This was not the first time Aden had done this. There were many times Kara could not cope, and so she receded into herself, hiding from the pain. Where Tanis knew the immortal woman Kara had become, he did not know the human woman she had been before. Aden did, so he knew where she might be hiding, how hard he could push, where the holes would be. Once inside the first wall of defense he began to search.
There were many barriers, some easier to break than others. Some Aden navigated around, knowing by the feel of them, the flavor, he did not want to enter that particular memory, or he would be lost in her torment, unable to escape. What felt like hours later, he finally found Kara’s consciousness, her true self, in the dark recesses of her mind. Surrounded by thick black walls. Finding no way in, Aden took a calming breath, closed his eyes and bowed his head in concentration as he gently placed his hand onto the surface. With delicate care he began to push his way through the stick surface designed to keep everything hurtful out. But he was not here to hurt her, and on some level she recognized that he was not a threat. It did not mean she wanted to see him. Humiliation and fear of rejection assaulted him as he slipped inside, the wall inclosing him in darkness, suffocating him as her fears were suffocating her. When he finally pushed through into the room beyond, he found her huddled in a corner, whimpering. Frowning, he realized that she still was covering in blood and bruises from Malphas’s rape. A testament that while her body healed, her mind had not. She was still trapped in the hell that had become her reality.
Steeling himself for her reaction to him being there. Aden approached her cautiously.
“Kara?” he called softly crouching down before her. “Kara. Can you hear me?” Reaching out he gently touched her hair, freezing when she cringed away from him in terror. “I won’t hurt you,” he promised his heart in his throat, the pain evident in his voice. “You know I would never hurt you.”
“You would if he commanded you to,” she countered, her voice barely above a whisper.
Aden pulled his hand back knowing she was right. If Malphas commanded him to harm her, he would have had to obey, or Kara would face far worse. He tried to refuse once. Only once. Aden shied away from that memory. It was Malphas’s favorite punishment, because every time Aden was forced to hurt her it almost killed him. Evidently he would have to once again earn her trust.
“He didn’t send me,” Aden assured. “Tanis did.”
Kara’s low moan echoed around them. It held so much anguish Aden shrank away from her, covering his ears. Through slitted eyes, he watched her tighten her arms around her knees and begin to rock back and forth.
“He can never know. Can never see. If he knew….” A sob escaped her lips.
“I know what he did,” Aden whispered hoarsely, slowly lowering his hands
Kara stopped her rocking to stare at him fearfully through her tangled hair. Something in his eyes told her he was telling her the truth. That he knew everything Malphas had done to her. Forced her to do to him. It was the agony that mirrored her own that convinced her. Only that level of agony could come from the horrors she had lived in that week.
“How?” she breathed.
“When we found you…tied the way you were…the things we saw in the room. Evidence of what he had done on your body.” Aden closed his eyes swallowing hard to keep the bile down. Opening his eyes, he looked deep into Kara’s frightened ones. “Once you were safely in your room with Tanis, I went to Malphas intent on killing him.”
“No! Kara cried moving to her knees. “Aden, no!”
“Shhh,” he soothed cupping her cheek with his hand. “I am…alive. As fitting punishment for my betrayal, he decided I should know exactly what he did to you. Every act…every emotion he felt…you felt.” Aden shuddered looking down. Taking a moment to calm his own rioting emotions, he looked to Kara’s horror-stricken face. “I’m only telling you this because you need to understand that you’re not alone.” Aden moved to his knees so they were only a few inches apart, his hand still on her cheek. “I will help you through this, Kara. Tanis will help you, if you will only allow it.” The words burned on Aden’s tongue because he knew once he brought Kara out of her prison Tanis would once again try to keep him away.
“I can’t,” she whispered. “I can’t face him.”
“You can’t hide here either,” Aden countered showing his frustration. “Your body is dying. If you don’t go back, we will lose you. I can’t lose you.”
Kara sat back on her heals so he no longer touched her; her eyes locked with Aden’s frighten desperate ones, trying to decide whether she was strong enough to do this.
“Some of the…memories are too painful,” she finally said her voice small.
“I will help you block them until you are ready to tackle them one by one.,” Aden promised. “We will do this together. I will not leave without you, Kara.”
For the first time Kara smiled. It wasn’t a very big smile, but a tentative frightened one. Aden would take it. He reached up to cup her cheek again.
“That’s what I wanted to see,” he encouraged, returning her smile.
Taking a deep breath, he took her hands in his and they both closed their eyes, beginning the long torturous journey back to reality.
* * *
The world still spinning around him, Aden came back to himself with a gasp. Closing his eyes tight, he clung to the tree desperately trying to regain his equilibrium. It had taken hours before he and Kara finally surfaced. Hours of pain and horror. They had been utterly spent, and there were things Aden had learned along the way that left him cold. Things Kara made him promise never to tell anyone. Things that….
Aden stopped breathing, his eyes snapping open. With sudden clarity he remembered what had been nagging him since that day. Deep within her, there had been memories locked away that were…different. Memories of someone who did not look Kara yet seemed to be her at the same time. Of a room filled with orbs, thousands of them, all swirling different colors, all filled with life. Of the two of them standing in the middle of that room, watching an orb that sat on a pedestal, colors swirling within its glass walls. Words being said that felt familiar. Words they had uttered a long time ago.
“Do you think they will succeed this time?” the female asked,
“I don’t know,” he responded moving so he was behind her, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her against him. Resting his cheek gently against her hair, he too watched the orb. “I shudder to think what they have planned for us this time.”
Reaching out, the female gently stroked the orb with her fingertips. In response the colors swirled faster. As she pulled her fingers away, the colors followed. Sticking to her like a spider web sticks to its prey. A feeling of malevolence followed turning the multi-rainbow colors into vibrate red and inky black. The more she tried to pull away, the tighter they wrap around her hand, pulling it back towards the orb.
“It is hungry for you,” he frowned taking a hold of the female’s wrist, pulling her hand away from the orb. The colors slithered over the female’s hand, reaching for his. Once the strands touched his skin they burned as they bound the them together, once again pulling them towards the orb.
“For us,” the female breathed as they both fought not to be pulled into the orb. Her eyes traveled to the far corner of the room where the orbs were covered in thick dust, muting the colors within. On the floor lay shards of broken glass. A shudder ran through her body.
To males entered the room, their expressions hardened, weapons in their hands. Wings flared out behind them. One set so pure in its whiteness they glowed. The other the color of the darkest night, glossy as black satin. At once Aden recognized them, the shock of who they were, what they were, reverberating through his body as he finally understood what he was seeing. The woman was Kara, only her true name was Sapphira. His true name was Damien. Together they were reason the universe kept spinning. That the realities in each orb kept moving towards their destinies. They were the beginning of it all. They were creation. They were life. The two angels, for that’s what they were, were Gideon with the white wings and Fallon with the dark. Their most trusted protectors, their brother’s in arms, their closets friends. They were who Aden knew in this reality as Tanis and Caius.
Within the orb before them were their children, and each orb that lined the walls was a representation of a lesson that had yet to be learned. Looking at the broken shards in the corner, Aden/Damien realized that one of those lessons, one of the very first and most dangerous, had escaped.
“We felt evil intent oozing from this room,” Fallon snarled. Then they saw what was happening with the orb.
“Shit!” Gideon hissed. As one they moved to the other side of the orb, glaring at it. Gideon reached for it.
“No!” Sapphira hissed as they struggled not to be pulled in. “It will only ensnare you too. You know what will happen once we fall into their reality. We will forget who we are. What this evil is. We will not able to fight him until it is too late.”
“We will not allow you to go in alone,” Fallon reminded, his eyes narrowed in anger that she dared to even suggest a thing. “We follow you wherever you go, remember.” His eyes looked up at Damien. “Both of you. That was our vow to each other. I will not break it now.”
“Even if you may be of better use out here?” Damien asked the strain of keeping them from being sucked in and the pain as the evil that had ensnared them burned their hands evident in his voice.
“Yes,” Gideon answered.
Damien looked at his friend and saw in his expression there would be no arguing with the angel. With a sigh that went down to his toes, he said, “If you must.”
Both Gideon and Fallon smiled a smile that held more evil intent then good as Fallon answered, “We must.”
At the same time, both angels took a hold of Damien and Sapphira’s hands and together they were sucked into the orb. As with all the other realities, their memories of who they were locked away until they broke free of their restraints and remembered. When the time came where a choice had to be made. To live in harmony, or to destroy what had been made and start over again. Except nothing was ever destroyed. Life of any kind was too precious. That was what the orbs were. Realities that had not taught their children what they needed to learn. Tucked away on dusty shelves to live out their existences as they deemed fit, and now one of those realities had been set loose.
Aden…no Damien, blinked against the harsh sunlight. They had been sucked in too soon by an evil that was intent on destroying the delicate balance of their core existence, and in turn destroy them all. An evil that was named Malphas. He must warn the others.
Using the tree for support, Damien struggled to his feet. Once the world stopped spinning, he realized he was no longer alone.
“It’s not very often one catches a dark sorcerer such as yourself unawares,” a smug voice purred.
Damien froze as the business end of a blaster leveled itself with the side of his head. Still reeling from the what he had just learned, all he could do was raise his hands out to the side to show he had no weapons drawn. Although, he needed none. Just as he was about to send these insignificant players into the next realm, he remembered something Selene had said when she was nursing him back to health.
“There are more players in this game then you realize, my lord. Each one as important as the next. Anthony is one of them. You must allow him to capture you. What happens as a result is the only way Tanis will remember who he is. When they will all remember and break free of their restraints.”
Shit, Damien snarled. The last thing he wanted to do was allow this bastard to overtake him. Not when he needed to warn the others of Malphas’s true intent. Realizing he had no choice; Damien decided the best course of action was to play his part until the truth was revealed.
“I wonder what could have captured the great Lord Sahen’s attention so thoroughly that he forgot the most important rule?” the voice sneered in his ear.
“And that is?” Damien asked as if the conversation already bored him.
Anthony slowly moved so he was standing directly in front of Damien, his blaster still leveled at Damien’s head. “Never forget that your enemy is never far behind.”
“That would insinuate that I had an enemy that I feared enough to care, which I don’t,” Damien smirked. “Although I will say I’m a bit surprised to see you here. How did you manage to break through the wards?”
“With a little help from my mother,” Anthony answered. There was some sort resentment in his voice Damien did not quite understand. “You remember my mother. Queen Maura.”
Ah. That would explain it, Damien thought as a small smile spread across his lips. The last time he had seen the queen she was begging him for mercy. A mercy he had no intention of giving. “Yes. I remember her. How is she?”
“Better since we rescued her from the dungeon her replacement put her in. She is not very happy with you, Sahen. In fact, she asked us to bring you back to her so she can repay you for your…attentions,” he practically snarled the last word, his eyes glowing with his anger.
Damien’s smile faltered. “There is nothing you can do to me that the emperor has not already done.”
“Oh, I’m sure I can think of a few,” Anthony said slyly. “And once we are done here, we will go back to our home planet and take back what is rightfully ours,” he finished with confidence.
Damien would have laughed at the misplaced confidence, but the men surrounding him with blasters persuaded him it would probably not be his wisest idea.
“And what is it you are here for?’ Damien asked keeping his voice casual while someone from behind him removed his belt where his communicator and blaster, among other weapons, were kept.
“I’ve come to claim what is mine. What you took from me,” Anthony answered making his voice sound just as causal. If it were not for the blasters you would think they were two old friends chatting in the woods.
Damien’s eyes narrowed, “She does not belong to you.”
“And I suppose because you were the one to take her from me, you have claim to her?” his voice growing angry again. “I was there for her when she needed protection, when she needed rest. She loved me!” he said slapping his chest sharply. “You show up and decide she belongs to your Emperor and you think that gives you claim to her?”
“You don’t understand what you are talking about. You don’t understand what the emperor….”
“To hell with your fucking emperor!” Anthony roared stepping forward, placing the end of his blaster between Damien’s eyes.
It would have been a simple thing to remove the blaster from Anthony’s hands and incapacitate the rest of the men, but not without injuring himself, and he had no idea where Colin or Maura were. With the restrictions Malphas had put on Tanis…no Gideon, and Kara, who he now knew was Sapphira, he was not sure they would be able to fend off an attack without his help. A warmth filled Damien as he realized that the connection, that feeling of one he felt every time he was near Sapphira was because they truly were one. Refocusing on the boy in front of him, Damien continued his role as Aden.
“If you think the Emperor will allow you to take his pet without consequences, you are a fool,” his voice low and menacing. “You play with a fire that will utterly destroy you and your world. Walk away why you can, Anthony. Your life is not worth a woman who does not love you.”
“I suppose she loves you,” Anthony spat.
Yes, his voice growled in his head. Damien closed his eyes taking a deep breath. As much as he wanted to say that one fact out loud, scream it to the heavens, he knew he could not. They were still bound by the chains Malphas had wrapped them in. Voicing the way Sapphira felt for him would only bring the demon’s wraith down on them both, and he would not do that to her.
“Sapph…Kara is not mine.” Not completely, he amended knowing that it was true. Gideon and Fallon may have started out as their protectors, but through the millennium they had become much more. “She belongs to beings more powerful than you or your mother could ever imagine. If you do this, if you take her away from them, you will have the wrath of the Gods rain down around you.”
“I don’t believe in your Gods,” Anthony spat. With a nod of his head, Damien’s hands were roughly pulled behind him and bound. “I don’t even believe you are as powerful as you claim.” He moved so he was nose to nose with Damien. “I think it is time you feel the sting of your own weapon.”
Something hard was rammed into the back of Damien’s skull and fire exploded through his body. The pain was so sudden and so intense he did not even have time to cry out before he crumpled to the ground unconscious.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes