Kara lay gasping for air, Tanis’s heavy body lying on hers making it harder to breath. Groaning, Tanis lifted himself far enough so he could look into her eyes, his shinning with his triumph. When he saw the look of horror on her face, that triumph wilted.
“Kara?” he whispered not understanding her reaction. They were together again. She should have been happy.
“What have you done?” she breathed.
He frowned down at her. This was not what he was expecting. Always their reunion was a happy one, a joyous occasion as they relearned each other’s bodies, souls. Then he felt it. Although their memories had been restored and the players were once again immersed in the elaborate game of chess they had been playing for thousands of lifetimes, something was different. Because this time Tanis was the one who started the ritual that bound their souls, he encompassed a majority of Kara’s soul. While Caius was still there, his presence had been pushed to the background, so he was there but not forgotten. Although this time there was a difference. Someone else, a stranger, held a larger piece firmly in his grasp. Someone powerful who was in this room. Tanis had a moment of disbelief followed by a stab of jealousy that stoked his fading anger. That was before his eyes saw what lay around Kara’s neck. Then the focus of that anger switch and boiled into a rage that blotted out all other concerns. His eyes filled with blue flame and locked on the necklace.
“I will kill him,” Tanis snarled. Before Kara could caution him, Tanis’s eyes shot to where Caius sat. “You dare!” he hissed.
“Be careful of your tone, Tanis. The rules have changed, and you don’t know the dangerous line you precariously walk on,” Caius warned his eyes narrowing.
“Take this piece of filth off her!” Tanis demanded, ignoring both Caius’s warning, and Kara’s pleading eyes.
“No,” Caius replied calmly.
The silence that followed was heavy with unfiltered hatred. The onlookers who were still conscious stared in amazement at the unknown male as he glared at their emperor as if he was an equal.
“Then I will,” Tanis snarled in the silence.
Before Tanis could touch the necklace he found himself flying across the room. Slamming into the floor and sliding across the polish metal, lifetimes of training kicked. Rolling until he stopped himself, one knee was down while his hands held his torso up, ready to attack, a snarl on his lips, he readied himself for attack. “You bastard! How could you defile her with that abomination?”
“There are more ways to defile than a cursed necklace,” Caius sneered, the innuendo of what he was referring to thick in his voice.
The memories of what he had force on Kara only hours ago once again filled Tanis’s mind and he saw red. Snarling he stood. The only thing that stopped him was Kara’s desperate voice yelling in his head, “No!”
Before Kara could scramble to her feet to physically stop Tanis from making a huge mistake, Caius spoke.
“Kara,” he ordered calmly.
Weeks of pain and torture, along with the knowledge of what the necklace would do to her if she disobeyed, froze Kara on her hands and knees.
“Very good,” Caius cooed as he once more stood. “Very good. You will do well to remember your place. It may be less…painful for you both.”
“I said, take it off her,” Tanis demanded striding towards Caius.
Guards moved to stop Tanis, but with a wave of his hand they flew backwards away from him.
Kara screams filled the room as she collapsed, writhing in pain on the floor.
Tanis froze, staring at her in horror. “What have you done?” Tanis whispered his eyes returning to Caius. Tanis was far too old not to know exactly what the necklace was and what it meant that Kara wore it. The necklace rendered the wearer unable to disobey its master. It did not harm the wearer if someone else caused harmed to others.
“I tweaked it a little,” Caius shrugged. “You harm any of my guards, or me, Kara feels our pain tenfold. Her soul may be yours, but the rest of her is mine.”
As Tanis watched the gleeful abandonment fill the face of the male that stood before him while he watched Kara writhe in pain, he realized that this was not his brother. Caius would never have caused Kara this amount of suffering. Not even when he was the enemy and Tanis was her choice. No, what stood before him not his brother, but the demon they had fought two thousand years ago. The one who had enslaved his brother’s soul. The cost was their lives, but the demon had been defeated, or so they thought.
“How?” Tanis breathed.
The smile the demon awarded Tanis spoke of a madness deep seeded within its evil soul. “Easy.” he answered in a tone that left Tanis cold. “We never died.”
Tanis eyes grew wide. If they never left the physical plane, then the demon had had two thousand years to plot and plan, to lay his traps and wait for them to resurface. Tanis looked at Kara as she stared back at him, her face struggling for neutral and failing. They both knew what this meant. For the first time in the history of the universe, another entity, one that was not of this dimension and made of pure evil, was in control.
The outcome of the universe was no longer in their hands.
An unpleasant thought crossed Tanis’s mind. If the demon inhabited Caius’s body, then, “Where is my brother? Where is Caius?”
“Gone. He used the last of himself in a useless bid to give you time to start the ritual.” There was no inflection, no emotion what-so-ever in his expression. It was just fact. The parasite had taken the body and the host was gone.
Tanis staggered sideways a couple of steps, his lungs having trouble drawing air, his heart stuttering. Gone? But that was impossible. If Caius was gone, then why were he and Kara still here? The demon had to be lying. It was the only explanation.
Clinging on to that one thought, that one hope, he stared at the demon who stood staring at Kara with a look of hunger and longing.
“They would not have allowed this,” Tanis breathed.
“They are too arrogant in their power to see me,” the demon sneered.
“Now that we are awake they will know what you have done. They will destroy you.”
“They have already tried…and they failed,” the demon shrugged. “Do you think this is the first time we have been here, at this exact moment. Oh, the place is different, the shells that hold our souls different, but the circumstances, the juxtaposition have all been the same.” He turned to face Tanis, the madness in his soul turning his eyes red. “There is not a word that describes how long I have lived. How many times we have faced each other, fought each other, lost. No more!”
Without warning bolts of energy shot out of Caius’s hands encircling Tanis. He screamed in agony as they hit him sending fire into his spine spreading outwards, dropping him to his knees. Every nerve ending was on fire, every muscle contracted, threatening to tear. His lungs froze leaving him unable to scream, and there was nothing Tanis could do to stop it. From across the room, far from the fight, Kara screamed in agony, yet nothing touched her. After a few moments, the lightening disappeared, and the pain stopped as suddenly as it had begun, leaving Tanis on the floor gasping for air as bright spots danced across his eyes.
“In the end you too will fail, and you will be mine. Just as Caius was. Just as Kara is,” the demon snarled.
Tanis looked at him then followed his gaze. Kara lay on her side clutching her abdomen in obvious pain.
“Such a helpful side effect of the bond you cling so desperately to. That one feels what the other does.” The demon glanced at Aden who lay next to the throne unconscious, the tearing of Kara’s soul from his too painful even for the strong sorcerer to endure. Now to see if all his careful planning held true. He glanced down at Kara, his senses reaching out to her, gently searching her soul as if he was afraid he would hurt her. A far cry from the way he had treated her body, but then again, a soul was a fragile thing, and killing her was not what he wanted. What he found pleased him.
“Yes!” he breathed. “Her soul. Don’t you feel it? You don’t surround it, saturate it. Although she does yours. Interesting,” he mused walking towards Kara, his hand outstretched.
“Don’t touch her!” Tanis snarled as he pushed himself to his feet. Reaching out his hand he lashed out with his power, knocking the demon across the room away from Kara. Just as quickly Kara screamed in agony and pain lanced through Tanis, once again dropping him to the floor.
The demon’s evil chuckle filled the room. Tanis looked through the watering of his eyes, watching Caius slowly climb to his feet, unharmed. “You were always a slow learner.”
“Bastard,” Tanis hissed clenching his hands trying to keep himself from lashing out again. The demon had set his traps well. There was no way Tanis could fight him without hurting Kara, or worse, killing her.
“You need to find a new name for me. That one is becoming tiresome,” his voice bored.
“Then give me a name,” Tanis suggested.
The demon chuckled. “And give you power over me? I think not. Now, back to my original thought. Kara is not completely yours.”
“She has never been completely mine. My brother always held a part of her, and I believe he still does,” Tanis added carefully. The demon hesitated only for a moment, but Tanis saw it. It gave him hope that Caius was still in there, somewhere. Still, the demon was too close to Kara and too unpredictable to push. The gods only knew what would happen if he completely went mad.
“While that is true, there is a small obscure piece of the prophecy the powers that be keep hidden that tells of a time where there will be a third that will bind him or herself to the Key. It is called the Catalyst.” He glanced up at Aden who lay still as death then back to Tanis. “After the ritual that awakens the part of her that is immortal, a part of her soul remains open and vulnerable for a short period of time. Waiting for the catalyst to claim what belongs to it. If that piece is not claimed within a certain period of time, then whoever she bonds with in that life time, which is either Caius who represents evil or darkness or you who represents good or light, will fill the void.” He looked back down at Kara, his red eyes darkening with eagerness and hunger. “This is one of those times. By ripping Aden from her, you have opened her soul, her power, her destiny for me to claim. It’s time I right a wrong that was made long before this universe was created. Time I take what should have been mine,” Caius declared slowly walking towards her.
“Caius or I would have felt the difference, and Kara has never mentioned it.” Tanis had no idea what the demon was talking about, but the ten layers of hell would freeze over before he let the bastard touched her again.
“That is because it is only felt when the Key is nearby. I have not been idle these last two thousand years. It took time but I found the Key. I kept him hidden, molded him into my weapon and brought them together when the time was right so her soul would open, and I could claim it before you appeared. What I did not consider was the binding would be instantaneous and unbreakable. No ritual, not even touch. Just one look and they were one.” The smile he directed at Tanis made his pulse race as the enormity of what he had done finally sunk in. “Now, thanks to your deep seeded jealousy, you have done what should have been impossible.” He turned back to Kara. “Now she will be mine.”
“You will not have her!” Tanis vowed staggering once again to his feet. If he could not use his powers against the demon, then he would physically stop him. He just hoped his brother would forgive him after he was through. Reaching his hand out, he willed Kara’s body to come to him. Sliding across the slick metal floor as if invisible strings pulled her along, she was almost to him, his fingers brushing her skin when he found himself in the air, an invisible force squeezing his neck cutting his air off.
“You will not take what is mine,” the demon snarled stalking towards them.
“She is not yours,” Tanis choked, his fingers on his neck trying to pry the invisible force away. It was only then he realized just how powerful the demon was. Far more powerful than any of them were, maybe even more powerful then the powers that be. This was not good. How were they supposed to fight something this powerful? The thought was interrupted when the demon in question shoved his face into Tanis’s face.
“She should have been mine! She would have been mine if not for the other’s interference.”
Something in the demon’s tone made Tanis think he was not talking about Kara, but someone else. Then he sensed Kara’s soul once again seeking, looking for what had been so viciously ripped from it.
No, Kara, Tanis begged desperately, the thought of sharing her unbearable even though he knew it was the only way to save them. Please!
There is no other way, she whispered the pain and desperation in that thought forcing a shudder from Tanis. Just as she was about to reach the one she sought another soul, a malevolent soul, brushed against hers, burning her as acid would burn skin. A soul that was ancient.
No! He could not have her. He could not bond with her or all would be lost. Desperately Kara tried to pull back, but the tendrils of that soul were sticky, and the more she struggled the more of it touched her. Much like a fly caught in a spider’s web.
“NO!” she screamed aloud.
Aden lay on his side near the throne barely conscious. Power crackled around him, screams of terror filled his ears, but he could only lie on the floor struggling to draw a breath. She was gone. She was gone and his whole world collapsed in on top of him. Better to die then live with this mind numbing soul crushing loss.
Aden, Kara breathed through his mind, desperation thick in her voice.
Kara? unwilling to believe it was her.
Then the most incredible thing happened. Her soul brushed against his. Just as quickly something ripped it away. Something…evil. No! It could not have her! Not as long as he lived.
Gathering what strength he had left, Aden pushed himself up far enough so he could see what was going on. Tanis hung suspended in the air clutching at his throat. Kara lay below him with Caius leaning over her, his eyes gleaming red, his long fingers reaching down to touch her.
A voice Aden had never heard before whispered in his mind. You cannot allow him to touch her. If he does, all will be lost.
Fear stabbed Aden heart. He had to save her, but in his weakened state he knew he would be able to make it to Kara before Caius touched her. He needed time, but to attack Caius would bring pain down on Kara. Maybe if he aimed at Tanis, breaking Caius’s hold it would be enough of a surprise to give him time to pull Kara closer to him.
Shoving his hand towards Tanis, Aden unleashed what little of his power he still commanded, sending Tanis flying backwards while pulling Kara towards him. Unfortunately, he was only able to bring her halfway. He would have to go to her if he was to save them all.
Caius stumbled backwards, blinking in shock at the suddenness of the attack. Even as she moved, Kara arched her back, gasping for air that would not come. Grimacing at the knowledge he had inadvertently harmed her, Aden staggered to his feet and down the stairs to where Kara lay, collapsing onto his hands and knees next to her.
The last time it had only taken one look into her beautiful hazel eyes and he was hers. This time he could feel their souls reaching out to each other, but for some reason it was not enough.
“What do I do?” he whispered desperately.
“Kiss me,” Kara answered hoarsely.
He could do that. Smiling down at her in response to her smile, Aden leaned down. Just before his lips touched hers the demon’s voice, thick with malice filled the room.
“Touch her and the last two weeks will seem like a caress to what I will do to her!” he snarled.
Aden hesitated. He would not do anything to hurt the female in his arms. Even if it meant his death. Kara did not give him the choice. Reaching up, she tangled her fingers in his hair pulling him down to her.
“NO!” the demon roared.
The moment their lips touched power flared out with enough force it knocked everyone against the back walls. Deepening their kiss, Aden wrapped his arms around Kara, pulling her tightly against him as once again their souls wrapped around each other, tangling together becoming one. Tanis and Caius may have held her soul all these eons, but they were no longer the only ones, and with that one kiss Aden changed the course of the universe.
With that one kiss, he was home.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes