It took every ounce of willpower Aden possessed not to seek out Kara the moment his feet hit the metal deck of the landing bay. When he had called in his approach, he received very specific orders from the emperor that he was to make sure the package was placed in the rooms he had been assigned and that he was properly taken care of by a healer. He was not to leave until he was certain Tanis would be able to walk on his own to the throne room later that day for the ceremony. It had taken forever for the healer to arrive and longer for her to assure him that Tanis would not die from his head injury or the malnutrition.
The second half of his orders was to report to the throne room once that was done. When Aden finally entered the throne room three hours later, the Emperor was standing where Aden had left Kara. A quick glance around the room proved she was not in her usual place, on the left side of the throne on a stack of pillows. Lower than her master, but close enough to touch. His stomach tightening further with fear, Aden strode up behind the emperor and bowed.
“I trust the package has arrived safely and as promised,” the emperor inquired calmly, not bothering to turn around. He had seen Aden’s glance at the dais in the reflection of the windows, felt his anxiety that Kara was not where she should be, and it infuriated him. When would the boy learn that Kara was none of his concern? That she was his to do with as he pleased. The small voice imprisoned in the back of his head screamed his objections. Caius ignored him.
“He’ll survive, if barely,” Aden answered straightening.
“Was there trouble?” Caius asked, turning just his upper body so that he could look at Aden with one eyebrow risen in surprise.
“He tried to kill one of her guards today. They almost killed him in return. The healer was able to keep him alive, but it will still be sometime before he has completely regained his wits.”
“Did you kill the guard?” Caius asked mildly, turning back to the window.
“I killed them both. I do not think the queen fully understood the power we hold. She does now.”
“Good, good,” Caius mused. Turning he slowly made his way to his dais. “Maura might have been one of the galaxies best thieves, but it was her arrogance that led to her being stranded on that little planet. I suppose she tried to coerce you into taking her with you. Using her body as a lure.” A foot was on the bottom step when he paused to look at Aden, a small smile playing around the edge of his lips. “I hear she is particularly well verse in the carnal arts. It would be a shame not to partake in one so willing when there are so few here to slake a young one such as yourself thirst.”
Their conversation had been civil, master to apprentice, but with this last question Aden had sensed the dangerous mood his master was in. A trap had been laid, and if Aden wanted to survive he needed to tread carefully. Still, he could not keep that disgust off his face at the thought of touching such a creature.
“She tried,” he scoffed. “I do not like my women power hunger or too eager.”
“No. You only crave the ones you cannot have,” Caius snarled.
The trap sprung.
Aden averted his eyes.
Sighing, Caius turned and continued up the three stairs to his dais where he turned and sat down, allowing the silence to drag to fill the room. Finally he spoke, his voice once more calm. That alone frighten Aden.
“You have only your weakness for what is not yours to blame for what was done.”
“What do you mean?” Aden breathed, his eyes locking with Caius. The tightness that had been constricting his heart since Tanis’s strange plea twisted.
“We have a celebration to ready ourselves for,” Caius answered, purposely ignoring Aden’s question. That part of him deep in his head clutched his head and moaned, dropping to his metaphorical knees. Like Aden, Caius could feel every touch, hear every thought, feel every emotion as the guards did their worst and then some to Kara. Where the part of him that sat glaring at Aden reveled in her misery, the part that tried in vain to break his bonds, to retake control, recoiled. That part would have never inflicted this kind or horror on the woman he loved.
You are weak, the demon sneered, for in many cultures that was what he was. A demon. It was not what he started out as, but for what he had become it was an apt description, and the end was near. He could taste it. Once the ritual was finished they could move forward, and he would finally have what he so deserved.
Complete domination of all those living and dead in every known and unknown universe. Then those who sought to control him, to keep him caged would learn their place. At his feet.
“Did you punish Maura for her failure?” he asked. Aden’s startled expression answered before the boy could.
“I was too concerned with the health of our prize. When I saw the condition he was in, I immediately brought him here,” Aden answered.
Liar, Caius snarled. Out loud he said, “It is to late to go back now. After the ceremony I want you to go down and make sure she never disappoints us again. Until then, go and ready yourself. The ceremony begins in a few hours.”
His face as blank as he could make it, Aden bowed, his mind racing with the implications of him being away from Kara when he knew the mood the emperor was in. “My lord,” he answered in acknowledgement of his orders, his voice empty of emotion. Turning, he started out of the room only to be stopped by Caius quiet voice once again.
“But first, I would like you to go down to the Red Guards garrison room.”
Aden stopped short, his earlier fear of what was happening to Kara twisting his stomach. There was something in Caius’s voice that turned Aden’s blood to ice. It was lower, more of a growl than usual. Sinister.
“May I ask why?” he asked as casually as he could manage, not daring turn around to face him. Where he may be able to keep his voice empty, he could not keep his expression the same.
“You will see when you arrive.”
“As you wish,” Aden said bowing his head before leaving the room.
Caius smiled knowing how hard it would be for Aden hold his temper and not kill any of his master’s personal guard once he saw for himself his fears were true. Caius thought for a moment about warning them Aden was coming but decided that seeing for himself what will happen if he harbored the same traitorous thoughts Kara had, losing one or two men was worth having his young apprentice once again under his control and focused on the end prize.
* * *
Once Aden was clear of the throne room, he broke out in a run, shoving people out of his as he raced through the hallway towards the Red Guard garrison. Once again he reached out for Kara again but was only able to feel bits and pieces. It was if something was blocking him. The glimpses he did received were still a jumble of fear, pain, and pleasure, only so faint he was afraid once he did find her he would be too late.
The closer he came to the garrison the clearer the feelings became and the more his own terror grew. He was almost positive his master would not stoop to Colin’s level and give her to his men to do as they willed. The thought that he did exactly that turned the part of Aden’s heart that had been warmed by Kara cold. If Caius had given her to the garrison just after he had left the ship, it meant she would have been at the mercy of upwards to twenty-five men for at least six hours.
Oh dear Gods!
When he burst into the garrison, the smell of sex, sweat and an underlining metallic tang of blood turned Aden’s terror into rage. Eyes blazing red fire, he scanned the nearly empty room. Two men who were laughing as they walked out of a side room tucking in their shirts stopped dead when they saw Aden and the murderous look in his eyes. Three others who had been sitting in various places jumped to their feet to stand at attention. The show of respect did not help his rage because it showed that they were naked and well satisfied. Eyes narrowed, Aden’s swept the rest of the room, falling onto Kara’s dress neatly draped over a nearby chair.
“Where is she,” he snarled his eyes going back to the first two he had seen.
Their eyes darted to each other before they moved to the side clearing the way to the bedroom door they had just come through. Aden strode towards the closed door, bringing both hands up palms out as he passed between the men, sending them crashing into the walls on opposite sides of the room. If they were not already dead, he would finish the job once he had Kara safely in his arms. Anyone who had touched her would not see the next hour, consequences be damned.
Copyright © 2018 Heidi Barnes