever our guardian had done to hide would hold out and continue to protect us, cause as much as I hell we had gone through neither one of us wanted to die.
The kitchen was tidy even through it was tiny. Asha quickly set about getting herself a pot of coffee, and I gathered the ingredients to make breakfast. I decided the quickest easiest thing to make was an omelet. Whisking a few eggs in a bowl, I started the fire in the stove, setting the pan on top to warm up before I poured the eggs into it, tossing in a few onions, and bits of ham from last night's dinner in the eggs I poured the mix into the heated pan. I glanced over my shoulder and smiled when I saw Asha hugging her mug of coffee so tightly that it seemed like she was trying to absorb it into herself. Her contented smile was always amusing to see. Turning the eggs over to finish cooking I grabbed a couple plates from the cupboard and split the omelet between them and brought them to the table. Setting a fork beside Asha's plate I took my seat to eat my own breakfast. After doing the dishes and tiding up the little kitchen we both laughed as we rolled up our sleeves and headed out to the garden, that was bathed in the early morning light. Staring at the garden in dismay, I looked over to Asha and winced.
"I don't think we should have put it off so long."
"I think they all sprouted up over night because they knew we were going to be doing this today."
"Do you really think that the weeds really have that much personality?" I chuckled and sighed.
"Alright I figure we should start at a corner and work our way across, or something."
"Works for me" she said and stomped over to the far corner and settled in.
Rolling my shoulders I buckled down in my own corner and started the long and tedious process of sorting weeds from early plants and soon I become lost in the monotonous task.
Janelle looked up from her web, hope and excitement filled her heart. She carefully stashed her web away and left her room to find the person that would be most suitable for this adventure. Darting quickly down the hallways and stairs she reached his office, she knocked softly on the wood knowing that he probably already knew she was there. When he bid her to enter, she smiled and went in. She was about to inform the man about his newest charges, even if he didn't know it yet.
It wasn't till midday that I looked up from the dirt. Wiping my forehead on my sleeve I looked up to the sun wondering how it got to be so late. Looking over at Asha, I could see that she was still lost in her work muttering things under her breath. It was probably just curses or it may be she was talking to people only she was aware of. Standing slowly to stretch out cramped muscles, I wiped the dirt from my hand and headed toward the house. I wasn't sure about Asha but I was hungry again, so I thought I'd make a couple of sandwiches for lunch before we moved on with our chores. Bringing out Asha's lunch I tapped her on the shoulder, making her jump and stare at me with wide unstaring eyes. After a couple of blinks she smiled up at me.
"Thanks" as she took the sandwich.
"After you finish eating we had better go collect the eggs from the coop, than it might be an idea to clean up the house before Dante returns home for dinner."
"Alright, I'm just about finished here anyway."
I nodded and went and cleaned up my own area, we had managed to clean up almost the entire garden, if we pushed to finish we wouldn't be able to finish our other work. Asha quickly finished her food and cleaned up and we headed over to the chicken coop, most of the time the chickens left us alone but every so often one would try something. As it so happened today Nettie decided that today was her day to try something, when we entered she flew off her perch squawking and tried to reach my face. Grabbing Asha's arm I twisted us away from the damn bird.
"Now don't you go trying that again, or I swear I will pluck you myself for the dinner pot!" I snarled at the chicken as the bird strutted around like she won the battle and didn't care what I had to say.
I shook my head and headed to the nests on one side while Asha started on the other. Together we collected the eggs from the nests in our baskets until we met up in the middle. By the time we reached each other we were chuckling over the antics of the chickens, though the birds were not overly bright they were entertaining to watch as they scratch the ground and gobbled up their food. Having taken care of all the tasks outside we headed indoors to complete the cleaning before starting dinner.
Dusk came early, and I was in the middle of getting the large pan off the top shelf in the kitchen when the door blew open. An acquaintance of our guardian rushed in like the hounds of hell where after him, he would occasionally check in on us since we were on out own.
"Dante, what is it? What's wrong?" I asked as I quickly got down from the chair and hurried to meet him.
"We don't have much time, quickly get Asha and pack your things; we have to get out of here as soon as possible."
"What is it? What happened?" I asked as I tried to get him to sit in the chair and explain but he refused; instead pulling me along with him as he called out to Asha.
"What is it Dante?" Asha asked as she met us as we left the kitchen.
"I don't have the time needed to explain fully, so please just listen. You both need to gather your things, everything you can manage to carry. We need to make for the Keep, and ask for sanctuary. Once there I will be able to explain everything, so please hurry!"
The urgency and fear in his voice got us moving almost before his finished speaking. Asha and I raced to our rooms and began throwing all our belongings into our trunks; luckily we didn't have much material possessions. We finished quickly just as the sun finished setting; we hurriedly carried our trucks outside to see Dante already waiting with a cart. Loading our trucks in the cart we jumped in and settled in for the trip. Neither of us understood what was going on, but we both knew that Dante would never do anything without a strong reason for it. The night was cool, so we wrapped a blanket around us and racked our minds trying to figure out what was happening. We were following the main road through town in order to head for the Keep. There was much more activity than I have ever seen before in town, there seemed to be many more men and most of those men from what I could tell were Warlord Princes. Something was definitely wrong here, but what did it have to do with us? I thought to myself as I glanced over at Asha. She was busy watching the newcomers, she eyes uncertain and wary.
"What do you think is going on?" She asked in a whisper.
"I don't know, but from what I'm able to pick up they don't feel all that friendly. It's almost as if they are searching for something."
"Do you think it is us that they're looking for?"
"Why would it be us? We've rarely been to town, and it's not as if we did anything to warrant such attention. We don't even wear Jewels!" I hissed the last part because I realized that it was possible that it was us they were looking for, but I didn't know why. Soon after we were through the village without mishap and were on our way to the Keep.
After a few hours we reached the massive building. In the dark it looked every bit as sinister as the stories we heard in town. Apparently the family that runs the place were excessively powerful and frightening. I was the first one to step from the cart, helping down Asha I grabbed my trunk and followed slowly behind Dante as we all made our way to the front door.
"Don't you think we better wait till morning before we go waking everybody up?" I asked with a minor wobble to my voice.
"No we probably don't even have that much time."
I frowned at Dante's back, I wasn't so eager to make the acquaintance of the family in this place but Dante's words worried me more than my misgivings.
"Alright than, I guess we had better knock than." I said bolstering my courage I raised my hand and knocked on the solid door. The sound seemed so very loud in the night, and I could only imagine the echo it created indoors. We didn't have long to wait before the door was opened and a red Jeweled Warlord stood there staring at us.
"I are seeking Sanctuary for these two girls." Dante rushed out to say before the other man could ask us what were doing here in the middle of the night.
"Please, come in." The butler let us move into the foyer and quietly closed the door behind us. The room was softly lit and I must have strained my eyes trying to see into the shadows to see if it was true that hell hounds hid in the dark corners. Seeing no movement and hearing no sound I turned my attention back to the men in the room.
"Your name sir, Ladies"
"Sir Dante Lofrenos of Kiferheed Village and this is Lady Asha, and Lady Kera" He introduced us.
"One moment, I'll see if he is ready for you."
As the butler moved off down the hallway I turned to Dante.
"Is who ready for us?"
"The person who oversees this place I believe." he answered
"Oh." I said as I walked over to one wall studying the painting, well pretending to study anyway. No way was I going to be able to calm myself enough to actually enjoy the artwork. It wasn't long before the butler came back informing us that the overseer was waiting for us in the office. We left our luggage in the foyer and made our way to the room. The man quietly shut the door behind us once we were in the office and left us with the man sitting behind the large desk. The man had the dark skin, black hair and gold eyes of the Hayllian race. The black hair was silver at the temples and lines had begun to show his age on his face. He sat watching us enter his office, his eyes more focused on Asha and I, which made me want to fidget. He motioned us to take a seat, as he vanished his half mooned glasses and laced his fingers together on top of his desk, his nails were long and black I noticed. Dante remained standing.
"Good evening Prince, I apologize for intruding so late, but it was very important that we come here as soon as possible. My name is Dante Lofrenos of Kiferheed village, and this is Lady Asha, and Lady Kera."
"Good evening to you Sir Lofrenos, Lady Asha and Lady Kera, if you would kindly explain to me what has brought you to the Keep seeking sanctuary we will try and find a suitable solution."
"I hardly know where to start…"
"I find that the beginning is usually the best place."
While Asha and I sat there in the cozy office, Dante told our story, who we were, how he'd met us, how we've been living the past few years. I didn't really pay any attention to that part, since I was intimately aware of what happened so far in my life. It was when he started to explain what had happen earlier today that I perked up and listened.
"I had started noticing a large number of Warlord Princes coming to our little village, at first I didn't think too much of it, than I noticed that they seemed to be looking for something and had started asking questions from the villagers. They had heard of a couple of young Queens that may be living near by. They knew that those young Queens were once kept by one of Dorothea's pet Queens. I became increasingly nervous when the number of men increased, and their searches became more intense. I didn't know what to do, I couldn't protect the girls if they managed to find them, so I went to our only Black Widow, she said that she had been waiting for me and that she knew why I had sought her out. She than told me that we had very little time to leave before the newcomers became aware of the exact location of the Queens and that we must reach the Keep at all costs and as soon as possible." Dante stopped for a moment, seemingly to catch his breath.
I was stunned, and from the look on Asha's face she was too. I was also a little confused, why would Warlord Princes care about us? Since I knew little about the caste, and what little I did know came from rumors and stories told to frighten the local children, I didn't think that the sudden interest in us was a good thing. I glanced up at the man behind the desk, I knew he was part of the same caste and that he was very powerful from his Red Jewel around his neck, he didn't look like he was about to become a slobbering monster only interested sex. I guess I must have stared too hard or something since his eyes locked on mine. I read a touch of amusement and a little irritation in that gaze before I snapped my eyes back on my folded hands on my lap.
"I see, you are all welcome to stay the night. In the morning we will go to Kaeleer, I have been informed that you would be coming here, so rooms have been prepared for you. Your luggage has already been sent to them."
The man rose smoothly to his feet and slowly came around the desk towards the door, his steps were measured like he was trying to hide his slight limp. I watched him move from the corner of my eye, I really didn't want to be caught staring at him again. I liked how he moved; it was fascinating to watch the grace and confidence, like dancing. The fact that he was a nice looking man was an added bonus I guess if I was really interested in that sort of thing. He opened the door as Asha and I rose to our feet to follow our guardian out of the room, keeping my eyes averted but refusing to stare at the ground we filed out of the study. We made our way down hallways and upstairs, and stopped by the first bedroom door.
"Sir Lofrenos, this will be your chamber for the night."
"But…" I touched his arm to stop the rest of Dante's protest.
"It's alright, we're just a little ways farther down the hall, I'm sure there is nothing to be worried about. Plus you can away return in the morning to the village." I spoke as confidently as I could. Asha snorted softly to show how much she believed my outward bluster.
With a stiff nod, he bowed to us than Satan before withdrawing into the room, leaving us with probably one of the scariest men I have ever met. A smile twitched in said man's lips.
"Please tell me you're not actually reading my mind…" I said with a nervous laugh.
"Why would I need to do that when such thoughts are so easily shown on your face? Not to mention you project them so strongly."
Asha chuckled, and patted me on the shoulder. I turned and stuck my tongue out at her before trying to assume a bland expression and faced Satan again.
"Are you feeling ill?" He asked completely straight faced though I could feel his amusement in the air around us.
"No…" sigh "lets just get this over with." One dark brow rose to the resignation in my tone.
"And just what do you think is going to happen now?"
"Well I figure we'd probably start with some probing questions, followed by some demonstration of your strength and for the finale some not so veiled threats."
"Just whom have you been listening to? I would hope it wasn't anyone I know."
"The questions… Well to start off with we grew up with some of the worst bitches I've ever met or hope to ever meet, also just because a lot of the males there didn't want to be serving there didn't mean that all didn't like the work they were sometimes given." I said sourly as I tried the lean causally against the wall putting a stop to our walk to our rooms.
The temperature around us dropped sharply, suppressing a shiver I decided that I've already let my mouth run off, and that there wasn't much more I could damage.
"It was the general way things where done than, more to the people who were foolish enough to get caught doing something or other that they weren't suppose to. Things would get really bad quickly so we were usually smart enough not to stick around long enough to catch the rest of the show. So what other questions do you have?"
"What happened that two promising young queens went from riches to rags?"
My mouth closed with a snap, I stood and grabbed Asha's hand and started to pull her with me farther down the hall.
"I think I'm done with question time now, we are both very tired and would like to go to sleep now, please"
A couple of doors opened a little ways in front of me.
"Good night, Ladies"
I stopped, spun on my heel and curtseyed with a murmured "Thank you" before turning and all but shoving the quiet Asha in one room, than with my head held high I walked into the other room. The door shut quietly behind me, I couldn't help but return to it to see if I was locked in, I breathed a sigh of relief when the handle turned and the door inched open. Closing the door I took my time looking the room over, it was massive! The size of the bed alone was enough for four people or more, it certainly wouldn't ever fit in my room back home. My brain stumbled over the word "home", I probably would never be able to return there. Feeling a little sadden by that loss I walked towards the bed, I really was tired and although sleep will probably never come I had at least better try. My shoulders twitched and I felt the heavy slide of muscle move between them followed by an unusual pain.
"Hush now, I will let you out later, it's too dangerous now." The sensation stopped, probably more due to the dark thoughts of the past rather than anything I had actually said but at least the pain stopped as well. I crawled into the bed after shedding my clothes and slipping on a pair of pajamas I had pulled from my belongings. Turning in it a few times I tried to settle in but still felt too restless, not much later I heard a soft knock on my door, than Asha entered. Without saying anything she crawled into bed and we both settled in and soon were off to sleep.
The morning arrived and we were soon off to the Shadow Realm, Dante had returned to the village and promised he would keep his eye on what was going on there. The Coach was packed and we were off. Our arrival at the Hall was relatively uneventful, after helping Asha out of the Coach I stared at the imposing place; we were expected to stay here? How were we going to survive with all the dark energy pouring off it? I had just resigned myself to at least walking in the place when the doors flew open and a dark haired winged boy came out, his wings beating a hasty pace as if he was flying from something… or someone. The boy screeched when he saw us and changed his course to fly right at us, I made to step away to avoid a collision but instead only managed to catch his attention. His eyes pinned me instantly and he flew right into me. I didn't have time to brace myself properly before the child latched onto me and yelled "Mine". We toppled over; I twisted slightly to land on my back so that the little winged one wouldn't be harmed in the fall the fall cause the pain in my back to flare for a moment before subsiding. Golden eyes peered down at me from the child's face; the look in them told me that I was dealing with a young Warlord Prince in the making. The possessive glint would have been intimidating if it wasn't coming from a person who at best reached my waist.
"Are you alright?" I asked him as I sat up and tried to move him off of me.
"Mine, You be mine." He said stubbornly as he continued to cling to me.
Sitting on the ground I looked up at the shocked face of Asha, but she quickly recovered enough to start laughing. Her laughter was followed by the deep chuckle of Satan as he came around the Coach to see what had happened. I shook my head at their laughter, a smile tugging at my lips at the young boy kept trying to climb up to my neck making sniffing noises. As I tried to at least adjust him more comfortably since he didn't seem inclined to let go anytime soon I noticed that there were other people coming out of the doors at a hurried pace. They slowed to a stop when they saw the scene outside. The group of two males and two females quickly approached us while I gently wrestled with the boy who still was determined to sniff me, making little growling noises every time I shifted him away from my neck. The adult Eyrien man that approached reached out to pull the boy off me, but the boy was determined and started to snarl at the man. The man raised an eyebrow at the sound than he turned to look at me.
"I'm sorry, is he yours? He's very cute; he won't bite me will he? Of course not, he's just being overly affectionate." I rushed out as I tried to help him peel the boy off of me.
We finally managed to pry him off and as the man straightened, the youngster started to throw a tantrum. I got to me feet and dusted myself off and felt at a loss when I realized I missed all the introductions. The man with the crying boy nodded at me and introduced himself as Lucifer; the father of the child who's named turned out to be Daemonar. The other man who so closely resembled Satan was Daemon, the ladies turned out to be Marion and Lady Janelle. When I looked over at Lady Janelle I instantly realized that the person before me was the one Emma always told stories about, Witch. I bowed deeply to the Lady who looked embarrassed by it and told me to stand. The men all looked on with approval in their eyes; after all the introductions were done we began to make our way inside. Deamonar squirmed and growled making his father's grip loosen enough for him to escape and he wasted no time attaching himself to me again.
"Oh dear, I think someone likes you." Marian said covering her smile with one hand.
"It would appear so, he's very affectionate." I said as the boy nuzzled his face against my neck.
Marian gently reclaimed her son with surprisingly minimal fuss.
"You must be getting hungry, breakfast should be served soon."