Drip, drip, drip.
The soft sound slowly pushed its way through the pain and exhaustion.
Drip, drip, drip.
Not the sound of water landing in a pool of its own making, but thick and wet. The sound of life’s essence slowly draining away one drip at a time. The essence of the one who is the entire reason for the universe’s existence. The reason for his existence. One he could not protect, heal, because the chains that held him were imbued with spells that nullified his powers.
Drip, drip, drip.
A sharp rattle of chains, stopping as soon as it began followed by a hoarse moan. As if the voice had been screaming until finally it had nothing left to scream with.
Drip, drip, drip.
Exhaustion gives way to panic, pushing past the pain, forcing eyes open to utter darkness. There is no relief from seeing for himself that she still lives. That her chest rises and falls with the breaths he prays she is taking. That there is still enough of her life blood remain to save her.
Drip, drip, drip.
“Kara?” he calls hoarsely.
There is no answer. Tanis’s panic rises.
“Kara!” he calls urgently.
A soft groan is his only answer. Slumping in his chains in relief he tries to make sense of what had happened. Never in their long existence had Caius come close to the atrocities he had done today. No. Not Caius, Tanis corrected. A demon who vowed to do whatever it took to break him, to make him obey and sever his bond with Kara so the demon could take his place. There was no room for light in the universe he was building, he had told Tanis. Only darkness, pain and chaos. After a few hours of watching the demon torture Kara, of feeling every slice of the whip or blade, of ever touch from the soldiers that the demon allowed near Kara, Tanis was starting to understand what Aden tried to tell him before he left. Why he had done everything his master had ordered, no matter how painful, how vile it was to save the female he loved this pain. Why the boy had refused to break his bond with Kara, because, like Tanis, even if he wanted to save Kara the horror of this existence, he could not do the impossible.
Now Tanis leaned back against the wall he was chained to, his head back, eyes closed tightly, the hard cold metal the only thing grounding him in the darkness. Unable to see, other senses were heightened. The constant slow drip of Kara’s blood was like a deep base drum inside his head. The pain radiating through his body unbearable, burning, stabbing, excruciating. Pain that was not his, but the female that hung in the middle of the room slowly dying. Panic rose as the images of Kara before the darkness descended, her body broken, abused, worsened with each agonizing second that passed and he did not hear her voice.
Drip, drip, drip.
“Kara, love,” he called desperately. “Please. Answer me.”
Drip, drip, drip.
Reaching out with his mind he tried again. Kara, he urged gently. Please talk to me.
I am…here, she whispered weakly through his mind. With those words came the sorrow, the defeat, the humiliation she felt at what he had witnessed done to her. They were immortals. God and goddess with powers that should have allowed them to protect themselves from this, and yet, she had allowed it to happen because her body was not her own.
Tanis felt her humiliation intensify. After all the demon had done to her, her body had responded like a wanton creature to his touch, just as the gods had designed her, and she was ashamed. Tanis clenched his fists, trying rein in his anger at the gods for giving her this curse. Through the ages he had protected her from those who would try to use her weakness against her, but now…. Now he was helpless and she was being punished for it.
“I am so sorry,” he breathed, hopelessness beginning to take hold.
There was the sound of chains creaking, a sharp hiss of pain.
“Not…your fault,” Kara gasped. He could hear her heavy breathing, feel the sharp stab of pain as it shot through her ravaged body. After a moment she continued, her voice strained, “Caius has broken many rules. The gods will punish him.”
“The gods,” Tanis scoffed. “Where were they when Colin had you? When you suffered under whatever demon Caius has sold his soul to, because I know he would never do this to you. Whatever myths and legends surround him, calling him callous, evil, one fact has always remained true. You are his life and he loves you far too much to hurt you like this. No. The gods have abandoned us.” Tanis ground his teeth together, his rage growing to new heights. “DO YOU HEAR ME? YOU HAVE ABANDONED US!” he roared. The last of his strength gone, Tanis slumped in his chains.
The silence stretched on. With nothing left but the will to keep breathing, Tanis could not even whisper Kara’s name. Maybe it was just as well. If they died, then the demon would lose. The small window of opportunity with Aden as his catalyst, or whatever he called him, would close and the universe would be safe. A sense of relief washed over him as he sunk further into the darkness where he knew his love waited for him.
A soft glow began to penetrate Tanis’s eyelids, growing in intensity with each passing moment. Chains groaned, whimpers of pain intensified. Something was happening to Kara and yet he could not feel it. That was not right. Once bonded, unless they shielded hard they felt, saw, heard everything the other felt, saw, heard. Drawing on strength he did not know he had left, Tanis lifted his head and cracked his eyes open.
The soft yellow glow radiated out from Kara, completely encompassing her. The brighter it grew, the more Kara’s whimpers grew, her body writing with new pain. The pain of healing. Before his eyes, the cuts that covered her delicate skin began to knit themselves together, bones reset with a snap. Just as there was pain when injuries were given, so was there when they were cleaned, stitched, or reset. What Tanis was seeing was rapid healing that would intensify with the severity of the wound. When the glow grew so bright that Tanis had to close his eyes and look away or fear blindness, Kara’s body bowed, her head thrown back as she screamed one long ragged scream.
Then all was silent once more.
When Tanis looked back at Kara, there was now a low light filling the darkness so he could see her. There were no more injuries or blood on her, her matted hair once again clean and gleaming, her flawless skin flush with life. Suddenly Tanis’s chains unlocked. Unable to bear his own weight, he collapsed to his hands and knees.
What the hell?
Go to her, my son, a familiar feminine voice breathed through his mind.
“Mother,” he breathed in relief. She had heard his plea and come to help them.
With renewed hope and strength, Tanis struggled to his feet and staggered towards her, slipping on the blood that still coated the floors and walls. His arms had just wrapped around Kara when her chains unlocked, dropping her weight onto him. As carefully as he could, he lowered her to the floor, careful to keep as much of her out of the horror on the floor as possible.
Kara took a deep stuttering breath and opened her eyes.
“What happened?” she asked afraid to move.
“Mother is here,” Tanis smiled as he pushed her hair out of her face. “She healed you.”
As the door slid open clothes suddenly appeared on them. A long white dress for Kara. A white tunic and leather leggings for Tanis. The demon storm into the room stopping dead in his tracks, his eyes on something behind Tanis. Eyes narrowed in rage, he lowered them to the now clean floor and the two sitting there staring back at him warily. When he saw they were untouched and healthy, he bellowed in rage.
“How dare you interfere!” he roared his eyes locking onto who Tanis assumed was their mother, Selene, Goddess of the heavens, their queen.
“You accuse me of interfering when you have broken the most sacred rule. You should have died with them two thousand years ago. This,” she swept her hand over the room that held torture instruments and the blood that still covered the walls, “should never have happened. You should never have been able to sink your claws into my daughter so deeply. I should have drowned you like I wanted to in the beginning,” she snarled. “But your father forbade it.”
“How is dear old dad,” Caius sneered, eyes flashing red.
Not Caius, but the demon. Had his mother seen the demon’s slip? Did she realize that it was not her son she was talking to? While there had never been any love lost between the two, the level of hatred he was seeing today had never been this high. It was as if the demon knew Selene somehow, that there was a history between them. What had they missed?
The demon continued, a sneer firmly planted on his face, in his voice, “Out fucking his latest whore, I assume. It must just irritate the hell out of you that the Fates deemed you to only want one man and that man would want every other woman but you.”
Looking back at his mother, Tanis could have sworn he saw smoke coming out of her nostrils as her eyes flash fire. Where the fates had cursed Kara without the ability to say no to another’s touch, they had cursed their mother with only wanting one man. A man who hated her and would rather see her dead than bed her again.
“You were demon spawned and you should be put back in hell realm where you belong,” she spat. “Someplace I might send you still.”
“At least Dad and I could catch up on old times. Oh, wait. He no longer lives in hell realm, does he. He now occupies the throne in the temple where he can keep an eye on you while fucking everything in sight,” Caius taunted with relish. “Must be annoying to have him watching your every move, making sure you don’t interfere like you did in the beginning.”
“I did what was best for my daughter. What was best for us all,” Selene defended regally no remorse in her voice. “And I would do it again.”
“You manipulated the prophecy to your own ends. You made sure she saw Tanis first in an attempt to use his jealousy to keep me away from her!” he screamed. Taking a deep breath, he reined in his temper with visible effort. When he spoke next, his voice was calm, his eyes still angry, but not filled with the consuming rage that they had held before. Looking at Selene with his own blue eyes, he calmly said, “But you failed, didn’t you, Mother. You did not take into consideration that Kara could love me as much as she loved Tanis. That we understood that only together could we do what we were created for. Something you could never do.”
The silence that ensued afterwards was deafening. Caius was breathing hard, his eyes showing emotions Tanis could not decipher. Anger, pain, nausea. What Tanis did notice was the absence of malevolence that the demon excluded whenever he was present. It gave Tanis hope that his brother was still in there, somewhere.
Selene stood stock still glaring back at him. Tanis carefully pulled Kara with him as he climbed to his feet, moving them out of the way before the lightning bolts started flying. To anger a goddess, their queen no less, was tantamount to suicide, and because of the way Caius had bound Kara, there was no way to protect themselves. Pushing Kara behind him as he backed towards the wall, Tanis warily watched both parties warily.
There was a flash of red along with a subtle change in Caius facial expression that told Tanis the demon was once more in control. With a voice that was a slightly different dialect that he had not noticed before, the demon continued, “I became weary of playing your games, Selene, and took matters into my own hands.” If the slip of using her name registered, their mother did not respond. Instead she stood proud and regal. Like a marble statue in a museum, cold and unyielding. The demon smiled. “I spent eons trying to find a way to survive their deaths. Two thousand years ago I finally succeeded. But I was not idle. I schemed and plotted and I waited for my chance. Then I found her,” his eyes found Kara’s and locked with them. “I found her and I bound her to me, and in turn bound Tanis.” He turned back to Selene. “They are mine to do with as I wish and there is nothing any of you can do to take them from me.”
“You will not touch her again,” Tanis snarled stepping forward.
Selene raised her hand halting Tanis in mid-step, her gaze never leaving Caius’s. “No,” she said quietly, her sudden calmness making the three of them very uneasy. “It is true we cannot break the bonds you have wrapped Kara so tightly in, but just because you control her with pain and terror does not mean she is yours. The others and I have come to a decision. You have overstepped your boundaries today. We…I will no longer stand for such abuse.”
There was a blinding flash. When the demon could see again, Tanis and Kara were gone.
“Where are they?” he demanded stepping towards his mother angrily.
“In their quarters resting,” she answered calmly. “Where you will leave them for now. This is the one and only time I will interfere, but hear me, Caius. You continue down this path you have chosen and our retribution will be swift and deadly.” Selene’s voice echoed throughout the chamber with her promise, her power suffocating.
“Don’t threaten me,” the demon sneered walking towards her, stopping a few feet away. “You have neither the power nor the willingness to go through with that threat. You never did.” The demon’s smile grew when her eyes widened ever so slightly, a flash of fear marring her calm composure. She was beginning to suspect who he truly was. Good. He wanted them afraid. Moving so he stood inches before her, his face twisted with disgust, eyes slowly bleeding into the deep red that he knew was all too familiar to her, he whispered. “I found him.”
Selene could not stop her gasp as fear sliced through her being. The demon felt stretch her mind in an attempt to find who he was talking about, but he knew she couldn’t. He had hidden him too well.
“Yes, you should be afraid because I found the one you have all been waiting for. The one that will end your reign in the heavens. I found him as a boy and raised him in my own image. This time I will win,” he cackled.
“You lie!” Selene hissed. “I can feel it. If you truly have the one prophesized, you do not have as much control over him as you would like us to believe. It is still up to the Fates how time will continue. That you can never change.”
The demon moved so he was nose to nose with Selene, invading her personal space. She neither moved back nor flinched, impressing him with her courage. Something she did not have the last time they met. “Are you willing to bet your existence on it, Selene? Because once I am ruler and Kara is mine, I will wipe the house of the gods clean. I will destroy you.”
“You will try,” Selene smiled, her quiet voice deadly with promise, “and as before, you will fail. Do you hate me so deeply that you wish to see her destroyed?”
The eyes that stared back at her were the eyes of her son, and they held a sorrow that clenched her heart tight in empathy.
“No,” Caius whispered as he stepped back. “You know how I feel concerning Kara, just as I know what must be done, and this time it will be different. I will see to it.”
“They will not allow it,” Selene whispered her hand going to her throat as her own past grief assailed her.
“I will not give them the chance. My son deserves to know his mother. Every child deserves to know the love of its mother,” Caius said softly backing further away.
“They will not allow it,” Selene repeated tears coming to her eyes.
“How do you know? Demon spawned as you claim I am, how hard did you really try to stop them…Mother,” his voice low and full of hurt.
With a sob and another blinding flash Selene disappeared.
Caius stood staring at the spot his mother once stood. Waiting to make sure she was really gone before releasing the breath he had been holding. Gods! He had promised himself he would not allow her to crawl under his skin. Not like this. Closing his eyes, he forced himself to calm. The past was in the past. It should be left there. If only he could. He just hoped from now on his father kept her busy enough to stay out of his way until he finished what he started. Unfortunately, for that to happen there would be more pain and suffering before the end was reached, for all of them.
Looking around the room, Caius shuddered. He had tried in vain to stop what the demon was doing to Kara, but the cage the bastard had put around his consciousness was too strong. It was not until his mother arrived had he been able to break free. Something about her presence had unnerved the demon, giving Caius an opening, he took without hesitation. Now that the demon seemed reluctant to come forward, Caius would take the reprieve to regain his strength and repair any damage that had been done between him and his siblings. However, he needed to tread carefully. There were still steps that need to be taken to fulfill a part of the prophecy they had never known existed until recently.
Knowing his time was short, Caius strode out into the hallway, his ever present guards falling in behind him. Time to finish his part of the ritual before the demon took control again. That was on piece of the puzzle he would not allow the bastard to have.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes