I Don’t Understand

I don’t understand
why people hate so easily.
I don’t understand
why we can’t get along.
I understand
people are different.
Different colors
different cultures
different beliefs.
I understand
some people do not like different.
Do not like the unknown
do not like change.
I don’t understand
why we hate so easily.
I think many truly do not understand
what hate is.
When I was young, I used the word hate freely.
I hate the color pink…
I hate when it’s too hot…
I hate Brussel sprouts…
I hate…you.
Until…
One glace
from eyes the blue of midnight skies.
One word
falsely uttered with the innocence of a newborn lamb.
One quirk from lips
which truth is as foreign as the deepest parts of space.
Such small simple gestures
sent a tidal wave of rage so strong
my knees threaten to cave.
My site dimmed
covered with the hazy red from the deepest pits
of hell.
My body trembled as if the earth itself
shook with my rage.
My voice squeezed down, down, down
until a hoarse whisper was my only sound.
Those around me did not understand.
Those around me did not see
the man who had destroyed so many lives.
Who had wrote misery and grief
death and chaos
most of all, fear
so he remained free.
Only then did I truly understand
the word hate.
How I had used the word in haste.
In disregard for the power
that single word held.
Now
I dislike pink.
I prefer a warm breeze to the hot sun.
As for Brussels sprouts…well
the word hate may still pertain
or at least a strong gag inducing distaste.
Most of all
I do not hate you.
Not for your differences,
not for your beliefs,
not because your way of seeing things is unusual
to what others may think as the straight and narrow.
I am willing to learn
what I don’t understand
because hate is a word, an emotion
I only reserve
for those people, places or things
that have truly earned the label of
hate.

© Copywrite 2021 Heidi Barnes

The Festival – A Suzi Story

Chapter 1

There’s nothing Suzy loved more than riding through the sky in style. Finding the perfect vehicle, she picked a brightly colored fall leaf, dressed in the brightest reds, oranges, and yellows. Hopping on top of it, she tipped it up, catching the tail of the blowing wind, and away she flew.

Riding the waves of the wind currant she dipped up and down, side to side…her tickling laughter could be heard echoing through the blue sky as she steered her leaf to her favorite place, Heidi’s house! Wouldn’t her dear friend be happy to see her. Taking her mind off of where she was going, she suddenly came to an abrupt halt, spiraling to the ground and landing on her face with an indignant plop. Rolling on her back, she brushed the hair out of here face, and staring down at her was a very annoyed looking Heidi. She seemed to have a red mark on her forehead…hmmm…ooooh dear.

Grinning up at Heidi, Suzy stood up, and flapping her wings, flew up to Heidi’s face. “I can fix that ya know.” Taking out her wand, she drew back her hand to fix her landing mark that she’d left on her friend’s face.

Quickly taking a step back and putting her hand up to ward off any “fixing” Suzi was planning, Heidi quickly said, “No, no! That’s okay. I can do it myself.” Waving her hand over her sore forehead, the mark and pain disappear. Taking a deep breath as she muttered a prayer for patience, she smiled and asked, “What brings you here on this fine fall morning?”

Landing in Heidi’s outstretched hand Suzi replied, “Well…I’m on vacation from my mandatory fairy retraining, ya know, seeing as how I’ve had a few mishaps, and I was thinking about how nice it would be to see my bestie. So here I am!” Settling in Heidi’s palm, Suzi looked at her nails as if there was something interesting on them. “Ya know…I hear there’s a huge fall festival going on for elementals and witches. I thought maybe you’d like to go with me.” Looking up from her nails she excitedly continued. “There will be contests and stuff, and I can show you all I learned! What do you say? Wanna go?”

Frowning, Heidi thought about declining. The festival was something that the elders had conjured up in order to entice those who chose to keep to themselves, those who were powerful and had lived longer than most of the so called elders, out into the open in hopes to talk them into joining the counsel, or find out some of their secrets. Personally, she thought, as one of those powerful witches who kept to herself, it was more a way to find their weaknesses or force of to agree to the restrictions that they had put on the rest of the magical community in order to control them. “I don’t know. You know how I like my privacy, only allow a few special individuals into my home. It’s why I live deep in the forest, away from prying eyes. If I go to the festival, they may think they could come and visit me whenever they want.”

Suzi’s smile disappeared, only to be replaced by a deep frown. “But Heidi…I’m not allowed to go without a sponsor. And if I don’t go and prove I won’t screw things up, they will take away my magic.” A small tear fell down her cheek, and the tiny drop landed on Heidi’s skin. One dropped followed the other as the little fairy began to cry in earnest, head bent, and shoulders shuddering, as she cried her eyes out. Finally able to catch her breath, she raised her tear filled eyes, a dirt streaked face up to Heidi. ” Please….”

Making her decision, Heidi gently wiped the tears away as she smiled down at Suzi. “How can I resist those big blue eyes. We will go and…,” her smile turned into a grimace, “see if you can stay out of mischief. Give me a minute to change into something more presentable.”

Carrying Suzi into the house, Heidi set her down on the kitchen table while she went to change out of her gardening clothes into a dress and walking shoes. Grabbing her cloak and basket she stopped by the door and asked, “Are you ready?”

Barely being able to contain her excitement, Suzi quickly flew over to Heidi and landed on her shoulder. Not wanting to wait another minute, Suzi decided to use a new talent she acquired. Closing her eyes, she visualized where she wanted to go and seconds later they were on the outskirts of the festival’s giant field. The only problem being was Heidi was sitting on a high branch in an ancient old tree, barely keeping her balance when she realized where she had landed. Unfortunately, she was terrified of heights. Closing her eyes, she muttered several angry swear words, and proceeded to take some slow deep breaths. Opening one eye she peered around for a place to land, and once calm she levitated gently down to the forest floor. Once firmly on the ground she looked around for Suzi, intent on killing her once she found her.

“Suzi!” she called out with a voice edged in anger. “Where the hell are you?!” Hearing a timid voice calling out here name, she looked in the general direction the sound had come from and spotted Suzi…hanging on a thin branch, skirt caught in the tree. Wanting to laugh out loud, but not wanting to hurt the little fairy’s feelings, Heidi sent a bolt of lightening to the small branch, causing the branch to break and sending Suzi spiraling down to the ground. Heidi had her revenge on the irresponsible little brat.

“New trick I see,” Heidi commented sarcastically, as she absentmindedly brushed a few flecks of dirt off her skirt. “I’m guessing you didn’t stay long enough to learn how to land properly.”

Pick herself up off the ground for the second time today, Suzi brushed off her butt and looked up at Heidi. “Jeez…when did you get so mean?”

“There is a difference between mean and teaching a lesson, little one,” she replied patiently. “That,” she pointed up at the tree, “was a lesson. What did you learn from it?” she asked, eyebrow raised.

“I learned you are mean…,” Suzi muttered.

Clearing her throat Heidi asked, “Excuse me? I missed that.”

Thinking twice about responding in a rude manner, Suzi replied, “I said I learned I should be more thorough with my teleporting. Sorry.”

“And maybe pay more attention in your lessons. No come on,” Heidi smiled as she straightened her cloak. “Let’s go see what the festival has in store for well-intended pixie and a mistrustful ancient witch.”

“Follow me.” Flying in front of Heidi, Suzi led them to a table where three rather comical looking witches with sour expressions sat waiting. “We have to sign in here.” If looks could kill, Suzi would have been reduced to ashes. “What?” Suzi squealed. “It’s not that long a line.”

Trying hard to quell her desire to explode, Heidi raised her eyes to the heavens while tapping her foot, praying to the Goddess for patience. The one thing she hated almost as much as heights, was waiting in line. Suzi wisely kept silent.

When the others waiting in line saw who was behind them, they quickly moved out of the way, bowing and giving greetings as they did.

“Good morning, Mistress.”

“I’m sorry, I did not see you, Mistress. Please. Go ahead.”

“So good to see you, Mistress.”

Smiling politely, Heidi greeted each in return as she slowly walked to the table where there was a sheet of parchment. “Good morning, Agatha. So good to see you.”

Snorting, Agatha, who sat in the middle, her expression growing ever more sour even though she tried to smile, said sweetly. “Mistress Heidi. I did not expect to see you here, as you rarely travel outside your wood.” Glancing at Suzi who smiled brightly at the witch as she hovered just over Heidi’s shoulder, she added. “You seem to have an unwanted…guest.”

Glancing at Suzi, her smile softened. “Not unwanted.” Heidi turned back to the three in front of her who were eyeing Suzi as if she were something vile. Making a mental note to keep an eye on her little friend, for elementals were hunted by those who used dark magic for their magical little bodies, Heidi turned her now fierier eyes to the three…ladies in front of her. Smile still pasted on her face as she watched with some satisfaction as the women paled considerably, she replied just as sweetly, “I would be sorely put out if anything…untoward happened to Suzi.”

Those who were standing around them trying to act like they were not watching or listening took a healthy step back. The message was clear. The three witches at the table were on their own if they decided to cross the sorceress in front of them. The two on either side of Agatha tried to distance themselves without moving from their chairs. Scowling at the two imbeciles, Agatha turned her glare towards Heidi. While powerful in her own right, she was not suicidal. She also knew Heidi well enough to know the threat was not aimed at her, but those around them. “Keep your wand in your skirts, mistress,” she spat, keeping up the pretense that Heidi was not her favorite creature in this Goddess forsaken world. “While there are those who would rather be a stain on the ground, I am not stupid. Your little companion is safe from me.”

Her smile broadened, Heidi inclined her head in a show of respect and acknowledgement. “Thank you, Agatha. I knew you one of the more intelligent ones. Good day.” With a slightly dimmed smile at the other two, Heidi motioned for Suzi to follow and they entered the festival grounds.

“What was that all about?” Suzi whispered in Heidi’s ear when she perched on her shoulder.

“A warning,” Heidi answered pretending to look at the wares at the first booth they encountered. Where she did not need a new basket, she had to admire the craftsmanship.

“What kind of warning?” Suzi asked perplexed.

“One I will tend to later. Be Careful little one. We are not alone.”

“Well, of course we’re not alone!” Suzi groused looking at the hundreds of people milling around them. “There are people everywhere,” she exclaimed rising into the air and throwing up her arms in a gesture to take everyone in, and causing more than one person to turn their eyes towards them.

Closing her eyes, once again praying for that patience she seem to never have, Heidi slowly moved to the next booth. “And now they all know we are here, too.”

“Oh,” Suzi said quietly, drifting down until she once again sat on Heidi’s shoulder, realizing what she had inadvertently done. Hunching in on herself, she groaned, “Sorry.”

“It’s alright,” Heidi smiled, tilting her head to gently bump the pixie. Then, in Suzi’s mind, she whispered, Those who are looking for us knew we were here the moment we arrived. Out loud, Heidi began to talk to the pixie about more mundane things. What her stores needed, a pretty piece of material, the weather.

Hiding behind a group of birch trees, two trolls stood together watching the arrival of Mistress Heidi and her obnoxious pixie Suzi.

“We must go quickly to Master!” Grindle whispered .”He will want to know of the witch’s arrival.”

Turning to leave, his friend Thorn grabbed his arm go halt her progress. “No…wait! We need to find out more. Listen!”

The conversation between Heidi and Suzi drifted over to the troll’s big pointy ears as they took in every word. Crooking his finger, Grindle motioned for Thorn to follow. They steadily kept pace, staying hidden behind each tree they came upon. Knowing what would happen to them if they were caught by the witch.

There were every imaginable creature, and some unimaginable as they were thought extinct, at the fair. As Heidi took in her surroundings, noting those who paid them no attention and those who paid a little too much attention, she listened to Suzi as she chattered excitedly in her ear.

“I thought griffons were extinct!” Suzi cried darting towards the huge half lion half bird creature who was preening itself as it sat in one of the grassy clearings dotted around the fair.

With a flick of her wrist, Heidi jerked Suzi back just as the griffon snapped its beak at her.

“Careful now,” she warned. “While the griffon is a majestic creature who, unless provoked, would not hurt one who meant no harm,” she cooed as reached up to pet the creature’s head. Bowing, it closed its eyes as she rubbed between them, a gentle purr emanating from its chest. Glancing at Suzi while she scratched, she said, “You are merely a snack. You must be careful, little one.”

Glancing over at the forest, she stared directly where the two trolls stood gawking. Terror filled their eyes as they realized they had not been as careful as they thought. Quickly looking at each, they nodded in consent and ran in separate directions. Regardless of their short stubby legs they possessed great speed and appeared to have just disappeared in a rapid blur.

Too preoccupied with the large creature who was once again eyeing her as if she was something tasty, Suzi pulled at the hood of Heidi’s cloak.

“Maybe we should look at something else,” she gulped.

Giving the Griffin one last pat, a small satisfied smile on her face, Heidi nodded and they moved on. At the next stall was a young witch by the name of Elena who Heidi had allowed in her small circle of people she called friends. With the demeanor of a shy young woman, Elena was anything but. Shrewd and almost as distrustful of others as Heidi, she picked one of her healing balms in a small clay jar with a cork stopper and handed it to her.

“You are being watched, it seems,” Elena mused.

“So it seems,” Heidi answered looking at the bottle before putting it in her basket. Pretending to look over some of the dried herbs hanging from the stall post, she continued. “It has been long since I have been in town. Who do those two belong to?” 

Elena leaned forward, signaling for Heidi to do the same.” Rumor has it the trolls are working for a very powerful Warlock, a name I would rather not repeat. But I can tell you, you must stay away from him at all cost.” 

“And why would that be?” Heidi responded, raising an eyebrow.

Carefully looking around as if to make sure no one was listening Elena continued in a hushed voice ” He is evil incarnate. Some say he is the Devil himself. And among other things, he’s responsible for the death of many of the pixies and the fairies..so please take care of your little pet.”

Visibly wincing at Elena’s careless words, Heidi quickly corrects the girl’s assumption. “Suzi is not my pet, but I thank you for the warning. We will be careful.” Paying for the item, Heidi wandered off into the crowd, bracing herself for the outburst that was inevitable. 

The little pixies face was as red as the berries on the bushes scattered throughout the forest. Just as Suzi was about to release her rage, Heidi lifted one finger, and placed it to her lips, immediately silencing the tirade.

“The trees have ears little one, and they are listening.” 

“But Heidi she has no right…”

The look Heidi directed at the still angry pixie shut her outburst right down. Expelling a deep sigh, Suzi pointed to the woods beyond the fairgrounds. “We can find a spot to put up our tent in here.” And taking the lead she flew ahead of the ancient witch to find a resting spot for them both. 

After approving of the spot, that was a good distance away from the majority of the fair goers, Heidi gathered her magic, and with a few words and a flick  of her wand a simple tent appeared where the space once stood empty. 

“After you little one.”

Flying through the open flap Suzi gasped in surprise. The inside of the tent appeared twice as large as the outside would have you believe. The inside came equipped with all the comforts of home. Looking around in amazement, Suzi spotted a hollowed out tree stump with a thick  cushy pillow inside of it and red velvet curtains that covered the opening. “For me?”

A genuine smile stretched across Heidi’s face. “Yes dear one, for you”

Suzi could not contain her excitement as she flew around the tent, bouncing off the sides of the heavy canvas material, until she bounced into one of the lanterns that contained a burning candle. Just as the lantern came crashing to the ground, Heidi grabbed it and set it back on the table. Stopping mid-flight Suzi cleared her throat. “Um…I think I’ll go check out my bedroom.” and quickly darted behind the curtains. 

Sighing, Heidi walked over to the table and set her basket down on top before emptying its contents. Taking time to prepare a mid-day meal, she then sat down and took out the last content lying quietly on the bottom of the basket.

“What is that?” Suzi asked fluttering over to where her plate of nuts and fruits waited for her.

“A note that someone slipped into my basket when they thought I was not looking,” Heidi mused, opening it.

“What does it say?” Suzi asked before popping a juicy piece of peach into her mouth.

“It seems to be a warning of some kind,” Heidi frowned. 

Grabbing another piece of the delicious peach, Suzi fluttered over to perch on Heidi’s shoulder so she too could read the note. “Is it from that witch who called me your pet?” she growled.

“No,” Heidi answered absently.

“The nerve of some people,” Suzi snapped before shoving the piece of fruit into her mouth. “Me! A pet!” she continued as she chewed. “I should have turned her into a toad for such an insult. Or maybe a goat. What do you think?” 

As she talked juice dribbled down her chin landing on the front of Heidi’s dress. Glancing at the dots of juice that now stained the paper down to the mess that was staining her top, Heidi frowned. The pixie had every right to be angry. She just wished it was not with a mouth full of fruit.

Not waiting for Heidi to answer, Suzi continued her tirade as she lifted off of Heidi’s shoulder to land near her plate where she picked up a slice of grape.

“Maybe I will go and turn her into a mouse and feed her to the gryphon. Then we’ll see who is a pet and who is….”

Tuning her out, Heidi looked at the paper once again. There were four words scrawled across it. Four words that confirmed what she feared. That the festival was a trap. What she had not considered was, it was a trap set solely for her. The question was, who had laid it.

A cry of surprise followed by a crash brought Heidi out of her musings. Twisting towards the sound, she saw a flickering glow from one of the tents inner doorways. Muttered a curse, she quickly rose to put out what she was sure was a fire in the kitchen.

Fluttering to the floor, forgotten in her haste, the note softly landed on the rug, it’s words facing the tent’s canvas ceiling. 

You will be mine.

Copyright © 2020 Heidi Barnes & Suzanne Carey

We are not sure when each chapter will come out or how many there will be. We actually live across country from each other, as in on opposite sides of the continent, so our schedules are not exactly in sync, but we will do the best we can.

Broken Promises – Chapter 16

Chapter 16

Under Commander Well’s watchful eye, the guards carrying Tanis laid him on the couch. Now that the emperor had reacquainted the two immortals from the prophecy, they would be sharing the same room until the emperor changed his mind. This new apartment was bigger with a bedroom off to one side and a separate bathroom. The room was sparsely decorated with an eating table, couch, chair and a couple of side tables. There were no windows or knick-knacks, and the only picture was that of the emperor glaring down at them. Next to the apartment was a room the emperor had especially made to break his new pet. Just the thought of what was in there waiting made the seasoned warrior shudder.

He is giving them a false sense of security while next door is nothing but blood and pain, Wells thought, his eyes once again taking in the room before him. No. That was not true. Not even this room seemed…safe. The very walls excluded evil intent. Gazing down at the unconscious form on the couch, Wells did not envy the newcomer. He also wondered with the way the emperor jealously guarded his witch, how long it would be before he moved her back into her old rooms that were attached to his.

Tanis groaned, his hands going to his head. The guards immediately leveled their weapons at him. Having witness what happened in the throne room they were taking no chances. This male was powerful, and dangerous. The next moment, Aden walked into the room, his presence dwarfing everyone but the man lying dazed on the couch. Wells watched as the young lord glanced at Tanis, a mixture of emotions flitting across his face Commander Wells could quite not read before it settled on grim determination.

“Leave us,” Aden commanded without looking at the men, knowing they would do as they were told without question.

Commander Wells gave Aden a short bow then motioned the men out. Backing to the door, keeping their eyes and guns trained on the figure on the couch,they left one by one, the door sliding closed behind them.

Closing his eyes, sighing, Aden braced himself for what he knew would bean unpleasant conversation. Tanis was important to Kara, so Aden did not want to alienate him. At the same time, he needed to make the immortal understand there was no fighting the emperor. At least not at the moment. Opening his eyes,Aden watched as Tanis slowly sat up, placing his elbows on his knees his face in his hands, trying to shake off Aden’s blow.

“Do you want to see her dead?” Aden snapped into the silence. So much for not alienating.

“Be careful, boy,” Tanis growled turning his head so he could glare at Aden. “You may have been able to blindside me once. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it will happen again.”

“I’ve already heard the same story from the emperor,” Aden growled striding over to Tanis glaring down at him. “I don’t care how powerful you are,I will not allow you to hurt Kara.”

Tanis stood so they were now eye to eye, nose to nose. It wasn’t that difficult since Tanis was only an inch shorter than Aden.

“Not allow?” he snarled.“First off, you are in no position to allow or not allow me anything. I could kill you with a single thought. Second of all, bonded or not, Kara is mine. You will not touch her.”

“Kara chose me,” Aden reminded.

“Because she had no choice! If she had not reconnected with you then the demon would have forced his own bonding on her, and we both know that cannot happen.”

“Just as we both know that is not entirely true,” Aden corrected quietly.He stepped back, his anger fading, although his eyes never wavered from Tanis’s. Yes, if she had not bonded with him, whatever he had felt trying to take her from them would have sunk its claws into Kara in a way they would have never been able to break. But as Aden knew deep down in his soul that was not the reason Kara reestablished their bond, so did Tanis. It was why he was so angry, so hurt.

“Why? When?” Tanis asked the pain evident in his eyes.

“Almost fifteen years now and I don’t know why?” Aden answered knowing what Tanis was asking. “I was sent to retrieve her from Colin and bring her to the emperor. The moment our eyes met it just….happened. The bonding was so fast, so final, there was no questioning it or escaping it.”

Tanis fell back onto the couch with a tired sigh, knowing exactly what Aden meant. Every time he and Kara found each other the same exact thing happened to them. One look, one touch and the bonding began. It was only because she was so weak and did not want to live that it took longer this time.Now all that was left was the last piece of the ritual, and he needed the boy gone and her here. Frowning at the door, he wondered where she was.

“The emperor kept Kara for a few moments longer,” Aden answered the unasked question. “She should be here shortly.”

“You left her with him alone?” Tanis snarled moving to stand.

“Don’t,” Aden said, the promise of violence thick in his voice. It stopped Tanis, startling him. “My master did not go to all the trouble to bring you two together and not allow you to finish the ritual. He will not harm her.” What he left out was the strange way the emperor was acting towards Kara.The complete opposite from just an hour ago. As if her well being was once again important to him.

Tanis heard the surety was in Aden’s voice, but his eyes betrayed him. A slight flinching around the edges. Tanis had Kara’s memories. He knew what happened when they displeased their master.

“I’m assuming the de…Caius was not happy about your bonding with Kara,”Tanis said, carefully watching Aden. Did he know about the demon that resided inside Caius?

“No,” Aden answered his eyes going distant with some unpleasant memory.“He tried to force us to break it, but even if we wanted to we couldn’t. I think he knew that, but he still tried. Still punished us because we refused.”

Tanis frowned. Aden’s voice had grown so soft, so full of a horror Tanis could only imagine what the demon had done to him that would make this obviously powerful man shudder with fear. When Aden met his gaze, Tanis was shocked at the haunted look in the boy’s eyes.

“You must understand the chains Caius has wrapped around us. If you fight him it will rebound on Kara tenfold. If you attack any of his men it will rebound on Kara tenfold. Anything you do to defy him, Kara will pay the price with unimaginable pain.” Aden stepped forward his voice fervent in his need to make Tanis understand. “I saw your expression when Caius mentioned Colin. All the color drained from your face. I know you know who he is, what he is capable of. The things that Colin had done to Kara before we found her….” Aden hesitated,swallowing hard to keep the bile down. “That bastard had her for ten years before we found her. You cannot begin to imagine what he and his son had done…..”

Tanis rose to his feet, rage course through him. “Anthony touched her?”he snarled.

“He did more than touch her. He used her weakness against her, telling her he would protect her if she would give him what he wanted.”

“And what was that?” Tanis asked, his voice squeezed down to a hoarse whisper.

“A son.”

Tanis turned and walked away, his hand over his mouth as he struggled to regain control over his rage. What he wanted to do was destroy everything on the ship then go and find the little bastard and kill him, slowly. But if Aden was right about the spells, then he was trapped.

“I will kill him,” he hissed.

“Get in line,” Aden scoffed. “When Caius found out, he put a bounty so high on both of their heads every bounty hunter in the known universe has been looking for them.”

Frowning at a sudden thought, Tanis turned to face the boy. “Yet when I arrived here, Kara was near death because Caius gave her to his guards.” A small smile crossed his lips at Aden’s shocked expression. “There is very little we can hide from each other. I knew what was happening down on the planet, I just didn’t understand what I was seeing, or feeling. The moment we touched, I knew everything.”

“Then you know how Kara feels about me. How I feel about her. That I will do everything in my power to keep her from suffering that kind of abuse again. Including knocking you senseless,” Aden said with a smug quirk of his lips.

“Again, a lucky punch. It will not happen again,” Tanis promised rubbing his sore jaw.

Snorting his doubt, Aden sobered. “I don’t want to see her broken one more time. She will not survive. Please. Do as Caius asks. Don’t fight him.”

“And you can honestly say that you will not?” Tanis asked his eyebrow raised in disbelief. “Remember, what Kara sees, I also know what you have done to try and protect her, and why Caius is sending you down to the planet. He knows what it will do to you and Kara. How much pain it will cause both of you,yet you are telling me you do not want to hurt her.

“If I refuse, the repercussions will be far worse. Kara and I have been separated for years and we survived.” Barely,he added to himself. “We will survive a few days.”

“Pretty to think so,” Tanis said knowing the lie the boy was trying to convince himself of.

Aden turned away, unable to meet his eyes.

Tanis smiled in response.

“He wasn’t always like this, you know. Caius. Once he was gentle, kind. He had his ambitions, was ruthless when he needed to be, but never…enjoyed that ruthlessness.When we first found Kara, he treated her as if she were something precious.Now….” Aden turned towards Tanis, his confusion plain for the other man to see on his face. “Now I don’t know him. The things he has forced on Kara in the last few weeks…. The Caius I know would have never done those things to her.”

“That is because it is not Caius who is doing them,” Tanis answered, his eyes distant with the memory of that last days they were together two thousand years ago. The pain and fear when they realized what Caius had done. What it meant. How it would affect them all.

“You kept calling him Demon. As if that was his name,” Aden said,breaking into Tanis’s thoughts.

Taking a deep breath and letting it out while his body shook, Tanis looked up at Aden. “Because what is inside my brother, what you heard today, is a demon. I just don’t know which one or why Caius invited him into his soul.”

“The prophecy,” Aden whispered.

“What about it?” Tanis frowned.

“He always said there was someone whispering hints on where to find the original prophecy. That it held secrets that the powers that be had kept from the players, which are Caius, you and Kara. A way to end the cycle of loss and death.”

Tanis’s smile disappeared at the innocent reminder of who belonged to the prophecy and who did not. They had been living the prophecy for millions of years and never once was this boy a part of it. He did not belong now. “I know you have been with Kara for most of this lifetime. That you have been there for her emotionally, done your best to protect her against forces far beyond your abilities, but the fact remains you are not part of this story. As I am sure my brother agrees, I will make sure you will not touch her again. Not while I’m alive.”

“And what about what Kara wants?” Aden asked, his temper flaring. Being with Kara was the only thing that felt right in his life, and all anyone ever kept telling him was he could not be with her. He read the part in the prophecy that mentioned the Catalyst. He knew without doubt that he was the Catalyst and the part he played in the never-ending cycle they were all caught up in. “Whether you or Caius want to admit it or not, I am part of this. Kara is a part of meas I am a part of her. To deny my place in her destiny is to lie to yourself how important I am to her.”

Tanis’s entire body tensed. Aden could see it took a great deal of willpower for him to relax and not attack him for suggesting Kara may love him, may want him in her bed. Caius was dangerous, but this man, if given the chance, could be so much more.

“The legends say you are the benevolent one, the gentle one. From what I have seen today you are far from those things. You would love nothing more than to kill me,” Aden said keeping his voice as neutral as possible, “but you can’t, can you. Not when you know what it will do to her.”

“Do not believe everything you hear or read. I may be labeled as the benevolent one and Caius evil, but there is rarely ever any true good or true evil. The only constant in this game we play is that Kara is the balance that keeps us from destroying everything that had been created, good or evil. The one truth that is written in stone, unchangeable, is that Kara belongs to us and we will destroy anyone who tries to take her from us,” Tanis answered his eyes and voice telling Aden he was walking a very fine line.

“Until now,” Aden corrected.

Tanis came up snarling from the couch. Tired of being threatened by males who thought they had a right to tell him who he could love, Aden’s thin hold on his temper snapped. Holding his ground, he snarled, “If I wanted to take her from you, you would not be sitting here now. I would have killed you long before you came near her, but I knew how important it was for you to find her. So much so I willingly gave her up knowing what it would cost me. It doesn’t change the fact that for some reason only the Gods can fathom I am apart of this, whether you like it or not.” The image of Caius with Kara only minutes before cooled Aden’s temper some as curiosity pushed its way forward. “Something is different, though. Something has changed.”

The sudden change in mood made Tanis blink in confusion. Whatever Aden was thinking that put the crease between his brow and frown on his face so suddenly seemed important, so he pushed his own anger back and asked, “What?”

Aden looked up at him. “Before I left the throne room, I watched Caius with Kara. He was…gentle,” Aden finally said after struggling to find the right word. He looked at Tanis wanting him to explain to him what he had seen. “These last few weeks I have seen him do horrendous things to her and enjoy every minute of it, but as I left the throne room I saw him look at her as if she was the most precious thing in the world again. The sudden change doesn’t make sense.”

Before Tanis could respond, Kara walked into the door, stopping in her tracks as she saw the way the two were staring at each other and felt the residual anger that still permeated the air.

“What did I miss?” she asked frowning.

Tanis immediately walked to her, pulling her into his arms. Two thousand years he had been waiting to hold her, he did not want to wait a moment longer.It was not until she melted into his arms that his body finally relaxed. She was with him, she was safe.

“Did he hurt you?” Tanis asked moving only far enough back to look into her eyes. Kara shook her head no before burying her face once again in his chest, her arms winding tightly around him. Frowning he looked to Aden for answers.

“I think I know what he did,” Aden answered sadly. Walking towards them,he hovered his hands over Kara’s head, slowly moving them down across her shoulders and down her back but not touching. “He strengthened the web, didn’t he,” he sighed stepping back.

Kara nodded.

“Web?” Tanis asked.

“I told you about the spells he has wound around her so that if she tries to fight it rebounds on her tenfold. Think of them as a spider web, each strand weaving throughout her body connecting every nerve ending, and when you pull one of those strings it vibrates through the entire web, setting off each and every nerve at once. That is what happens to her when that web is activated. It’s one of the ways Caius controls her…us. The threads must have weakened when you…tore me from her during the bonding.” Then he frowned moving closer again, his hand hovering over her.

“What?” Tanis asked worriedly. He did not like Aden near Kara, but Aden was not trying to pull her from his arms and he could feel the boy was genuinely concerned for Kara.

“He seems to have added a few more. Interesting,” Aden mused. It was difficult to stand by and watch another man hold her, and it must has shown on his face because suddenly Tanis pulled her behind him growling.

“You will not touch her,” Tanis snarled glaring at Aden who had frozen with his hand still extended.

“Stop!” Kara commanded moving in between them.

“He is not part of this, Kara,” Tanis snapped glaring down at her.

“Yes, he is. I don’t know how or why, but he is. You know this to be true, Tanis. You felt my soul cry out for him. Searching for him.” Kara put her hands on Tanis’s chest, her eyes begging him to calm down.

Did she believe the lies Aden had been feeding her. That he was part of this? Part of this age old war? Part of the makeup of the universe? Part of her?That last thought set Tanis’s blood boiling with rage. There had only been the three of them. Good and evil circling around Kara, keeping the universe spinning in its delicate dance. Kara was good and pure. Despite the differences in the two brothers, she loved them both equally. Aside from their mortal soulmates, there had never been anyone else but the three of them.

Until now.                   

In order for the demon to bond with Kara, it would first have to break one of theirs and then force Kara to his will. It had to be an act so vile his black essence could break through the light of what was their love for each other. Bending her to its will, breaking her, controlling her, owning her.

Tanis knew why the demon had not been able to take her from them. No matter what the prophecy claimed them to be, Caius claimed to be, what their elders deemed him to be, deep down Caius truly loved Kara, and the thought of hurting her, possessing her, did not sit well with him. But this time Caius had broken the rules. He had invited an unknown entity into his soul. Managed to break one of the most stringent of rules by surviving his and Kara’s death.Waited and searched to find her first, then had done acts so vile that in all their years of struggle Tanis thought him incapable of. The images that tore through Tanis’s head. Images of what had been done to her while he had been unable to help her, set his teeth on edge. Images of what had been done to her in the last twenty-four hours. And then there was the necklace. The once piece of the puzzle that made the least sense. A piece of their mythology that was deemed so vile it was thought to have been destroyed. How did Caius even find it?

A small movement behind Kara and Tanis’s eyes narrowed once again on Aden as images of him helping Kara heal after Caius was done torturing her flowed through his mind. Of Aden being punished for disobeying his master time and time again because he tried to shield her from the worst of the pain. Of those rare moments when alone…. The images were suddenly gone.

Tanis frowned down at Kara. They had never kept secrets from each other before. Before he could question what was so important that she would start now, Kara’s emotions washed over him in that familiar soothing way and he realized something. That as much Aden loved her, she loved him too. That she needed Aden to survive much in the same way as she needed him and Caius to survive.That the last part of the ritual that was beating against him to finish what was started, was also beating at her and it was not all aimed at him. That some of it was aimed at Aden, pulling him too her as it pulled Tanis. It was a comprehension that tore something deep within Tanis he did not understand, taking that simmering rage of jealousy and bringing it to a rolling boil.

“You will never touch her again,” Tanis hissed taking a step forward with Kara still in his arms, his eyes blazing with rage.

Kara dug her feet in, holding Tanis away from Aden as Aden’s frustration and terror of losing her sliced through Kara, making her gasp. She needed to calm his fears before they incapacitated both of them. Kara’s calm pushed through Tanis’s anger. I need to speak with Aden. Alone.

Tanis looked down at her, his eyes wary. When he saw the love in her eyes, love he knew was for him because he could feel it weave itself through his soul, soothing his rage, the love that had always been there, would always be there, he finally nodded. Cupping her face in his hands, he leaned his head down, kissing her tenderly until she relaxed against him with a soft moan. It was to reassure her that he was not angry with her and a clear message to Aden that she was his. When Tanis moved back and his eyes found Aden’s, his hands still gently cupping Kara’s face, his eyes were no longer tender.

“Touch her and I will make you regret it,” Tanis warned. He gave Kara one more gentle brush of his lips before releasing her, turning and walking into the bedroom, hitting the button with more force than necessary so the door slid closed.

The silence was deafening.

Chapter 15
Chapter 17

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises – Chapter 7

Chapter 7

 

Queen Maura sat on her throne glaring at the daze healer the two idiots she had assigned to keep him alive dumped at her feet. Said idiots promptly took five healthy steps back and stood closer to the door than their queen. Not that that would save them. No. Once their visitor had collected his package she would string them up in the healer’s place and teach them a lesson they would soon not forget.

Slowly, her hand gripping her staff in an attempt to stem her anger, electricity sizzling across the medallion at the top, Maura stood. Today for their special guest she wore her favorite outfit. The material was modest in cut. A halter style top that tied at the back of her neck and mid back, covering her small breasts while leaving her back bare. The skirt flowed around her, a silver belt holding it in place low on her ample hips, draping down around her legs with a small train. But that was where the modesty ended. The translucent white material left nothing to the imagination and set off her dark creamy skin to perfection. Holding her long shocking white hair in place was a circlet of red gold, twisted in an intricate design with a large white jewel set in the middle.

Immediately those who surrounded her, including the guards, dropped to one knee, head bowed. As befitting one of her station, she thought with an evil gleam in her grey eyes. She was a goddess after all. Dropped from the heavens the gods know how many years ago, when she stumbled out of the woods covered in soot and dirt the natives saw her exotic looks and the fact she had emerged from the place of The Great Release as a sign from the heavens that she was here to save them. What they didn’t know was that she was an interstellar thief running from the authorities and was shot down on this backwater little planet and left for dead. She had hoped to entice the handsome Lord Sahen into taking her with him and far away from this technological void she had been forced to live in.

As she neared the healer who lay crumpled on the floor, her dreams of escaping dwindled. She was not ignorant of who Aden Sahen or his emperor were. Rumors of their power and thirst for domination were the stuff of nightmares told to little children who did not obey their parents. Maura had seen for herself what was left of a world that refused to bow down to them. Now they were here, and what she promised them was half dead at her feet. With a tap of her rod on Tanis’s side, a small jolt of electricity shot through the healer’s body forcing him to turn over. When Maura saw the growing bruise on the side of his face her temper exploded.

“You fools!” she bellowed. “I cannot deliver him in this condition. He was to be broken, not damaged beyond repair.”

“We are sorry mistress, but if I hadn’t backhanded him, Tenan would be dead,” Reyal whined.

“Better him than the entire world,” she hissed. “Get a healer in here immediately. Maybe we can fix this before it’s too late.”

“Too late for what,” a calm authoritative voice asked.

The queen whirled around to see Aden standing in the doorway of her throne room, two men dressed in red behind him. Her first thought was how handsome the young sorcerer was. The second was she wondered what he would look like without his long black coat or the black shirt tucked into tight black pants. As he strode closer she realized he wore black boots that rose to just under his knees. How delicious it would be to strip those boots and pants slowly down those long legs, and lick her way back up to what she was positive was as impressive as the sorcerer himself. Those wicked thoughts were quickly replaced by apprehension when Tanis groaned behind her and Aden’s eyes narrowed, flashing red.

“My Lord Sahen,” she cooed swaying up to him. “So wonderful to finally meet you. I had not expected to see you until after the noon meal.”

Aden regarded the queen with indifference. Although a handsome woman, the clothes, or lack thereof, she wore disgusted him. It reminded him of the outfits Caius forced Kara to wear when he wanted to distract his enemies during negotiations with thoughts of Kara theirs for a night. It had taken every ounce of will power not to kill the bastards with every leer or carnal thought that raced unfiltered across their faces. Every one of those thoughts that Kara could hear, feel while she stood by the emperor’s side like some expensive toy the emperor had brought out to show and tell, but not touch. It had been physically painful for Kara not to act on those thoughts, a side effect of what she called her curse that the emperor took great delight in.

“We arrived earlier than expected. The Emperor wants to finish our transaction so we can move on to more important tasks,” Aden gruffly answered the queen. He wanted to be gone from this place as quickly as possible. Something was not right. He just could not figure out what it was.

“More important?” the queen repeated, unable to keep indignation out of her voice that she was obviously being dismissed. Pasting an expression on her face that promised Aden any desire he wished, Queen Maura sashayed towards him, placing a hand on his arm and sliding it up to his shoulder as she move so her body was a breath away from his. “But I thought you were to bring the girl here and they would both be trained by my men,” she pouted.

As if he would allow her men to touch Kara. Ignoring her obvious ploy to distract him with her body, Aden brushed past her to where Tanis lay groaning. Squatted down next to him, Aden studied the man. A large bruise covered the upper half of the left side of Tanis’s face. His dark shoulder length hair was wet and combed away from his face which was gaunt as was his body from malnutrition. Outward there was nothing special about this man. A simple healer that had led a simple life. Six months. They had given Maura six months to break this man, yet his mind was still whole. Still a threat. It spoke of an inner-strength that was as rare as the woman who waited for them up on the emperor’s ship.

So this is the man that will take Kara from me, Aden thought. A wave of intense jealousy had his hand up as if he were going to strangle Tanis before he could think of the consequences. Quickly Aden reigned in his powers before he did something very foolish. Bringing Tanis to his master dead would do neither him nor Kara any good. But before he could stand, Tanis grabbed Aden’s wrist with the strength that belayed his weaken state. His dark blue eyes flew open locking with Aden’s, freezing him where he crouched.

“Help her,” he croaked.

Images of arms and legs intertwined, bodies moving, skin against skin, rough hands, stings of leather. Moans of pain and pleasure, of cruel laughter and pleas for mercy that would never come. The sense of hopelessness and loss of will to go on as a life force slowly diminished.

Gasping, Aden stumbled backwards, his eyes wild as the world spun around him. As his eyes darted around the room, the images in his head slowly fading as the room around him came into focus. The first person he saw was the queen, who stood frozen with one hand on her chest and eyes wide. The rest of her people looked at him with more than a little fear. The two men he brought with him watched with dispassionate eyes, used to the oddness that was ever present in their world.

“Are you alright, Lord Sahen?” Queen Maura asked taking a step forward, a worried frown on her beautiful face.

Was he alright? The images filled his vision again along with the confused emotions of unbridled pleasure and despair. The emotions cut through him, piercing his heart and driving him to his knees. One hand on the ground while the other clutched the front of his shirt over his heart, he looked at Tanis who was watching him and gasped, “What have you done to me?”

“You have to save her,” Tanis whispered hoarsely, reaching for Aden. “She will not last much longer.”

With a sudden clarity that drained the color from Aden’s face, he knew who Tanis was talking about and what those images meant. “He wouldn’t,” he breathed in horror.

Tanis’s only answer was a stricken expression and a slight nod of his head. Those dark blue eyes that shone with deep knowledge and intelligence dimmed and became confused, dazed. Glancing around him, his hand going to his head as he winced in pain, Tanis mumbled, “Where am I? What’s going on?”

The terror that consumed Aden at what was being done to Kara squashed down the questions that rose about Tanis’s sudden change in behavior. He had to get back to the ship. Now.

“The deal has been altered,” Aden announced in the quiet as he lurched to his feet. With a motion of his hand, his guards started for Tanis. As they hauled him to his feet and began to carry him out of the room, Aden turned his murderous glare to the Queen who blanched. “I hope the Emperor is not too displeased with his condition,” Aden snapped.

“Two of my men claimed he tried to kill them. They acted in self-defense,” the queen explained quickly.

“Are they still alive?” Aden followed the queen’s gaze to the two guards who were kneeling by the wall vainly trying to be invisible. With a flick of his wrist they both fell over, dead.

The queen gasped at the sheer power it would have taken her to do such a thing but seemed so easy to this Sorcerer. She looked back at Aden wide-eyed, realizing that the rumors were true and maybe she would be better off staying on this backward little planet. Especially with the mood the foul mood the sorcerer was now in. Without even so much as a glance at her, he strode out of the throne room.

Aden ignored the queen, who was calling out to him, desperate to get back to the ship. Never in his wildest dreams did he thing Caius would do something so vile. They had talked many times about going back and killing Colin for what he forced on Kara, and now….

Closing his eyes Aden sought Kara out with his mind. When he finally found her, the images and feelings that came back to him were a jumble. The fear and pain he felt before slammed into him again. Staggering, he grabbed the wall for support. Shit! Racking his brain trying to figure out what they had done to upset the emperor enough to warrant this kind of punishment, Aden ran for his cruiser, desperate to return to home as quickly as possible to prove his fears wrong.

Chapter 6
Chapter 8

Copyright © 2018 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises – Chapter 6

Chapter 6

 

Kara stared out of the window of Caius’s immense spaceship onto the planet below, the cowl of the rich green silk cloak that covered her from neck to foot lying against her back, highlighting her deep auburn hair that reach down to her lower back. Under the cloak she wore a white dress made of sheer silk. The material was layered so there was only a glimpse of the pale skin that lay beneath. At each shoulder was a delicate silver clasp that held the dress in place, so with a click it would fall away from her body. The deep V neckline exposed a pale line of skin down to her bellybutton. Just below that a silver belt delicately engraved with vines and flowers rested low on her hips. The piece was beautiful, and if Kara had been less exhausted, less numb she would have admired it.

Caius had always lavished her with gifts like this after a conflict where the nightmares she inflicted on their enemies were particularly gruesome. It was his way of apologizing for forcing those images into her own head, because what the victim saw, so did Kara. Yet on the times she had fought him, refused to do his bidding, he used those same nightmares against her. Forcing her to relive them as if they were her own. It was as if two different people lived inside of him. One who care for her, was gentle with her, maybe even loved her in his own way. The other used her, forced her to do things for the only reason that it would hurt her, and he enjoyed her pain, was viscous in his punishments, a monster in every sense of the word.

When they first arrived on the ship, she had caught a glimpse of the man who cared for her well-being even though she was his to command, to use. That glimpse had been fleeting. Once she and Aden refused to break their bond the monster roared to life. When Aden told Caius that they could not break something magical when they did not know how it was forged, and that even if they could they would not, the monster exploded.

Kara did not know how long she spent in that small white room with no windows or doors screaming. The short coarse shift she had been given to wear lay in shreds on the cold floor, her pain so intense, unrelenting, that she had shredded the thin material to reach her skin. Praying that if she spilled enough blood the pain would bleed out with the precious fluid. She begged, pleaded, promised things she would have never conceived of doing, just to stop the pain. Nothing short of her denying Aden would suffice. The one command she could obey.

On the other side of a wall size two-way mirror that looked like a blank wall on Kara’s side, Aden was trapped in his own room, helplessly watching. With Kara’s screams echoing around him, unable to reach her, to help her in anyway, he too had promised things that had made him cringe in revulsion. Begged Caius to punish him, not her, but the emperor had refused.

There was a time when Aden thought his power rivaled Caius’s. Now he knew different. With barely a thought, without any effort, Caius bound Aden’s powers completely. Bound them then left him unable to stop the torturous pain Caius inflicted with gleeful abandonment on Kara, laughing as he watched Aden break in front of him. All because Aden dared to love her. He had asked Caius who he really was, because the man who stood before him was not the man he had grown to respect, to love as a mentor.

“I am someone more powerful then you could ever imagine. As powerful as the gods themselves,” Caius had seethed. “And you will do well to remember that Kara is mine to do whatever I wish. She will obey me. As will her mate. As will you.”

“I cannot give you what you want,” Aden cried desperate to make Caius understand that he asked the impossible. On the other side of the mirror Kara’s screams intensified. Aden tightly closed his eyes and looked away, the agony that sound caused him threatening his sanity.

“Cannot, or will not,” Caius quietly hissed, his own rage barely contained at Aden’s refusal to do as he was told. Aden could not meet Caius’s eyes, his silence an answer on its own. His voice squeezed down to a whisper in his rage, Caius repeated, “I will ask you one more time. Break your connection with Kara, or you will both wish for a death that will never come.”

“You have taken everything from us,” Aden agonized whisper filled the sudden silence. Eyes filled with defiance, he glared up at the monster before him and hissed, “You can do your worst, but we will not give you the only thing that makes our existence bearable.”

For a long moment they glared at each other. Aden on his knees, his conviction and determination etched in his expression. Caius looming over him, his rage mounting with every second Aden refused to bow down to his authority.

“So be it,” Caius hissed into the silence.

With a swish of his cloak, Caius turned and left the room, the metal door whooshing shut behind him. The moment the soft click of the door sounded Kara’s screams began once again. Closing his eyes, Aden slowly bent over until his forehead touched the cold metal floor, agony washing over him. Nothing short of total obedience would stop their torment, and that was something neither of them could give.

Then, suddenly, it stopped.

Kara felt gently arms lift her from the floor of her cell. Exhausted, her mind clinging desperately to what little sanity she had left, the only thing she remember in those next hours were flashes of light from the ceiling as she was carried back to her rooms. Of gentle hands washing the blood from her already healing body, each ragged gash tended to so it would not scar. Of her tangled hair being carefully brushed out, each tangle handled with care not to hurt her as they were pulled apart. Of being laid on a soft bed and being tucked under warm blankets. Of blessed pain free, dream free darkness.

Now, as Kara stared down at the innocent planet, she wondered what had changed. Why had the torment ended when it was obvious they had not given Caius what he wanted? It had something to do with this planet, but she had not the opportunity to ask Aden and she was too afraid to ask Caius. His anger was there, just under the surface, so she made it her life’s mission to be as invisible as possible so she would not bring his wrath down upon her again.

A calm soothing presence drew near her, enveloping her with a love so warm, so deep she felt the lingering pain of the last weeks subside. Closing her eyes, Kara allowed herself to fall into that warmth if only a moment. Then, very gently, she began to pull away.

Aden, her mind breathed into his. You take a big risk doing this out in the open. If Caius found out…. She let the thought finish itself. Opening her eyes, Kara fixed them on the planet before her as Aden came to a stop next to her, his eyes also on the offending planet.

Down there was the man who would take Kara from him. Down there was her destiny, his destruction If he had been given any wish he desired, it would be to take her as far away from here as possible.

It is a risk I am willing to take if it gives you a moment of peace, he countered. He projected a mental image of him wrapping his arms around her, pulling her back against him. So real was the image they both felt the heat of each other’s bodies. His love, his need for this woman defied logic. She was his drug he could not get enough of. He was addicted to her and he never wanted to be cured. Feeling her shiver against him, he mentally nuzzled her neck. Again this was a huge risk he was taking, because if Caius caught them he would punish them both. Aden was not sure either of them could survive another round of the last two weeks. When he thought about how long they have been trapped in their never ending cycle of torment, he shuddered.

“I will not allow him to deny us this one pleasure,” Aden vowed adamantly yet quietly as he gazed down at her. He took a step closer.

“Aden,” Kara began, but before she could turn towards him or assure him that she would not give in to Caius’s demand, that she loved him too much to lose him, she hissed in pain.

The pain in her lower back that radiated up to her lungs and outwards was so sharp it took her to her knees. Because they were wrapped around each other in their minds, the pain leaped into Aden. Gasping, he grabbed onto one of the steel girders that held the windows in place before his knees could collapse from under him. Quickly backing his mind away from hers so he could think clearly, Aden stared at her in horror before looking towards the doors, feeling his master’s murderous glare from across the room.

The black cloaked figure moved slowly across the room, his pale blue eyes gleaming from under his cowl. Raising hands twisted with arthritis, showing the blue veins just under the grey skin, he pushed his cowl back to show a face that looked every inch of his two thousand years. Shoulders hunched with age, his true height was hidden, although he did have to look up slightly as he narrowed his eyes at his young apprentice.

“Must she spend more days in agony because you refuse to heed my wishes?” Caius growled, his voice gravelly as if it had been used too much. “Have you learned nothing? Do you not care for her well being?”

Aden bristled at the last comment knowing that after those torturous hours of watching Kara writhe in pain, Caius knew exactly how he felt about her. “My lord,” Aden bowed before walking towards him. “I only asked how she faired. Nothing more. You know I would not risk her health any further.”

Caius looked from his most trusted servant to the girl on her hands and knees doing her best not to scream because she knew he would enjoy her pain. Frowning, he knew under normal circumstances he could trust Aden to do anything he asked of him. Yet when it came to this girl Aden refused one simple request.

The part of his brain that he had kept under lock and key from the moment he ordered Aden to retrieve Kara whispered, What did you expect? That they would bow down and grant you your every wish? You have taken everything from them. Their family, their freedom, their will. All they have is each other. Besides, no matter how powerful you may think you are, you cannot take what they cannot give.

Scowling at the unwanted reminder of that little known fact, Caius mentally put a muzzle on his prisoner. I do not need advice from weak love sick fools. I will have what I came for, prophecy be damned!

With a flick of Caius’s hand towards Kara, her pain subsided and she was able to breathe again. As much as he enjoyed seeing her suffer, there was no time for small pleasures. Noting how Aden made it a point not to look at Kara, or go to her side to help, Caius watched as Kara slowly climbed to her feet using the wall for support. Although Caius could tell it cost Aden a great deal to stay where he was.

No matter, Caius thought to himself. After tomorrow she will not even care if he is in the room.

The muffled humph in the back of his mind that spoke of a naivety Caius had lost long ago did nothing to cool his irritation. Well two could play that game.

“I have a job for you, my friend,” Caius announced in his gravelly voice as he walked over to where Kara stood, reaching out to gently stroke her hair. Inside his head, his prisoner slammed himself against the bars of his cage, desperately trying to escape so he could stop Caius from touching her. A few steps away, he could feel Aden’s desperate need to yank her away from him. Caius was impressed with the amount of willpower it took for Aden to stay his hand. Two men who were desperate to protect one small woman from her destiny. Fools. “I want you to go down to the planet and retrieve the package.”

“I thought the original plan was to bring Kara to him so we would know for sure he is the one we seek,” Aden frowned. Watching his master study Kara as if she was some prize possession, a pet, threaten to tear down the fragile walls he had built around his rage. Attacking the emperor would do neither of them any good. Looking away, he forcefully shoved the unhelpful emotion back into its box. Closing his eyes, fisting his hands in frustration, Aden realized that was exactly what Kara was to Caius. A prize possession, and soon he would have the matched pair. That thought had Aden gritting his teeth again. Kara was his.

“It was,” the emperor answered. “However, I have recently learned he is not as well trained as our young pet here. I will not risk losing all I have worked so hard for because of someone else’s incompetence.” He turned to Aden, who was now looking at Caius with neutral eyes. “You will go down and inform the queen since she could not break him then she leaves me no choice but to do it myself. Something that displeases me greatly.”

“And if she gives me trouble?” Aden asked.

“Dispose of her,” Caius ordered coldly.

“As you wish,” Aden bowed. With one last worried glance towards Kara, that unfortunately the emperor did not miss, Aden left the room.

Caius looked at the door pondering what he should do about Aden’s refusal to heed his wishes concerning his pet. It didn’t matter their connection would be severed this time tomorrow. What concerned him was it had occurred in the first place. Kara should not have been able to bond with anyone aside from the one who would father her children and one of two who had been connected to her through the prophecy for more lives than he cared to count. It was the way it had been since the beginning of time. What was different this time? The scrolls he had in his possession yielded nothing he did not already know, which frustrated him to no end. His gaze went to Kara who stood quietly staring out the window, doing her best not to be noticed. Maybe there was something new in the ones he had discovered just before he brought Kara home.

Home. This metal city was far away from her home or even his. It was a means to and end, and once they finished with this next step of his plan then, maybe, they could think about going home. Before that could happen, there was the small matter of the continuing disobedience he needed to attend to.

“How much more must you suffer before you heed my wishes?” Caius’s voice hissed through the room as he turned and walked towards his throne.

“You ask the impossible,” Kara answered not taking her eyes off the planet. There was something down there. Something familiar, but for the life of her she could not remember ever being here.

“I only ask for what is mine!” Caius bellowed, slapping his hand to his chest in emphasis.

Jumping at the sudden sharp anger, Kara’s eyes snapped to Caius. He had reached the three stairs to the dais where his throne sat. She had no real excuse for what she said next. Maybe it was the fact she was exhausted, or that she could feel Aden as he moved further away from the ship, like taffy being pulled thinner and thinner, threatening to snap in half. Or maybe it was whatever was drawing her attention down to the planet. Pick one. None of them explained her sudden stupidity.

“What is yours? What you ask for has never been yours because it belongs to Aden therefore I cannot give it to you,” she snapped in frustration.

Caius froze as he placed his foot on the last step. The stillness in the room, for there were the ever present elite guard watching over their emperor, was deafening. Wide eyes regarded Kara as if she had lost her mind, and maybe she had.

It was when the emperor began to move that the room began to breathe again. Eyes filled with horror, Kara watched him slowly turn and carefully place himself on the large black throne, making sure that his robes were just so. That the long sleeves hung just right as he gently placed his hands on the arms of the throne. He was moving with that controlled carefulness that spoke of a fine burning rage. One that would consume everyone in its path with white hot flame. When he finally spoke, his voice was the calm before the storm. A deceptive controlled emptiness that with one breath would break, destroying everything in its path.

“Maybe I have been too lenient with you. Maybe I should take a page from your past, from before I found you and you begged me to save you from the bastards that abused you. Maybe I should and give you to one of my garrisons for a few hours. Remind Aden how the touch of a man, any man, fills you with hunger and lust. Then maybe he will see you for the worthless whore you are and sever your bond as I have commanded!” his voice growing louder as his anger grew.

Kara shuddered at the thought of being raped repeatedly. Because that was what he was suggesting. It had been Colin’s favorite form of punishment. Watching as his men used her. Knowing if she did not perform to his satisfaction he would turn her over to them again the next night bound and gagged, leaving her to the mercy of the men. Knowing that once her appetites were appeased that the horror of what she had just done would eat away at her soul.

“No,” she breathed. Taking a step towards him, Kara pleaded. “Please, my lord. I beg of you. Don’t do this! We cannot give you what you want.”

“It’s the ‘we’ in that sentence that displeases me,” Caius snarled slowly rising off his throne, his eyes narrowed on Kara with rage. “There should be no we!” He began descending the steps of the dais, one after one, his voice raising as his rage did. “There should only be Aden and then you. You do not belong to him. You belong to ME!” yelling the last word to emphasize it.

“Please,” Kara whispered, her eyes locked on some far point, arms stiff at her sides, her body trembling as Caius stopped close enough to her his robes brushed her cloak.

The small voice locked away in the back of Caius’s mind broke the gag Caius had put on him and screamed his outrage. He could not do this to Kara. She was precious, she was all he had. Everything that he had done, every sacrifice, every foul act was for her, for all of them. If the bastard that stood glaring at the trembling woman forced this vile act on her it would be the one thing that would break the strong vibrant woman he loved.

Ignoring that small voice, Caius leaned down, his lips close to Kara’s ear and hissed, “Break the bond, or so help me gods I will carry out my threat.”

The movement of her head was so slight Caius barely saw it, but it was enough. She would not, or could not, obey him.

“Very well,” his voice sounding as dead as his heart was. Louder, “Captain Hiram!”

Kara jumped at the sudden loudness, her eyes snapping to the emperor, wide with terror and disbelief. Hiram had been Newell’s second in command. He had worshiped Newell, followed him blindly. Hated Aden and Kara as much if not more than Newell did. The chance to avenge his mentor’s death was a dream he thought would never come true. And now the emperor was handing her to him to do with as he wished. Hiram stopped in front of them, his red robes swishing around his ankles as he saluted his emperor and gave him a small bow.

“My emperor,” he replied sharply.

“Take her to the Red Guard’s garrison,” Caius ordered as he very slowly pulled Kara’s cloak from her shoulders uncovering her to the men’s stares, his eyes locked with hers the entire time. Draping it over his arm, he took one step back and turned to his captain. “There should be on a few who are off duty. Take care not to tear her clothing. She will need the dress when Aden returns with his package. As for her body,” he hesitated, watching the hope in Kara’s eyes spark to life as she thought maybe there would be limitations to what they could do to her. “As long as there is no permanent damage and she is able to heal adequately before tomorrow’s festivities, do with her as you will. You have until this time tomorrow.”

Kara paled.

“You promised,” she whispered. When Caius only stared at her, his expression impassive as if he did not know what she was talking about, she took a step towards him. “When you rescued me from Colin, when you brought me here, you promised you would never force me to endure his form cruelty again.”

There was a flash of compassion in Caius eyes. Just enough that Kara thought maybe the man who had made that promise was still in there, somewhere.

“You can stop this,” he said gently, reaching up to touch her cheek with the tips of his fingers. A feather light touch with eyes full of sorrow. His next words crushed that hope. “All you have to do is break the bond between you and Aden,” he smiled. That smile did not reach his eyes. Those had bled red and held a malice that Kara cowered away from.

“I can’t,” she whispered hoarsely.

“Then you leave me no choice,” his smile dimming. “Captain.” With that one word, Caius turned away from Kara and walked towards the dais, dismissing her.

“With pleasure, my lord,” Hiram smiled, the heat in his eyes turning them darker. With lightning speed, he reached out and grabbed Kara around the neck, yanking her to him. “I am going to enjoy teaching you your place, witch,” he sneered. There should be at least four men in the garrison at that moment. Four to one sounded like one hell of a party.

Chapter 5
Chapter 7

Copyright 2018 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises – Chapter 1

In everything,
there is a beginning
and an end.
Even great mountains rise and fall
as time continues to roll on.
Within that time,
a delicate balance must be maintained
or all will fall into chaos
and ruin.
The universe is no different.
Among the chaos of creation
there is still a semblance of balance,
or nothing would be able to form,
to grow,
to endure.
But what keeps that balance?
Is it divine force,
or just chance?
Is it strong and sure,
or just holding on by a thread
ready to break at any moment?
Do we have centuries,
years,
or days
before the life we know ends
as suddenly as it began?
Is it as simply as a choice between
good or evil,
right or wrong,
love or hate?
Or is it as simple as choosing to embrace both,
because without one the other
does not exist.

 

Chapter 1

 

It had been five years since they released her physically, only one year since the nightmares finally stopped. For eleven years before her release, they had done everything they could to break her. Physical torture, mental abuse, rape. All because of a moment of stupidity. A moment that would completely change her in ways that she was still trying to understand, and even though she was now free, there was a small voice in the back of her mind that kept whispering that freedom would not be forever.

Thirty-eight-year-old Kara Conner was born with a special ability. The ability to make people bend to her will. She could never bring herself to use it on anyone for her own needs. Instead she would see someone bulling someone or another stealing and gently push them into a different direction. The right direction.

In a rush to get home, or was it to school? It seemed so long ago that her nightmare began Kara could not remember, but patience had never been one of her virtues. She was in a hurry so decided to take the shortcut through the woods. One that stories were told about people walking in and never walking out. Of boogeymen and witches. Of vengeful ghosts who were either searching for their lost loves or looking for the one who betrayed them. As far as Kara was concerned it was all hogwash. The woods were not haunted by ghosts or witches or boogeymen because they did not exist.

What she realized too late was that the woods were haunted by something far worse. Something that was looking for her.

Before she knew what was happening, Kara was being dragged kicking and screaming into a reality she did not know existed. A reality where the people came from other worlds far from her home planet, Earth. Who traveled in metal cities called ships from galaxy to galaxy, making allies and conquering enemies, bending those who resist their rule to their will. People who had powers to enter her mind, cause her pain or pleasure with a single thought. Show her that the strange things she had always been able to do did not make her crazy. They made her special. Special enough that there were those hunting her who wished to use her for their own objectives.

In order to survive those eleven years, Kara had done things she would never tell her family. Acts she was not sure her husband who she deeply loved could ever forgive. Acts she never wanted her children to know their mother was capable of. Horrific, vile, degrading acts that even though the nightmares had stopped still haunted her. Acts she would do again if it meant those she loved remained innocent of the evil that marred their universe. Evil that went by the name of Colin Malvado.

Colin was the one who captured Kara in the forest that fateful day. He had technology at his disposal that Kara had only seen in movies and television shows, and his power she thought far outweighed hers. Why he needed her and her paltry magic was beyond Kara, but no matter how much she pointed out that fact, how much she pleaded for him to let her go, he refused. The one time she managed to escape with her now husband, her freedom was short lived. When he caught her, dragging her back into her living nightmare kicking and screaming, she found out just how sadistic Colin could be. The only solace she had was that her husband and child were safely hidden away.

Kara’s only refuge from Colin’s cruelty was his son Anthony. As much as the thought of giving herself to the monster’s son repulsed her, Anthony was the only one in her living nightmare that did not want to hurt her. All he wanted was for Kara to be his and that she never left him. Ever. It was an obsession Kara would learn to regret fostering.

Then new players entered the scene. A powerful sorcerer who called himself Emperor Caius and his apprentice Aden Sahen. A young man who would prove to be not only Kara’s savior, but something much deeper that they could not begin to understand or stop from happening.

When Aden and his master rescued her from Colin, for the first time in a very long time Kara felt safe. The power these new beings held guaranteed Colin and Anthony could never touch her again. She expressed her want to go home, to be with her husband and now three-year-old son. Caius warned her if she did she would only be putting them in danger, for there were others just like Colin who hunted her. Better to stay and learn how to wield her powers, keep the knowledge of her family safely hidden until she was strong enough to protect them. Reluctantly Kara agreed.

During that first year with her new protectors, Kara was taught how hone her powers, control them. She was surprised by how strong she really was. Once Emperor Caius was satisfied with her expertise, he informed her she must now earn her keep. At first she agreed, but soon she began to balk at the things he asked her to do as they became increasingly malevolent.

It was then the pain began.

In all her years with Colin, he never came close to what the emperor did to her when she refused to do as he asked. Colin’s form of persuasion was mental and physical. Part pain, but playing heavily on using her as the ships whore in an attempt to break her. The emperor was able to get into her mind, weave spells around her that set every nerve ending, every muscle, into a pain so excruciating Kara could not even begin to think about breathing.

Aden tried to protect her from the worst of it, but even he with all his power could only do so much. And they had to be careful. If the emperor knew of the strange bond between them, of how being apart from each other was physically painful, he would use it to his advantage. Kara found out rather quickly she could hide nothing from him. Furious at what he called a betrayal he could never forgive, Caius ordered them to break their bond. What Caius did not understand was even if they wanted too; the binding of their souls could not be broken. A binding that also made them stronger.

In order to control them, Caius weaved a web of spells around Kara, making it impossible for either she or Aden to outright attack him. It also made it impossible for Kara to use her magic on any of his men unless she was directly ordered to. Aden had no such restrictions, but if he were to attempt to thwart Caius from punishing Kara, his actions would rebound on her tenfold. This threat did not stop Aden from masking her pain when she lay in his arms sobbing. A kindness Caius could never seem to understand. Kara was a tool, a weapon to use against his enemies. Weapons had no feelings. Weapons had no feelings, and when they disobeyed they were punished. Severely.

When Kara thought she could take no more, Caius suddenly decided to release her. Although release was a relative term.

Promising he would leave her alone to live out the remainder of her life in peace, Caius took her to the planet where her husband Brynn and now ten-year-old son Chris lived. A planet very similar to her Earth with one exception. It was full of magic. A perfect place to hide someone of her extraordinary abilities without drawing attention to what she was. A being that when Caius explained to her what she was even Kara did not believe.

To keep her safe from her enemies, Caius put protective wards around the small county where Brynn, his Uncle and cousins resided. With the wards her enemies would not be able find or hurt her. However, if she wanted to remain free, she could not step outside the boundary of the wards or she would be lost to them.

Knowing the agony it would cause them, as one last punishment Caius ordered Aden to be the one to take Kara down to the planet surface. They materialized outside the farmhouse in the shade of five ancient oak trees.

“Stay with me,” Kara begged clutching Aden’s long coat desperately, the thought of being apart already tearing into her soul.

“You know he will never allow it,” Aden reminded his voice breaking as he held her tightly to him. “We’ve become too strong. He knows what the separation will do to us. That it will weaken us.” He moved back only enough to tip her head so he could look into her eyes. “Brynn is here. He will help you through this.”

Saying the words aloud was almost as painful as the thought of not having Kara at his side. Caius had explained why Kara needed to be here with Brynn. What she needed to do before the next step was taken, but it still did not make sense to Aden. Kara belonged to him, was bound tightly to him, just as he was to her. There would be no other for him, so why did she have to return to Brynn when in her soul she no longer belonged to him? It was as if Caius knew something they did not.

“Brynn?” Kara whispered.

It was as if saying his name gave her soul permission to call to him. The sudden pull made Aden gasp as pain radiated through his chest. What the hell? Then another more persistent, sharper pull sucked the air out of his lungs. Caius was calling him back, and every cell in his body was screaming in protest.

“No!” Kara whimpered holding onto him even tighter. But they both knew Caius would not be denied. Could not be ignored.

“I love you,” Aden whispered just before his lips touched hers.

And then he was gone.

Kara could not breathe. Falling to her hands and knees gasping for air, she struggled to stay conscious. Gods, the pain. Just as she was slipping into oblivion strong arms pulled her into an embrace, a voice she thought she would never hear again called her name frantically. Then his power breathed through her and she was able to suck in precious air.

“Brynn,” she whispered just before she slipped into the welcoming darkness.

For the next five years Kara was able to reconnect with her husband and son, Chris, have another child, a daughter they named Jamie. But the ache in her heart, in her soul, that was the absence of Aden was never far away. Where Brynn’s love and presence did lessen the pain, it did not completely eradicate it. There was always a part of her that reached out searching for her missing piece. Searching for Aden.

When Colin finally found her, the wards kept him physically out of the county Kara lived in, but they could not keep him out of her mind. There were many nights she woke in a cold sweat screaming. Brynn would hold her until she cried herself to sleep. He asked her once what her dreams were about, only once. To know what she had gone through, what they had forced her to do when he was helpless to stop it was more then he could bear to hear. So he held her, loved her, was there for her to try and help her heal. They had two children who desperately needed their mother whole and he would do everything in his power to see that happen.

Vows, even ones made with conviction as strong as steel, can be broken as easily as promises made with a passing breath or with evil intent.

 

Chapter 2

Copyright © 2018 Heidi Barnes

A Tidbit, a whisper….

There’s a story in my head that wants to be heard. A tidbit, a nugget, too shy to speak loud and show its full potential. Hiding behind the veil, peeking out to be seen only to slip away when I try to tease it out.

Once upon a time … not quite it.

The man from Nantucket … NO! NO! NO!

Four score and seventy … Ahhh! Now I’ll have that stuck in my head all day! Gah!

A tidbit, a whisper. Words that beg to be turned into a phrase, a scene, a piece of someone’s heart. Please, if you want to be heard, if you want your story told, speak up or the life you deserve may never be lived.

Copyright 2018 Heidi Barnes

 

Suzi’s Birthday Gift – 2018

As some of you know, a friend of mine and I like to play a little with writing on the spot. Suzanne Carey’s character is a fairy by the name of Suzi. I play a witch that lives in the forest. We take turns writing pieces of the story. The fun part is she is on the other side of the continent from me. We don’t Skype or talk about what is going to happen next as we write. We see what the other has written and go from there. There is an entire story around these two that still has to be finish at some point. In the meantime, we have these little surprise visits. Here is this year’s birthday party Suzi is surprising me with.

 

Suzi’s Birthday Gift

 

Waking up to the sound of the chirping birds, Suzi gave a loud yawn and a big stretch. Not very fairy like, but no one could hear her in the hole of the tree she called home. Conveniently located in Heidi’s back yard. Filled with excitement, Suzi jumped out of bed and began to plan for her favorite day. Heidi’s birthday!!

Now last year she admittedly went a little too far, but not on purpose. When Suzi tried to do good things it somehow managed to get out of hand. But this year was going to be different. This year Suzi was going to be very low key and have complete control. That was the plan anyway.

Sitting at the entrance of her cubbyhole, Suzi tapped her chin, thinking… thinking… thinking. All the sudden she leaped up excitedly, bumping her head as she jumped.

“Ouch!” she exclaimed as she rubbed the top of her head. Shaking it off, she fluttered to the nearest branch and scanned the yard. Finally seeing what she was looking for, she took off in full flight until she caught up to her prey.

A beautiful monarch butterfly was fluttering around the garden, looking for food when it rudely knocked over by an out of control fairy. Landing on the ground, the butterfly righted herself then turned to Suzi.

“What in the world is wrong with you!” she sputtered in an indignant voice.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean too. I just wanted to talk to you.”

“What could you possibly want to speak to me about?” she asked with a slight sneer in her voice.

“Well,” Suzi nervously asked. “Would you be willing to call a few of your friends to help celebrate Heidi’s birthday with me? I want to keep it low key and not to flashy this year. And I think maybe 10 or 20 of your closest friends would be just right.” Suzi was so busy chatting away about how mellow a few butterflies would be, she didn’t notice how insulted Madame Monarch was getting.

“So,” She fumed. “This Little nit witted fairy doesn’t think we aren’t beautiful enough to cause a great stir?! Well, we will see about that!!” Interrupting Suzi’s excited chatter with a loud clearing of her voice, the butterfly asked, “Time and Place?”

“Oh! Wonderful!” Suzi squealed. “Right by this big tree at noon! Thank you so much!” But Madame Monarch was already gone. Oh, ok Suzi thought. I’ll just get the rest of the party decorations ready.

Taking out her wand, she went about setting up a long table filled with all the foods she knew Heidi liked. Over to the left she created a huge dolphin sculpture made of ice. She loved how it sparked in the sun! She liked it so much she also added a mermaid ice sculpture and a lobster one for good measure. Over to the right she set up a champagne fountain with hundreds of the finest crystal glasses. So sparkly!! And everyone knows how much fairies love sparkly things.

Inside the house:

Peace and quiet. Such a wonderful thing. Yet it felt…wrong. I hadn’t had peace and quiet on my birthday in years.

A flash of concern went through my mind that something had terrible had happened to Suzi, but then I dismissed it. She was perfectly fine when I had seen her last night fluttering into her house. So why was it so quiet this morning?

Not entirely sure I should, I cracked an eye open. Nothing. Sitting up in bed, I looked around thinking maybe movement would trigger whatever ‘surprise’ Suzi had cooked up this year. Nope. Nothing. Not a dragon, or deluge or exploding volcano. No natives running for the hills, no out of control animals, the house was still standing – miracle in itself – nothing. Nada. Zip. Now I was worried.

Climbing out of bed, I raced into the living room. Not a dust mote out of place. Was I really going to have a birthday without some sort of earth shattering catastrophe? I wasn’t sure if I should be relieved or upset. Although the day was still young.

Now I was terrified.

Taking calming breaths, berating myself for my vivid imagination, I decided maybe I should take advantage of the quiet and enjoy a nice soothing bath.

Outside:

Almost done, Suzi thought.

Looking at the sky Suzi could see by the position of the sun that it was almost noon, so needing to add a final touch before the main show showed up, she lifted her wand and added a few hundred balloons, making them suspended in midair.

Viewing her creation, she was almost satisfied when she noticed there was no cake, so with a flick of her wand she added a six-tiered cake, decorated with edible flowers and shiny jewels. Finally satisfied she flew into the open window in search of Heidi.

Spotting her in the bathroom taking a nice warm bubble bath, ear plugs in her ears, eyes closed, listening to her favorite music. Wanting to get Heidi’s attention she pulled out one of her earbuds and yelled, “Heidi!!” in her ear. Heidi nearly jumped out of her skin, she was so startled, sending water all over the bathroom floor.

“What the hell!!!” Heidi sputtered.

Wiping the water out of her eyes, then shaking off, Suzi replied, “Hurry up! I have a surprise for you!!!”

 Grumbling in irritation, Heidi yelled, “Get out of my bathroom!! Now!!”

“But…”

“NOW!!!!”

Dropping her head Suzi fluttered away dejectedly, and landed on the food table, picking candy off the cake and eating it.

About 15 minutes later Heidi came out of the house and found Suzi sadly eating stuff off the cake. Realizing she might have been a little too rough on the little fairy she said, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but to be fair you should know by now that I don’t react well to loud sudden noises in the quiet. How many times have I almost singed your wings in retaliation to what I thought was an attack?”

“I know,” Suzi muttered. “I just wanted to surprise you. Look what I did!”

I looked around, amazed not only by the beauty of the ice sculptures and the cake, but by the calmness of it all. Maybe this time would be different, peaceful, non-traumatic.

“It’s very beautiful, Suzi. You’ve outdone yourself this year.” Smiling, I wandered over to the sculpture of the mermaid, marveling at the detail. The dolphin was just as lifelike. The lobster I wasn’t sure what to make of, but the detailing was no less. “When did you learn to ice sculpt?”

Noticeably happier, and feeling the beginnings of too much sugar, Suzi exclaimed, “Oh, ice sculpting is a simple flick of the wrist! I can even animate the sculptures! Watch!”

And so, with a flick of her wand, all the sculptures came to life, water everywhere. Unfortunately, just as the water started spraying a cloud of thousands of butterflies came glittering in. Butterflies hate water. The ensuing panic was epic. Thousands of butterflies swarmed all over the place, knocking down the decorations, getting tangled in the balloon strings, smashing into the cake. The scene was pure pandemonium.

Wiping water out of my eyes, careful not to crush any of the butterflies in the process, I smiled. Now this was a Suzi surprise. Sighing, I looked around me, trying to figure out what was missing. Deluge, check; mayhem, check; out of control animals, check. What was missing?

Then it hit me.

Finding Suzi trying to wrangle in the butterflies with her wet wings making it difficult to fly, I caught her eye. She looked so dejected. I was about to fix that. With a smirk that she did not understand, I raised my right hand and snapped my fingers. Instantly my house caught on fire.

“There. That’s better.”

Smelling the smoke Suzi looked over at the house.

“OMG! How… I didn’t… Oh lord!”

The fire started sparking, causing the balloons that were filled with helium to explode, causing the sky in the back yard to be filled with fire. The poor butterflies were dropping to the ground like charred pieces of paper. Searching for Heidi, Suzi was visibly terrified. Waving her wand, Suzi shot a bolt of electricity into the sky causing billowing clouds to gather, then with a massive clap of thunder the clouds let loose a torrent of water.

Laughing, I put my arms out and turned into a circle as the ground turned into a muddy mess at my feet. Slipping, I fell hard on my ass. Blinking at the sudden jarring, I looked around at all the charred butterflies.

“Well, that won’t do.”

Snapping my fingers again, my wand appeared in my hand. Frowning as I sifted through the multitude of spells in my head, I settle on one and lifted my wand. Chanting under my breath, I flicked my wand and the carcasses disappeared. Satisfied knowing they were alive and well some place safe, I tried to push to my feet only to slip back down in the mud, my clothes dragging me down.

Seeing Heidi struggle, on her birthday no less, Suzi flicked her wand and shut off the clouds. As the rain stopped the clouds parted and the sun once again shone through, and miracles of miracles a big beautiful rainbow arched itself over the smoky, chaired remains of the house. With a delicate shrug of her shoulders, a soggy Suzi flutter over to Heidi, landing on her shoulder.

“Happy birthday Heidi!”

“Oh, the fun isn’t over yet.” With a mischievous grin and another flick of my wrist, Suzi was sitting in the mud next to me, the same size minus the wings. “Wouldn’t want to damage something so delicate,” I explain to the bewildered looking fairy.

Pushing myself to my feet, leaving Suzi sitting in the mud, I stumbled over to the cake that somehow made it through the carnage relatively unscathed. Taking a knife, I cut a piece and put it on a plate. Picking up a fork, I took a generous bite and groan at the decadent taste of chocolate in my mouth.

“My favorite,” I groan.

Now unsure I want to go through with my plan, I decide to zap the top layer to a safe place for later enjoyment. On second thought, I zapped the next layer for good measure. Then, just as Suzi was managing to gain her unsteady footing, I scoop out a rather large handful of cake and launch it at her, hitting her just to the left of her nose. Smirking I wait.

Hmmm, Suzi thought. Okay…

Slipping and sliding over to the cake table, Suzi took out her wand and with a steady hand pointed at the cake, levitating it off the plate, directing it about a foot over Heidi’s head and snap…down it dropped, landing on top of her. The look on Heidi’s face was priceless and Suzi couldn’t contain her laughter. She laughed so hard she lost her balance, falling down into the mud. But she didn’t care, because in her opinion this was the best birthday ever.

 Copyright © 2018 Heidi Barnes & Suzanne Carey

Suz’s WP site is suzannevcarey.wordpress.com

Angst of a Writer

I see voices in my head
All talking at once
All wanting attention I cannot give
Imploring
Seeking
Demanding that I write their words
See their pain
Live their joy
Share their journey
So others may enjoy.
Worn down I take my pen
Situate my paper
and listen….
I re-situate my paper
and listen….
Sighing
I lay my pen down
Put my head in my hands
Praying for inspiration
Coherent thought
Help!
Silence ensues
Tension rises
All eyes narrow
Searching
….finding….
Growls of frustration
Words hissed, best not repeated
As over in the corner
In an overstuffed arm chair
Filing her nails
A glass of chardonnay
Box of chocolates
on the table beside her
My muse sits.
The one who translates
Thoughts
Pictures
Into flowing words
Her eyes glued to the TV
Watching Game of Thrones
A grizzly scene
Yet another red wedding
Unfolding
Unawares that in a moment
Fantasy may very well become
Reality

Copyright 2017 Heidi Barnes

Choices and Balance

In everything, there is a beginning and an end.

Even great mountains rise and fall as time continues to roll on.

Within that time, a delicate balance must be maintained
or all will fall into chaos and ruin.

The universe is no different.

Among the chaos of creation there is still a semblance of balance,
or nothing would be able to form, to grow, to endure.

But what keeps that balance?

Is it divine force, or just chance?

Is it strong and sure,
or just holding on by a thread that is ready to break at any moment?

Do we have centuries, years,
or days before the life we know ends as suddenly as it began?

Is it as simply as a choice between good or evil, right or wrong, love or hate.

Or is it as simple as choosing it embrace both,
because without one the other does not exist.

Copyright 2107 Heidi Barnes