When Emperor Caius informed his young apprentice he was to go down to the planet they were orbiting to collect a very special package, Aden Sahen neither asked questions nor cared. When the emperor’s own elite guard was commanded to accompany him, Aden did not even raise an eyebrow in question. This had been his life for the last six years. No. Not six. Five. The first year the reason for his existence had been ripped from his arms, he was nothing more than a seething, raging shell of a man, unfit to be in the presence of the living. Non-living barely had a chance. Deep down in the bowels of the ship was a small cargo bay and its entire contents that had been completely destroyed.
It was only when the emperor grew tired of waiting for Aden to retain control of his raging emotions that he informed Aden that if he did not pull himself together, the emperor would bring Kara back kicking and screaming, making her last…visit seem like a lullaby. The threat to Kara was enough to shock the unhinged male into sanity. It took everything Aden had to rise to his feet and walk out of that bay. Ever since then he had been going through the motions of living.
Until his feet hit the soft ground of the planet he had been sent to and his knees buckled. In that one instance everything within and without turned upside down, sideways and inside out all at the same time. As if every cell was being ripped apart and put back together millimeter by millimeter. Pain and pleasure, elation and terror all mixed together, ripped through him leaving him disoriented, lost. And then he felt it, felt her, and he could not breathe. NO!
The reaction of the guards told Aden that, unlike him, they knew exactly where they were and why they were here. As Aden huddled on his hands and knees, his fingers digging into the dirt desperately trying to find balance, there was a rustle of metal and harsh words as their weapons trained on him afraid that finite control he held on his temper would break.
Two well polished black boots stepped into Aden’s view.
“I have a message to you from the emperor,” the captain of the guard announced curtly.
At least that was what Aden thought he said. It was hard to tell since his hearing was going in and out. Since the captain’s eyes were a little too happy to see him suffering, he thought maybe he should hear what the bastard had to say. Gritting his teeth, Aden tried to rein in his chaotic emotions. With the overwhelming need to find her, pull her into his arms and never let her go, it was damn near impossible.
“Commander!” the captain snapped, his loathing for Aden and the weakness he was showing evident in that one word. “Get control of yourself. We have a mission to finish, and you acting as if your world had evaporated out from under you is unbecoming of an officer,” he sneered. “Get to your feet now!”
There was some unease among those surrounding Aden at the captain’s obvious disrespect, but for the life of Aden he could not care. Not with the light so close in what seemed like a lifetime of darkness.
Very slowly so the world would not spin out of control, Aden pushed himself up until he sat back on his heels. For the moment that was all he had. With a sound of disgust, Captain Newell squatted down in front of him, a sneer firmly placed on his thin face. Strangely it was the only thing that was thin, all sharp edges and shadows, as his body was stocky and well maintained. The contrast between body and head would have made him look out of proportion, but his startling blue eyes and extremely short spiky hair and sheer malevolence somehow made it all work. Aden had made many enemies along the way and unfortunately Newell was one of those enemies. So it was no surprise that the man was taking advantage of the emperor not being present and Aden’s current weakness to show his contempt and outright hatred for him.
“You have one job and one job only. Retrieve the witch and bring her to your master,” he sneered, the delight of the pain this news would cause Aden dancing in his eyes.
Aden could not have heard right. Yet why would he be here if not to retrieve Kara. Two emotions raged inside him. Each one as equally strong as the other. The first was something between an overwhelming joy and relief. Joy because the one being in this entire god-forsaken universe that made his existence worth continuing was only a few yards away in the house he could see through the legs of the men surrounding him. Relief because for the first time in five years he could finally take a full breath.
The other was darker, more terrifying than the day he was forced to leave Kara here. The next step of the prophecy that Caius had been obsessing over must be close. If that was true, then Aden would only be finding peace to lose it again. Forever.
“Do you understand your orders?” Newell growled, enunciating every word as if Aden was slow to understand.
Up until now, Captain Newell would have never treated Aden with so little respect. When Aden was healthy, everyone knew the power he wielded. Knew it would have been a death sentence if not handed down by Aden, then the emperor himself. In the last four years while he was unstable, it was enough to invite death just to stand too close to Aden. The only explanation Newell felt bold enough to talk to Aden with so much disgust is because he knew Aden could not retaliate without consequences he was not willing to pay.
Outside the wards, Aden could not feel Kara, nor she him. They were completely cut off from each other, so whatever Aden did magically to the emperor’s troops had no effect on Kara. Now that he was inside the wards if Aden lashed out at any of the men standing around him with his powers, the pain he caused them would rebound on Kara tenfold. It was the last link put into place by the emperor in the chains that tightly bound them as a way to keep him and Kara under control. There were only a choice few who knew about the new addition, Newell being the captain of the emperor’s guard one of them. What the captain failed to remember was if Aden used his bare hands, Kara was safe.
“He seems struck dumb,” Newell laughed cruelly. “Maybe the stores are true.”
Others joined in in the captain’s laughter when Aden hung his head seemingly in humiliation. Although they were not as enthusiastic in that laughter as their captain. They seemed to remember Aden’s hold on his sanity had been fragile at best, near non-existence at worst. Best not to poke the injured tiger for fear of having their throat ripped out when it finally became pissed enough to forget its injuries.
“Is that right, Commander?” making that one word sound vile. “Is she that good of a fuck that this close to her you lose all control? I heard Malvado’s men boasting how many times they took her to their bed. That she could not resist them. I’ve seen for myself what one lustful thought directed at the whore does to her. How she….”
Newell never had the chance to finish his taunt.
In a movement so fast no one saw what was happening until Aden had his hand tightly wrapped around the captain’s neck. Slowly Aden stood, the ever present rage that simmered just below the surface clearing the chaos muddling his mind, helping him focus, steadying his body. The men around him found no humor in his actions and immediately resituated their weapons with a rustle of cloth and metal, yelling orders for him to release their captain immediately or they would shoot.
Aden ignored them.
“If you ever speak her name or call her whore again. If you so much as look at her, I will end you,” Aden snarled, his face inches from Newell’s slowly turning red face. Very slowly, in the exact condescending tone the captain had asked his question, Aden snarled, “Do I make myself clear, Captain?”
Newell struggled in Aden’s grip, his fingers pulling at Aden’s fingers at his throat, feet dangling a foot above the ground. The look of pure loathing he was directing at the sorcerer resulted in Aden tightening his grip around the captain’s neck.
“Answer me!” Aden roared.
“Yes!” Newell wheezed nastily. A little tighter and Newel rephrased his answer with a little more respect. “Yes…my lord.”
Where he was not pleased with the tone, Aden was quickly losing his strength and did not want to show anymore weakness in front of these men. With a growl of disgust, he opened his fingers, dropping Newell who crumpled to the ground gulping in air.
Turning away in dismissal, ignoring the men still holding their guns on him, Aden started for the edge of the ancient oak grove they stood in, the men surrounding him parting as if he were a viper in their midst they did not want to draw attention to. Just as Aden was about to step into the light of the planets two suns, the captain spoke.
“There is more,” he wheezed hoarsely, the glee in his voice unmistakable even through the damaged throat.
The tone of his voice stilled Aden’s feet and chilled his blood. There could only be one thing that the commander was referring to with such gleeful pleasure. One thing that would seal his and Kara’s fate, making them once again pawns in a game they no longer wanted to play. Praying he was wrong, Aden turned towards Newell.
Newell was on his feet, the malice once more firmly planted in the grin on his face as he held out the last thing Aden ever wanted to set eyes on. Doing his best not to recoil from the evil in the bastard’s hand, Aden calmly looked into the captain’s eyes.
“He wants you to put it on her.”
Aden could not stop his sharp intake of air. The thought of putting that foul piece of metal around Kara’s neck literal tilted his world once more.
“If you refuse and he has to come down here himself, he will kill every adult in the Llassar family, destroy the wards and leave her brats to the wolves that hunt them.”
This time Aden was unable to hide his response and stepped backwards in horror. He would have liked to say Caius would never put Kara’s children in danger because they were too important, but he knew better. The madness of living two thousand years had been slowly eating away at Caius’s sanity. In his obsession of twisting the prophecy to his will, he would jeopardize everything to have Kara under his control, even if it meant breaking her completely. Aden had no choice but to do what was asked of him.
Silently cursing when he saw his hand was shaking, Aden reached out and carefully took the necklace from the grinning bastard. There was a weight that had nothing to do with the delicate piece of jewelry and everything with the evil that infused it. An unsuspecting recipient would think it beautiful. It was how the owner managed to enslave the object of his desire. Present their intended victim with the obviously expensive gift with the pretense of love and warmth, only to find once it was clasped around the victim’s neck they were prisoner to the owner’s every whim. Caius made no airs of hiding what it was. A cursed necklace that had the power to enslave gods, and he had enjoyed forcing it on Kara.
Sliding it into his pocket, feeling the weight of evil that permeated the delicate gold surrounding the many jewels filling his veins, Aden turned without another word, stepping into the sunlight and the next chapter of his living hell.
Copyright © 2018 Heidi Barnes