Copyright © 2020 Heidi Barnes
Copyright © 2020 Heidi Barnes
Brynn sat on the top stair of the porch staring at nothing in particular. He was too lost in memories long forgotten to notice the sun moving across the sky, marking time passing since they last heard from Aden.
There was a lot that his family did not know about him and his time away. All they knew was someone by the name of Colin had kidnapped him at the age of fourteen and taken him off planet, but they did not know what had happened after that. That he had been forced into service as one of his soldiers, and in order to survive he had trained hard to become one of his best most trusted assassins. They knew that while he was away he had met Kara, who was from a different planet that was a lot like theirs and married her. They did not know that Kara and Brynn had lived on the run for two years, hiding from bounty hunters and various viscous warlords enticed by the large bounty on their heads before he and a very pregnant Kara returned to his home. They never knew the amount of blood and pain it took to get here, or the nightmares that plagued them for years afterwards. Of the instances where they had barely escaped with their lives. It was not until Colin had kidnapped Kara the second time that Brynn had told them of how dangerous Colin was, what he wanted Kara for.
Looking down at the blaster he held loosely in his hands, Brynn wondered what his life would have been like if he had not gone on that hunting trip. He guessed it did not matter now, and truth be told, he would not trade any of the horrors that followed because it brought him Kara and his children. Tightening his grip on the blaster, his eyes went back out to the garden and the beauty before him. Maybe today he would finally be able to exact his revenge on the bastard that had uprooted their lives more than once.
It had only taken a few shots for Brynn to remember how to use the blaster in his hands. Over the years, he had kept up his hand to hand combat skills, making sure his children knew how to defend themselves beyond their magical abilities, but nothing on this planet could match what was in his hands. What was coming today.
When they found out Kara was pregnant in some backwater dingy motel they were hiding in, they had made a pact that once the baby was born, if either one of them were captured the other would not come looking for them. That the safety of their child came first and foremost. When Kara’s horse had come back without her one morning and his world crashed down around him, Brynn realized how stupid that promise had been. Yet he had kept it and raised their son with the help of his family. That did not mean he had not looked for Kara by calling in every favor they had made over their years of running. What he found out had chilled him, and once the Emperor had her, he knew there was no way he could bring her home.
When she had returned to him six years later, and he held her in his arms, it was the first time he had taken a full breath in years. Now the bastards that had started their nightmare were back to claim what was not theirs. Brynn could not lose her. Not to them, not again. Today he would make sure they died a very slow and painful death.
A noise behind him brought Brynn out of his musings. Looking up, Tanis dropped next to him on the stairs, staring out into the garden his face pale.
“How is she?” Brynn asked putting the blaster in the holster at his thigh. When Tanis did not answer him, Brynn’s concern rose. He and Kara had been upstairs talking for the last, Brynn looked at his watch and hissed. It had been over an hour since Aden had left. Looking back out at the garden, his eyes searched for any sign of movement. Where the hell was he? He turned back to the man next to him who still had not answered his question. “Tanis. Kara?” he pushed.
“She’s sleeping,” Tanis sighed rubbing his face wearily.
“Then why are you so pale?”
“We just spend the last hour and a half going over the…finer details of what Malphas has done to her, and before him, Colin.” He took a shuddering breath. The easiest way for them to do that was for Kara to show Tanis what had happened. The upside was he would understand better what she had gone through. The downside was that he understood a little too well what she went through because with those images came what she felt at the time, emotionally and physically.
“Aden said he hadn’t told us everything,” Brynn said warily.
“No, he didn’t,” Tanis answered quietly looking down at his hands. “I knew Malphas was a monster. I just never thought …. And Colin,” Tanis did not finish his thought. Closing his eyes tightly, he tried to will the images out of his head. After a moment, he opened them again, staring out at the garden, trying to replace the ugliness in his head with its beauty. “Have you heard from Aden.”
“No,” Brynn growled.
“I’m not sure,” Brynn answered slowly as he scanned the area before him. “I can feel Colin is out there, but why hasn’t he shown himself. The better question is, why hasn’t Aden called us with an update?” He held up the communicator that had been sitting on the porch next to him. “It’s been over an hour.”
Tanis regarded Brynn for a moment, sizing him up. Along with the other information, Kara shared the time when she and Brynn where fighting to survive in a universe that was unfriendly at best, and downright hostile to what it considered lower life. Which was what Kara and Brynn had become in order to stay hidden. He also knew there was no love lost between Brynn and Aden, something Tanis understood all too well, but he also knew Aden. He would never put Kara in harm’s way if he could help it.
“As much as I hate to admit this, in this lifetime Aden knows Kara better than either of us,” Tanis said quietly.
“That is not entirely true,” Brynn growled. “She has been with me just as many years as she been with him. Some of those were when Colin had us imprisoned and the time after we escaped.”
“But not in the years after Colin and broken her, when he had used her mercilessly. And not when Malphas had sunk his claws into her.” Tanis answered quickly when Brynn opened his mouth to disagree. Slamming it shut, he glared at Tanis. “Those years she never told you what was done to her and what she had to do to survive.” Brynn looked away, but not before Tanis saw the haunted look in his eyes. It was the same look he saw every time he looked in the mirror. “Listen, I’m not exactly happy about it either, but if it wasn’t for Aden, Kara would have died a long time ago.” Hesitating as painful memories assailed him, he continued in a much softer tone. “After we found her in Malphas’s room, I couldn’t reach her. Only Aden could. Even after what we saw this afternoon I still don’t understand how or why, but I can no longer deny that they are closely connected. Whether we like it or not he is a part of this, and I know without a doubt he would risk his life for hers.”
“Then why did he allow Malphas do those things to her?” Brynn asked angrily, glaring at the demi-god.
“For the same reason I allowed it,” Tanis whispered.
Brynn’s look of utter shock turned into a glare as those words sunk in. “Allowed it?” he snarled.
“If we tried to stop him, or refused to do as he ordered, the punishment would have been far worse for all involved.” Tanis paused, trying to find the words to explain what he had come to realize. “I don’t think Colin finding Kara was chance.”
“What do you mean?” Brynn frowned.
“Since the beginning of time there has been a set course for the universe. A master plan, if you will. Kara, Caius and I have been a major part of that master plan, as have the mortals that bear our children, such as you and my wife.”
“And who decides this master plan?” Brynn asked. Something about the thought of some being deciding their fate, deciding that Kara go through the horrors she had rubbed him wrong.
Brynn’s words pulled at something in the back of Tanis’s mind. A thought or memory trapped by some force he did not quite understand that desperately wanted to escape. Frowning, Tanis asked, “What did you say?”
“Who decides the master plan? Who is so powerful that they can dictate what happens in the universe? Who dies and who lives? Why do they believe they are above the rest of us?”
“Because they have to learn,” Tanis whispered. It was all that would come forward. That there was a lesson that had yet to be learned. Pain exploded inside his head. A bright white light blinded him as he cried out, clutching his head. From the open window above them, Kara’s scream pierced the air.
Someone did not want them to remember.
“What’s wrong?” Brynn asked catching Tanis as he slumped over onto to him.
“Memories. Trying to…break free,” Tanis squeezed out just before another piercing pain shot through his head. It was as if someone were taking a knife and driving it into his brain. Unable to stop himself, he screamed along with Kara.
Looking from the man in his lap to the doorway into the house, Brynn did not know which to help first. From what he learned, whatever Tanis was trying to remember, if it was something Malphas did not want him to remember then he and Kara would be punished.
“Whatever those memories are, stop trying to remember them!” Brynn commanded.
“Too late,” Tanis hissed.
A scream pierced the air and Brynn was on his feet ready to take a step towards the door when a chilling voice froze him mid-step.
“Well, well, well,” a voice sneered with delight. “If it isn’t our little thief.”
Turning around, blaster drawn, Brynn sought out his target only to find that target was not alone. Ten men fanned out behind Colin with their weapons pointed at him and Tanis. Knowing no amount of training would win this fight, Brynn slowly put his hands up into the air, finger far away from the trigger.
“That’s a good little servant,” Colin praised wickedly as five of the men broke formation, guns still trained on Brynn, and quickly walked up to him.
“Come down the stairs and on your knees,” one of the males barked, his gun never wavering.
Brynn hesitated for a moment, glancing down on the now unconscious Tanis who lay on the porch, before very slowly walking down the three steps to the grass below. The men moved so two were beside him, one lowering his gun only long enough to yank the blaster from his hand, throw it across the yard and once again train his gun on him. The other shoved him forward so they could flank him. Completely surrounded, Brynn glared at their leader. A man he once called friend. He knew what Brynn was capable of and was taking no chances.
“On your knees, hands laced behind your head,” the leader snapped.
When Brynn refused, his only response a narrowing of his eyes, one of the males behind him kicked the back of his knees forcing him down.
“Lace your fingers behind your head,” the leader barked again.
Grimacing, Brynn slowly did as he was told, not wanting to make any sudden moves. Part of him was smug in the knowledge that they feared him enough to take this kind of precaution. The other part knew if Aden did not show soon, or Tanis did not regain consciousnesses, they were all screwed, and Kara would be back in the hands of the sadistic bastard that was sauntering between the guards to stand arrogantly before him.
“It is good to remember one’s place,” Colin sneered.
Now that he was closer, Brynn saw time had not been kind to the male. Making quick calculations, he figured Colin had to be in his seventies by now. The grey hair did not compliment the grey complexion. The clothes, as always, were expensive, but no amount of money can hide a decaying body. Unfortunately, an old body did not mean an old mind, nor did it mean Colin was any less dangerous.
“I was never your servant,” Brynn growled.
“And I suppose Kara was never my slave, but we all know a lie when we hear one,” Colin countered.
“This one is unconsciousness,” one of the guards reported.
Colin frowned at the man behind Brynn. “Do not take any chances with that one. He is more powerful than even he realizes,” he ordered before turning to the man who had been barking orders, his gun still trained on Brynn. “Find her.” With a nod the man motioned for three men to follow and they disappeared into the house.
“Kara is not yours,” Brynn growled, glaring at Colin.
Colin turned his eyes to Brynn, his smile dimming. “Oh, I do believe she is,” he corrected his tone as if he were talking to a child. “I am the one who found her, broke her, there for she is mine. Just as you once were,” he reminded.
Brynn bristled. “Leave, before you regret stepping foot on this planet.”
“And who is supposed to chase me away? You?” Colin scoffed. “You are good, but you are not that good. As for that one,” he waved his hand at where Tanis lay, “right now he is useless to you, and Kara knows better than to disobey me. As for your so called dark sorcerer.”
From one of the many paths that disappeared into garden, Anthony walked into view. When Brynn saw who followed and what they were carrying he ground his teeth in frustration. Their situation had just gone from dangerous to deadly.
Once he was even with his father, Anthony motioned the two men who carried Aden’s bound and unconscious body to drop him at his feet. Once they did they moved back with the others, their weapons drawn, adding ten more men to the others.
Oh goodie, a party, Brynn grimaced. And the main attractions are out cold.
“This one must not be as powerful as everyone claims if mere mortals and a low class wizard can bring him down,” Anthony spat in disgust. He looked around him. “Where is Kara? I want to make sure she is alright. God only knows what the Emperor has done to her.”
The Emperor? What about what Anthony had done to her. Brynn was on his feet before he or anyone else realized what he was doing, a wicked looking knife that had been hidden in his hand. This was the bastard who had taken advantage of Kara when she was at her weakest. Pretended to be a friend, to help her, when all he was doing was using her. Killing him was too merciful, but under the circumstances it would have to do.
“He is mine,” a voice hissed through the air.
The men and their guns that had been yelling for Brynn to go back to his knees turned those guns to something behind him. Just as quickly they dropped to the ground.
Colin and Anthony’s eyes grew wide as they staggered backwards in terror. Brynn had a feeling he knew who was behind him, but he was not ready for what he saw when he turned around.
Hovering just above the stairs with huge white wings spread out behind him was Tanis. Yet at the same time it wasn’t. Brynn could not quite put a finger on it, but there was something very different about the male, aside from the enormous white wings.
Shots from above brought both their attention to the bedroom window.
“Go,” Tanis said when his and Brynn’s eyes locked. There was no hesitation. Reaching down to grab a blaster as he raced by the dead men, Brynn leaped the three stairs and disappeared through the door; the screen slamming shut behind him.
Tanis, no. Not Tanis. Gideon, one of protectors of the heart of the universe, fierce warrior and thoroughly pissed off angel turned his attention to the two males still breathing before him. An issue he was about to remedy. The worry that the spells the demon had wrapped tightly around them, that he still felt lingering within him, made him hesitate.
Do not worry, I will protect her, a female voice breathed through his mind.
And I am supposed to believe you after all you have done? Gideon scoffed. You’ve gone to far this time, Godiva.
The sigh from the female was long and weary. You have a right to be angry, Gideon, but please believe me when I say we did not plan for this to happen. None of you were to be a part of this universe. That was His doing.
We will figure out who is to blame later, Gideon snapped. First I must take care of a few loose ends. Then we will deal with your…mistakes.
As you wish, the female responded humbly.
Humble. That was new. Maybe this time they had learned something. Returning his attention back to the two cowering mortals before him, the wind began to whip around the small garden as Gideon floated down the stairs. Anthony and Colin stumbled backwards, not wanting to be anywhere near the avenging angel.
“It’s not possible,” Colin whispered. “Angels don’t exist. You’re not real.”
“Oh, I can assure you, I am very real,” Gideon smiled. It was not a pleasant smile. “And you have much to atone for. Lucky you, I have an opening in my schedule.”
With a blinding flash, the twenty dead men lying on the ground vanished. The male Anthony thought to be Aden began to groan, his hands suddenly free. Colin and Anthony did not even take notice when he pushed himself groggily to his knees holding his head in pain. Their eyes were glued on Gideon as he glared down at them with eyes filled with fire and black as coal. He was now hovering seven feet above the ground, the ones below him having difficulty holding their feet in the hurricane force winds.
Damien regained his senses enough to dodge a small tree flying through the air, hitting Anthony and knocking him to the ground, pinning him. Staring at Anthony while he groaned in pain then at Gideon in the air, murder in his expression as he glared at Colin, it only took Damien a second to realize he was in the wrong place. Pushing himself to his feet, he staggered towards the angel.
“Where is Sapphira?” he demanded.
That one name and Gideon knew who he was talking to. “In the house,” he answered, his eyes never wavering from his prey. “Brynn and Godiva are with her.”
“Good,” Damien snarled heading for the house. “I could use some stress relief. Beating that female within an inch of her existence would help immensely.”
“Save some for me,” Gideon called as Damien disappeared into the house. His eyes narrowing on Colin, the grin on his face turning Colin’s blood cold. “Now, where were we?”
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
It had been a long painful afternoon mentally and physically, but it was nothing Kara had not been through before. She was starting to think that everything she had endured was so that she would be able to tolerate the pain it caused her to be in the same room with this much anger and distrust. The icing on the proverbial cake was the jealousy that coated the air like thick molasses. There was a time Kara could shield herself from other’s emotions, but with the necklace and spells Malphas had weaved around her limiting her powers she no longer had the strength. Not with Brynn pacing the floor in front of her while Tanis hovered behind her. She had purposefully chosen an arm chair in the spacious great room. Part of the remodel that had been done on the old farmhouse before they moved in. So there was plenty of space for Brynn to pace. Sitting in the arm chair meant that there was no room for someone else, therefore she did not have to choose, and it was one less fight she had to deal with.
On the other side of the coffee table in front of Kara, Chris was perched on the edge of the couch, angrily watching his father. They had been arguing for the last fifteen minutes whether or not Chris should go back to the farm to keep an eye on his sister and younger cousins. Tanis was agreeing that he should leave because he was too young. That he had already proved he could not follow orders and how could a mere boy know anything about a centuries long battle waged by the gods. The rising tension was only adding to the mounting headache that was threatening to explode within Kara’s head. Someone had to give soon, or she would be comatose again from the pain.
Glancing at the back of the room, Kara tried to latch onto the only calm in the boiling sea around her. With a deep frown, his eyes tight with concern as he watched her, Kara could feel Aden’s presence swirling around her. He was trying to block some of the emotions, but like her, his powers were bound tight. It did not help that her anxiety was bleeding all over him. Out of the four men bound to her, Aden was the most susceptible to being overwhelmed by her feelings, as she was to his. Since that avenue was out, Aden had tried to help by pointing out to the others how much their emotions were hurting Kara to only be told to mind his own business. That he was not wanted here, so why did he not leave. Since there was no way that was going to happen, he had stood silently in the back of the room, holding up the wall, doing his best to shield Kara from the worst of the pain, which Kara was grateful for.
“Jamie is old enough to take care of them herself,” Chris argued. “I would be better off here helping you.”
“And if Colin decides to use them to force Kara into surrendering to him?” Tanis asked. While what happened upstairs with Chris had shaken him, his exhaustion was making him reckless. The gods only knew what would happen if Chris was truly angered. If angered enough, what entity would emerge instead of the twenty-one year old mortal sitting in front of him. Unfortunately, at the moment Tanis did not care. He only cared about protecting Kara, and that there were too many males in the room staking claim to what was his. While a small part of him argued that Kara had never been truly his, another voice that was much louder kept telling him that it was time for that to change. That if there were less people there would be less pain and far more peace in their lives. That their child would be safe.
“Don’t underestimate my sister,” Chris said turning his angry eyes to Tanis. When he saw the immortal’s frown and his focus seemed to be on something internal and not on him, Chris’s anger slipped into confusion. Why keep arguing he should leave if he did not seem to care one way or the other. “She may surprise you,” Chris finished absently. What was going on?
“Maybe so, but she can’t fight everyone by herself,” Brynn pointed out, bringing Chris’s eyes and focus back to him and the argument. “Colin will not be alone. He’s always come heavily armed, and with Anthony they are a force to be reckoned with. She will not be able to keep her focus on the young ones if she is fighting multiple fronts.”
When Chris opened his mouth to argue more, Aden finally spoke up.
“Chris,” he called quietly, bringing the young man’s angry eyes to him. “Your father is right. Jamie will need your help, but that is not the only reason he asks you to leave. They need to know everything that has happened in the last six years in order to understand what must be done. Don’t ask your mother to voice her nightmares in front of her son. I’m sick enough as it is that you saw what I showed your father. Think of what it will do to her.”
Clamping his mouth shut, his eyes going from the dark sorcerer, to his father than finally his mother, who looked beyond exhausted and pale, he realized Aden was right. Lowering his head and taking a calming breath, he stood and walked around the coffee table to kneel in front of her. Taking her hands in his, he said only loud enough so she could hear, his eyes locked with hers, “Don’t let them push Aden out. He is a vital part of this. A vital part of you.”
“I know,” Kara smiled wearily. Resting her hand on his cheek, her smile brightened. “I want you to know how proud I am of the man you have become, and that I love you with all my heart.”
“I love you too,” he breathed, his smile at her declaration threatening to split his face open.
Leaning forward, Kara placed a gentle kiss on her son’s forehead. “Now go,” she urged. “I will talk to you and your sister later. I promise.”
Nodding, he stood, his mother’s hand still in his, and turned to his father. “I’ll call Uncle Gavin and Aunt Delia and tell them what is going on. We’ll protect the little ones.”
“Thank you,” Brynn smiled, patting his son’s shoulder.
Turning his head, Chris locked eyes with Tanis. “Your job is to protect her, Angel. It’s always been to protect her. Don’t forget that.” Without waiting for Tanis to respond he turned to Aden. “There is a reason you are so connected to her. A reason you feel what each other feels, sees what each other sees far more intensely than Caius or Tanis. Why being apart harms you more than them. Remember and you will finally understand why.” They stood staring at each other, some knowledge passing between them that Tanis and Brynn did not understand. Frowning, Aden’s eyes glanced at Tanis before he nodded at Chris, some sort of understanding forming between them. Smiling one more time down at his mother, giving her hand a light squeeze, Chris turned and walked out the door.
“He is not,” Tanis began, unsure how to voice his concern about who and what Chris was.
“He is what he needs to be in this moment,” Aden answered, his eyes on the front door, the frown still in place.
“What is that suppose to mean?” Brynn asked, the father in him rising up to defend his son.
Sighing with a weariness that went bone deep, he was so tired of all this jealousy, of everyone distrusting him, Aden rubbed his forehead with his thumb and forefinger. “Everything that has been happening,” he looked at Kara, his hand pointing towards her, “all she has endured is for a reason. The universe is unbalanced. If we don’t fix that balance, and soon, it will implode. Chris has been trying to tell you this all afternoon. You two,” he moved his glare from Brynn to Tanis, “refuse to listen because you are spending more energy on being angry I am here and not enough on what is going on around you.”
“And you think you are the key to balancing the universe. You with Kara?” Tanis said his eyes narrowing in suspicion. “Very convenient don’t you think?”
Sighing in a way that said it was a wonder he had not ground his teeth to dust, Aden was so weary of this fight, he glared at Tanis, snapping, “We don’t have time for this.” When he saw Kara flinch, he softened his voice, his eyes apologetic as she looked at her. “I’m sorry, my love.” Ignoring the growls from the other males, Aden gathered as much calm around him as he could. Moving his gaze to the front door, he continued, “I am already well aware of what Kara is going to tell you.” His eyes drifted to a memory that seemed to be extremely painful. Closing his eyes, shaking himself back into the present, Aden looked at Kara again, “I know how hard this is going to be. If you need help explaining, just ask.”
“She needs nothing from you,” Tanis snarled.
“Tanis! Enough,” Kara scolded glaring up at him. “What is wrong with you? You have never been this territorial. This will be hard enough without you snapping and snarling at each other.”
Clamping his mouth shut, Tanis gave Aden a look that said they were not finished before moving to the other empty armchair next to Kara’s and plopped down.
Realizing this was the closest she was going to receive in the way of a truce, she took a deep breath to steady herself. “The best way to tell you is to show you.” She looked up at Brynn. “Why Aden has shown you some of it, if you do this with me, you will not only see what is happening, but feel what I felt. It is a very…intimate experience and I fear may change your opinion of me. I will understand if you wish not to be a part of the sharing.”
Brynn knelt in front of her, taking her hands in his, kissing the back of them gently. Then he turned his eyes to her, looking into them intently so she knew what he would say was truth. “I will not abandon you when you need me most. Just tell me where you want me and I will be there,” he vowed.
“You are where Chris gets his strength and bravery,” Kara smiled.
Returning her smile with one of his own, Brynn leaned in and tenderly kissed her on the lips. The tension in the room rose every so slightly before settling into a calm that was missing from the last few hours. Much like water settles into a calm after a wave disturbs its surface. Still filled with gentle waves. When Brynn moved back his expression was full of love. Lightly squeezing her hands once more, he released them, stood and moved to sit on the couch across from her.
Bracing herself for what might be waiting for her, taking a deep breath Kara turned her eyes to Tanis, who was watching her with a frown. There was a confusion in his eyes that she did not totally understand. She tried to see what it was that was bothering him, but something blocked her from entering his thoughts. That was strange. She was usually able to see glimpses of his thoughts. Instead, nothing. Glancing at Aden, who slightly shook his head he did not understand what was going on with the immortal any more than she did, she turned her attention back to Tanis..
“Mother says you need to know everything or else you will not be able to break the bonds that Malphas has woven around you,” she began. Frowning herself, she looked down at the back of the couch. “I don’t know if that is true, and the last thing I want you to see is the horrors that I have lived.”
“Kara,” Tanis breathed moving around to the side of the chair to kneel down beside her. “I have lived more lives than I care to count, have shared horrors with you that would turn the bravest male into nothing more than a sniveling coward.” He took her hand, absently thinking that the others had done so too, and it seemed cliché, but he needed to touch her, reassure her that whatever she was about to show them it would not change the way he felt about her. “Nothing you show me will change the way I feel about you.”
We shall see, she thought grimacing. Out loud, “Then maybe you should sit down. Aden was,” she hesitated, her eyes moving to the tall imposing figure standing a few feet away, his expression stricken, “shaken after what he was forced to endure.”
Both men looked at Aden. They saw what Kara saw. A strong man whose color had completely drained from his face; his eyes haunted, his hands trembling. A man who had been broken by what he was forced to witness over and over and over. Nodding, his own expression grim, Tanis moved back to his chair.
Kara’s eyes moved to Aden’s. There was a wealth of words said between them in that one look, but no words were spoken. There was no need. It was a look of shared horrors that both of them had lived, and desperately did not want to live again. Of course, the Fates had other ideas. Didn’t they always? Why let sleeping lions lay when you could stir up the entire den by dropping an injured gazelle in the middle of them. In the frenzy that followed a few lions would be wounded, but it was the gazelle who suffered the most as they ripped it to shreds.
“I will go outside and guard against any intruders,” Aden said his voice choked with an emotion that the others could not name but somehow understood. With another frown in Tanis’s direction, Aden followed Chris out the door, gently closing it behind them.
“Shall we begin?” Kara said settling back in her chair.
Glancing at each other, apprehension thick in the air, Tanis and Brynn followed Kara’s lead and settled back in their seats.
Her eyes on Brynn, because Tanis knew what to do, Kara instructed, “Close your eyes and relax. You will feel my presence in your mind and maybe a little pressure. If you do not fight it and just allow the images to flow it will be easer for both of us.”
Nodding, Brynn did as Kara asked. There was a slight pressure, as if someone was pushing at his mind. He immediately recognized Kara’s presence and allowed her in. That was the easy part. The hard part was not to shy away from the images that flooded his mind and filled his body with fear, pain and desire. So much desire. For the first time since he had locked eyes with his wife, Brynn wondered if he really knew who Kara was. What she was. What she was not, in any shape or form, was human.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
Taking deep breaths, Brynn put his elbows on his knees and pushed his hair back with both hands as he tried to get a grip on what was reality and what were dreams.
All he saw, felt, had been so real. Real enough that he had to fight to hold back the tears as the emptiness in his chest threaten to engulf him. With great effort, he clawed his way up the slippery slope that lead into the darkness. An empty void he had lived in because living had been too painful. He refused to go back there and leave his children without a parent again. But if the pain was this real, then the dream must have been real too. A vision. Right?
Was Kara really coming home?
Slowly climbing out of bed, Brynn walked to the window that faced east where Aden said Kara was would be living soon. Closing his eyes, he searched for her as he had done many times in the last six years. As before he felt nothing. The chasm opened wider, darkness reaching for him. Promising an end to the pain. Of peace. So safe. So tempting. A lie.
Placing his hands on either side of the window, Brynn gently rested his forehead on the cool glass between them, holding onto the light with everything he had. There would be no peace until Kara once more stood by his side. Maybe what he thought was a vision had only been a dream. Just his fantasies making themselves known.
“Dad?” a very concerned, very real, voice quietly called. “Are you all right?”
So this was reality. Good to know. At the same time, Brynn cringed.
His children had a very unique power. They could ride other’s dreams. Where Chris had gain control of when and where, if the emotions of the dreamer was strong enough and their connection close, like father and son, Chris could be sucked in. Brynn prayed that had not been the case this time. He could barely digest what he had seen, he could not even imagine what those images would do to their son if he had seen them.
“A bit early for you to be up on a Saturday morning, isn’t it?” Brynn asked putting a smile on his face as he turned towards his son.
Chris watched his father try to hide the turmoil he knew was inside him as he smiled his ‘everything is not all right, but I’m going to put up a good front’ smile. To add to the ‘my heart hasn’t just been ripped out of my chest again’ illusion, he began to haphazardly pull the blankets over the bed, acting as if nothing was wrong. Chris knew better. His father thought he hid it well, but the pain of losing Chris’s mother was always just under the surface. Having seen what Aden had shown his father, it was amazing his father was not drowning in his sorrow. Chris was having a hard enough time holding it together, too.
“What does Aden gain by showing you what she has been through?” Chris asked quietly, his eyes never leaving his father. When Brynn missed the hook he was hanging his shirt on, Chris knew for certain that he had not imagined Aden’s presences in the house. His mother was coming home.
Brynn rested his hand on the hook his shirt was on and hung his head, wishing for once he could keep a secret from his son.
Swallowing hard, Chris walked further into the room. “Once I realized what was going on, I shielded Jamie from the images. She’ll know something is wrong, but she won’t know why unless you tell her.”
Brynn smiled. “Since when can you hide anything from your sister?” Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, he finished getting ready for the day. Movement of any kind was better than the images he could not banish from his mind.
“When does Mom arrive?” Chris asked trying to feel excited about his mother finally coming home but unable to find any emotion aside from dread. Nothing good would come of any of this.
Brynn hesitated, trying to find the right words to explain to his son that his mother might not even know him. He turned towards Chris. “Chris, you have to understand. This prophecy,” his voice was bitter when he said that word. He always believed that one was in control of their destiny. That they could choose who they were, what they would be. Now, he was not so sure. Stamping down his anger, he started over. “Aden explained that once she and the others meet, the life they knew, their feelings and memories, would disappear. As if we never existed.”
“I heard what Aden said, Dad, and even if you don’t I trust him, I do. Mom will remember us,” Chris reminded. “We are a part of her. No force in the universe can erase that bond completely. It will just take time.” He hesitated for a moment, watching his father finish his morning routine of straightening the bed and tiding up his room. His father had had enough shocks for one day, so Chris was not sure if he should continue with what he knew or not. Deciding more information was better than not enough, he took a deep breath as he sat down on the bed. “You know, this has never happened before. One of the chosen coming back to their home planet.”
“How do you know that?” Brynn asked pulling a t-shirt from a dresser drawer. Chris gave him an exasperated look. How did he know anything? That was a question not even the gods knew the answer to. “Nevermind,” Brynn smiled closing the drawer. “So, what do you think will happen?”
“No one knows. Like I said, it’s never happened before. I am anxious to meet this Tanis though. Living as long as they have, the stories he could tell.”
Brynn’s expression darkened at the mention of Tanis’s name. Prophecy or no, preordained or not, this man took Kara from him. Becoming friends was not high on his priority list. Grabbing a pair of socks from the top drawer, he closed it a bit too sharply than sat on the bed next to Chris, pulling his socks on angrily.
Frowning, Chris moved off the bed to kneel in front of his father, who looked up at him in surprise.
“No matter what happens or how this plays out, we will get through this,” Chris promised, his quiet voice fervent with his conviction. “Together. Like we always do.”
Smiling, Brynn wrapped his hand around the back of his son’s neck and pulled him forward until their foreheads touched.
“When did you become the adult?” he joked.
“I have my moments,” Chris smiled.
Kissing his forehead, Brynn let go of Chris and sat back. Time for self-doubt later. Now he needed to gather what strength he had and tell the rest of the family that their lives were about to be turned upside down. Again.
* * *
“And you believe him?” Gavin asked as he reached for the butter. As the oldest, Gavin had inherited the farm and moved in with his wife Mary Jo and their two daughters, Emma and Bridgett, after Uncle Cas had passed the year before. Another void that would be forever empty.
“You didn’t see the look in his eyes,” Brynn answered quietly, staring at his plate but not seeing it or the food he had hardly touched. His mind was seeing the dead defeated look in Kara’s eyes. Her pale skin. Her screams.
“I don’t understand. If she can’t remember us, then why return her here? It doesn’t make sense,” Delia frowned.
“They were never supposed to return to their families,” Chris explained. “It would be too painful for all involved, but by inviting the demon inside Caius has changed the rules. And there is the baby…,” he added with a shrug before taking another bite of his eggs. It was an important part of the story that needed to be told. If his father wanted to ignore the elephant in the room, then he would have to point it out.
Brynn closed his eyes, groaning inwardly. He had purposely left out the part about the baby, not wanting the rest of them to know the darker side of why Kara was returning. He opened his eyes to see Delia, Gavin and Mary Jo staring wide-eyed at him.
“Chris, maybe you should…,” Brynn started, knowing he would now have to explain it to his cousins but not wanting to do it in front of the younger kids.
“I’m not a child anymore, Dad,” Chris interrupted, his voice sad as he looked at his father, who wouldn’t meet his son’s eyes. “I know what the demon forced Mom to do. I saw everything very clearly. Including the images your mind refused to see in the beginning.”
Brynn looked at him in horror. “No!” he whispered hoarsely.
“What did you see?” Gavin asked looking from Brynn’s horror stricken face to Chris’s ill expression and back.
“I also know one of the reasons he is hiding Mom here is because of the wards,” Chris continued ignoring his uncle’s question. There were enough people living with the horrors of his mother’s life. No need to add more. “It will keep her hidden from everyone, including the gods that they answer to. If they find out there is a child, they will do everything in their power to destroy it. Because Mom thinks she’s pregnant with Tanis’s child, someone she loves, that will in turn destroy her.”
There was a stunned silence. The way Chris had put into words what the danger was was so clinical it was hard to believe he was talking about his own mother. With a glance at each other that said they were in agreement, Mary Jo and Delia started to round up the younger kids and herded them outside. Only Jamie seemed to know what Chris’s words meant. It was in her eyes. That sad knowing that even though she was powerful in her own right, knew what was happening, there was nothing she could do to stop it. So to make the grown-ups more comfortable, she allowed herself to be herded outside with the younger kids. A few minutes later Delia came back in and sat down.
“And if they do find Kara?” Gavin asked unsure if any of them wanted to know the answer?
“It’s not a matter of if, but when they find her. And it won’t matter how old the child is or how much she tries to fight them. They will take it from her,” Chris answered looking at his uncle.
“And Kara?” Delia asked, her voice a soft whisper. “What will they do to her?’
Chris looked at his aunt for a few moments, gauging how he should answer her question. Out of everyone here, only he and his father understood his mother curse and how easily it could be used against her. To be able to feel what others felt. Have those feelings intertwined with yours, enhancing or confusing your own feelings. Have your body respond to another’s touch no matter how unwanted or repulsive. Used to gain an advantage over her, or to punish her.
There were times Chris cursed his own power. Cursed the knowledge that came with it. His whole life, the people who lived in their small community considered him strange, a freak, and it was the same with his sister. Where powers, or magic as some liked to call it, was not unusual on their planet, the kind of magic they wielded was unheard of. The ability to see into other’s minds, predict what the future held. To ride other’s dreams where their deepest darkest desires were hidden. Before he was old enough to know what he was seeing, he had blurted out more than once peoples’ deepest secrets he had learned by accidentally falling into their dreams. Not a stranger to nightmares concerning his mother, he was just happy he had realized what was going on and been able to shield Jamie from the worst of what Aden had shown his father. She did not need to know the horrors their mother went through. Even if she didn’t remember her.
“Chris?” he heard his father’s concerned voice breaking through his thoughts. It took him a moment to focus on him and realize he must have been lost in his thoughts for a while. “Are you all right?” Brynn asked putting his hand on his son’s shoulder as he looked at him with concern.
“I’m sorry,” Chris smiled. A smile that did not reach his eyes. “What was the question?”
“What will happen to your mother if these Gods find her?” Brynn asked dropping his hand.
“I don’t know. Something is different and they are afraid of what it all means. What it could do to the very fabric of the universe,” he answered gravely.
They were silent for a while, each lost in their own thoughts. If it hadn’t been for their past dealings with things unnatural they would not have been able to believe anything they had just been told. But they had. There was one more chilling thought that ran through their minds. With Kara here, it would only be a matter of time before Colin and Anthony realized she was no longer with Caius where she was better protected. Then things would get very interesting.
“Anything we decide now is mute. When Kara returns,” Brynn hesitated, swallowing down the overabundance of butterflies the thought of Kara coming home brought on. Standing, his chair screeching loudly along the hardwood floor, he reached for Chris’s empty plate. “When she returns we will see what happens and go from there.”
Gavin, Delia and Chris looked from Brynn, who had turned and headed for the sink, to each other. They knew Brynn was right. It was just the waiting for that time to come would seem long and torturous.
“You know,” Gavin said also standing with his plate in his hand. It was a signal for the others to begin clearing the table. “I could use some help with the tractor, Chris.” Winking at Delia who smiled she understood what he was doing back.
“Is it the same problem we fixed last time?” Chris asked frowning. They both reached the counter at the same time, placing their dishes on the counter next to the sink. “I thought we fixed that.”
“No. So far that one is holding. Come on and I’ll show you. This is the…,” Gavin’s voice disappeared as he and Chris walked outside, the door softly clicking shut behind them.
Smiling and shaking her head in exasperation, Delia grabbed some dishes and headed for the sink as Brynn turned on the water.
Unwillingly, Brynn’s eyes strayed out the window in the direction of where the house his wife would soon be living in with another man she supposedly loved more than him. She would be within walking distance physically, but mentally she may not know who he or their children were. Would not remember how much he loved her, needed her. How not having her with him left a chasm in his chest that tried to swallow him whole.
Closing his eyes, Brynn tried to block out the pain that threaten to overwhelm him. Placing his hands on the counter his arms straight, he bowed his head. Shaking with the effort to keep his tears under control, he slowly closed his hands into fists. He would not sink into the darkness! Damn it! A gentle hand slid onto his arm. He did not look up. He couldn’t. If he did the pain would overtake him.
“Brynn?” Delia’s concerned voice whispered.
He refused to answer her, afraid his voice would break and then he would break too.
“Oh honey,” she crooned sliding her arm around his shoulder as she put her head against his. “She will remember. I don’t think anyone could forget the kind of love you two shared.”
“That’s just it,” Brynn croaked. He forced himself to look into Delia’s eyes. She blinked at the pain she saw. “Even if she does it won’t matter. You didn’t see what I saw. Felt what I felt when she looked into his eyes. She belongs to Tanis now. There is no turning back from that kind of bond.” Taking a shuddering breath, he closed his eyes and turned his head away. Opening them, he once again stared at the window. “There is more,” he whispered. “I was not the only one she was ripped from.”
“What do you…?” Delia stopped in mid-sentence when she realized what Brynn was trying to say, her eyes widening in shock. “Aden,” she finished.
Brynn nodded. “But after all the pain, after the numbing loss of having her ripped from us caused, it was Aden she chose to bind herself to again. So you see,” he turned eyes to Delia that held so much anguish mixed with anger that Delia could barely hold his stare. “There is no room left for me.”
“I can’t believe that. You forget what you two had, still have, and a mother does not forget her children,” Delia said angrily.
Brynn looked back out the window not wanting to have any reason to hope. It would hurt too much when that hope was crushed by reality.
“You’ll see,” Delia added with confidence, her voice less angry. “Once she sees you and the kids, it will all come back.”
“But will it be enough?” Brynn whispered looking back at his cousin.
All she could do was stare back, unsure of the answer herself.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
Pushing herself into a sitting position, her entire body aching, Kara stared at the door. Already she could feel the stretching of that part of her that was Aden. It was like this in the beginning, when their bond was new. Just a few feet away and there was a slight pressure that started in her chest, radiating outwards. Nothing uncomfortable, just there. The more distance between them, the more uncomfortable the pressure became, slowly encompassing her entire body until it turned into debilitating pain. After time passed, their bodies would adjust to the distance between them and they could go greater distances without paying the price of being separated. Except if the distance was great, as when Caius had put her back on Krynn and forced Aden to leave her there. The pain of the separation had almost driven Aden mad, and almost killed Kara. With Brynn, her mortal soulmate, at her side helping her, Kara had learned to live with the constant pain, as eventually did Aden. Now, just as they had a few weeks of respite it seemed they were starting over again.
Putting her elbows on her knees and her face in her hands, she tried to breathe through the growing pressure, tried to stay ahead of what she knew was to come. This was just one of the many ways for the demon to torture them. To try to break them. There was a long list of torments he could choose from, and Kara knew the bastard was far from done.
Movement of the air in front of her alerted her to a body before hands gently took ahold of her wrists to tug her hands away from her face.
“Kara,” Tanis coaxed gently, tugging once again. “Please look at me, love.”
Slowly Kara raised her head as he pulled her hands away, the movement sending an ache sliding through her body. Tanis frowned when he saw the flinching around her eyes. Through their connection, he could feel her pain and knew what was causing it. The pulling apart of a soul that had been newly healed was never pleasant. It was always the same at first, and he thanked the gods that he wasn’t the one living that curse so soon after they had come together. Once the ritual was finished, any separation would be much worse. Right on the heels of that was the thought that he had purposely caused Kara excruciating pain by ripping Aden from her. Guilt tried to overwhelm him, but another far uglier emotion reared its head, drowning the guilt out. Jealousy. Why was this boy so important to Kara, and why did she and the demon inhabiting his brother’s body believed Aden was a part of the prophecy?
“Let him go, Kara,” Tanis breathed, resting his forehead against hers. “No matter what you might think, he is not a part of this. A part of us.”
“I can’t do that,” she gasped, her eyes tightly shut with pain. “No more than I could let you or Caius go. He is too much a part of me, of us, of this.”
“He is no part of me,” Tanis growled backing away so he could look her in the eyes. “No part of any of us. There has only been you, me and Caius. Light and Dark circling around the universe’s heart, its soul. You. We are what hold the universe together, keeps it spinning, and now you are telling me this unknown force, this…boy, is a part of us? I don’t believe you. I won’t.” Somewhere in the middle of his speech, Tanis had stood and began to pace in agitation.
Closing her eyes, Kara leaned back, slowly releasing a breath to try and calm herself. Inside she was a mixture of confusion, pain and growing frustration. The pain was definitely not helping the frustration. It was actually turning it quickly into anger. Too much was different this time around, too much unknown. Caius willingly inviting a demon into his soul and being able to stay alive after she and Tanis had passed aside, why did she remember her life as a mortal so clearly? Usually by now it was mist and smoke, there but hard to grasp when she thought hard enough about it. Pushing that thought aside so she could focus on the angry immortal pacing in front of her, Kara’s anger grew. She was no longer the weak naive mortal who did not understand who she was, what she was. She was a powerful goddess who knew every nook and cranny of the universe, every creature, every secret, until now. It made her wonder what else those who held the seats of power, her family, had kept from them.
Pushing away the enormity of what or how something as monumental as Aden’s exitance was and what it might mean for the three of them and the continuing existence of the universe, Kara reached out to him, flexing her powers as she did. The moment she felt the chains that the demon had bound around her, she hissed in pain. It was as if those chains were covered in spikes coated with poison. Each nick sent burning shoots of pain throughout her body, warning her to try no further, promising her far more excruciating pain if she did. Ignoring the warning, she pushed further.
Aden was walking across the landing bay to his ship when he felt the barest of touches across his shoulders. Immediately the pressure that had been threatening to constrict his breathing and incapacitate him lessened. Taking a deep breath, he stopped so suddenly the guards who had accompanied him at Commander Wells assistance almost ran into him.
“Kara?” Aden breathed unsure. Why would she risk the emperor’s wrath by helping him? They both knew intimately what the punishment would be if caught.
“Sir?” one of the guards asked in concern, breaking into his thoughts.
All three of the men following Aden at Commander Well’s insistence knew his secret. They had been handpicked by the commander when Aden was lost in his madness after he had returned from leaving Kara on Krynn. They alone, out of all the other guards and officials under the emperor’s command, because their loyalty willingness to do whatever it took to keep their master, his lady and their secret safe from those who would use it against them understood who and what Kara really was. How important she and Aden were to the continuation of the universe, to each other. That was why they were with him now. Until he readjusted to the new binding, he would be distracted, weak. They would help keep him safe from those who would wish to exploit his weakness.
They watched quietly as Aden turned and stepped to one side so he could see the way behind him, a frown on his face.
“Sir?” The guard asked again. “Is something wrong?”
“I thought…,” Aden began. Another brush, this time along his cheek, feather light. More of the pressure lessened. Along with the ability to finally breath freely came the feeling of love and assurance that the one woman he would ever love was his for all eternity. That no one or thing would ever tear them apart again.
Just as suddenly as the presence was there it was gone, but now Aden could go down to the planet below without the distraction of being separated from part of his soul.
“I’m fine,” Aden assured with a small smile. Turning, he headed for his ship. While he knew that Kara could never be taken from him again, they were far from safe. He needed to finish his mission and return as soon as possible, then the gods help them all.
Urgent hands on her wrists brought Kara back to herself, but it was as if the urgency could not affect her. With that small brush, the connection between her and Aden was now stronger. Now she could breathe and think around the pressure that was building inside her the further Aden moved away.
Another presence just a familiar, just as important, breathed through her, soothing that ache even more. Slowly, as if waking from a sleep, Kara opened her eyes to find Tanis kneeling in front of her watching her intently. Mixed with the worry in his eyes was a fear she did not understand. The reason for the fear washed over her. He had felt her reach out and touch Aden. Felt what that brush had done between them, that their bond was just that much stronger, and the ease of it frightened him. There were rituals to preform to solidify their bonding. It should have not been so easy for Aden to wrap himself around her so tightly. His fear was that Aden would rip her from him forever, just as he tried to do to Aden.
Frowning in confusion, Kara gently reached with his hand still wrapped around her wrist and cup his cheek with her hand. When the power between them rose, as a breeze on a summer day, surrounding them, caressing their skin, their souls, mingling, Tanis’s eyes widened. Touch had always helped, but not like this. Not this strongly.
“What’s happening?” he whispered.
“I’m not sure,” Kara breathed a small smile on her lips. “But it shows that we are still one.”
The warm smile that filled Tanis’s face and eyes brought one to Kara’s. Then his eyes moved to her lips and that warmth turned into heat. The push to finish the age old ritual they had started in the throne room that bound them together as one pushed at them, urging them to finish what was started. Tanis gently pushed it back. Before they could continue they needed to talk about Aden.
“Since the beginning there have only been three of us. Now Caius has brought in an unknown element and everything is wrong. You are both convinced that Aden is a part of the prophecy, a part of us.” He cupped her cheek with his hand, his voice soft, pleading with Kara to hear him. “We will fight the demon together, as we have fought every battle to keep the universe spinning on its course. You, me, Caius, if he is still in there somewhere, but Aden is not a part of what we are. Have you ever considered that the demon brought him here to destroy us?”
The flash of anger that coursed through Tanis surprised him. Memories of the demon in Caius’s body threatening Kara and Aden with blood and pain if they did not sever their bond flashed through his mind. The absolutely surety of Kara that even if breaking their bond was possible, that she would never do as they asked. That from the moment that she looked into Aden’s eyes, the universe itself had declared that she was irrevocably his.
The way the sharing of memories and feelings had always worked between them meant that they could hide nothing, could not lie to each other unless they shielded hard. There was no shielding between them now. Kara was so raw from the abuse she had endured in this lifetime, from Tanis ripping Aden from her and the re-bonding of both of their souls to hers. From having to fight off the demon’s attempt to bond with her and the anger that coursed through her at once more being asked to do the impossible only to be punished for perceived defiance she did not have the energy or patients to shield. She believed that Aden was a part of what was to come. If the others did not want to believe that then they could rot in hell.
Eyes narrowed in thought, Tanis sat back on his heels, no longer touching Kara as he stared at her. Anger between them was nothing new. You could not have a healthy relationship without fighting, and the gods knew they had had some doozies. Yes, once one of them passed then the others followed and there was a two thousand year span between them reemerging again, a time for sleep and recharging of their energy. However, from the moment they woke to their time of rest could last eons. You could not live with another being without having disagreements that could last anywhere from a few minutes to years. Since Kara’s role in their little family was to try and keep the peace between them, the gods only knew that Caius’s and Tanis’s own stubbornness had tried Kara’s patience’s more than once. He had the physical scars to prove it. Once provoked, Kara’s temper was a thing to behold, and fear. Luckily she was hard to provoke.
One of the firsts fights Caius and Tanis had between each other had ended with Kara coming in between them, trying to stop them from killing each other only to die in their arms instead. It was an agony that neither immortal wanted to endure again. No disagreement between them was worth Kara’s life. So they swore an oath never to do anything that would physically hurt Kara again. By bringing the demon into the fold, Caius had betrayed that oath and Kara had once again paid the price. The question was, how were they to fix his mistake before it was too late?
Another push from an unseen force, this one much stronger bordering on pain brought a hiss from both of them. The ritual to bind their souls together was to be performed within hours of meeting each other, from that first kiss when their immortal consciousness was awakened. If ignored too long, the universe itself would begin to pull apart, unravel. They were the glue that kept the universe spinning, kept every living thing that had been created from the beginning of time alive, whole. While Caius had had Kara, he had never started the ritual, waiting for Tanis to emerge. In the throne room, Tanis had kissed Kara, thus the process had been begun between them. Once Tanis and Kara were finished, then it would be Caius’s turn with her. The thought of Caius touching Kara was not what bothered Tanis, it was the demon inside of him that twisted Tanis’s stomach in knots. The fact that Kara had bonded with Aden before the demon had been able to get his claws into Kara’s soul was the only saving grace of this whole mess.
Another more painful yank of his soul and Tanis was moving towards Kara, his lips finding hers. There would be time later to sift through the mess Caius had made of their existence. First he needed to finish what was started and make the woman in his arms completely and irrevocably his.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
“Dramatic much?” Aden quipped into the silence.
Sighing, Kara closed her eyes, rubbing her face with her hands. She was so tired and they were just beginning. Everything that had happened in the throne room had left her feeling adrift and shattered. Even though she knew who the people around her were, at the same time she felt as if she did not know them at all. It was as if there were two versions of each of them super-imposed over the top of each other. Even her own mind was trying to decide which reality was the right one. The last forty years of her life or the countless years of her existence. The only one who seemed to stay in focus, who was solid, was Aden, and she clung to that surety like a lifeline. One that Tanis desperately want to yank out of her hands. How was she supposed to keep the two of the men who meant the universe to her from killing each other?
“Are you all right?” Aden asked quietly, wrapping his arms around Kara’s waist and pulling her back against him, ignoring Tanis’s warning. Kara was his, damn it. No possessive jealous immortal was going to keep her from him. When she sank against him, her hands clutching his arms as she shook, he held her closer, his lips in her hair. Gently he pushed his power out and through her, wrapping her in a warm cocoon of safety and love.
Closing her eyes again, her head lying back against his shoulder, Kara allowed her body to sink into that warmth that comfort, if only for a moments peace. After what had happened in the throne room she knew it was a false security. No one was safe from the presence she had seen and felt reaching for her, wanting to own her.
“I don’t know,” she whispered. “There are so many emotions, so many memories running through my head, and not all of them mine. Always before when we came together, the memory of who we are, why we were created would take over, pushing our lives as a mortal completely from our consciousness. Our spouses, our children would not exist and we would continue from where we left off two thousand years before. This time everything is mixed together. I do not know who I am, what I am supposed to do. Who I am supposed to be with.” She tightened her arms around Aden’s. “Except for you. I know I belong to you, as you belong to me.”
Kara’s words sent a thrill through Aden. Having her say out loud what he knew deep inside his soul settled something within him. He was where he was supposed to be, but he had many questions about what was myth and legend, and what was true.
“Tanis called Caius brother.”
“In a way we are brothers and sister. We were created at the same time by the Gods. We are equal in power.” She turned in Aden’s arms so she could look at him. “Aden, there is more to the prophecy then Caius has told you. It is a battle that has raged for eons between good and evil. That part is true. There has to be a balance between the two in order for the universe to survive. There cannot be all good, just as there cannot be all evil. Like all things, there are rules. Some of those rules can be bent, some of the minor ones broken, but the important ones. The ones that are necessary to keep the universe spinning, to keep life as we know it safe, cannot. Caius has broken one of those rules by living past mine and Tanis’s death. He has brought players into the game that are not part of the make-up of our universe.”
“The demon Tanis spoke about?” Aden asked.
Kara nodded, the memories of the days before her last death playing before her eyes. Her voice was a whisper when she spoke next. “We knew something was wrong. Caius was acting so strange, but we never thought….” Closing her eyes, Kara shuddered. “That…thing promised when it found me it would make me regret making it wait. That he would find me and….” Again she shuddered. The demon had kept its promise. There had been times in her existence where life had not been pleasant, down right abusive, but nothing compared to what she had gone through this lifetime. “I don’t think Colin finding me was as much of a coincidence as we think.”
“You think the demon sent him to you?” Aden frowned.
A memory long forgotten surged forward filling her eyes, and because the memory was so sudden and the connection still raw and new it bled into Aden and filled his vision as if it was his own.
Mist coated the floor of the forest, swirling around Kara’s bare feet as she slowly crept through the underbrush, her long white dress strangely not becoming entangled in the leaves and sticks. The moonlight shone in patches through the tree canopy giving just enough light to throw shadows. Shadows that seemed to move as she moved. There was no sound. The forest was deadly quiet, which in itself should have told her something was very wrong. Nevertheless, she kept moving forward, pulled by some unseen force that wanted her deeper in the forest.
Up ahead the light grew brighter, as if the trees were parting allowing more of the moon’s light to chase back the shadows. As she slowed, fear finally began to seep its way into her heart. Whatever was up there was not friendly, yet she kept moving forward. When she stepped out into the meadow she saw a man standing in the middle, smiling. He was older than her twenty-two years. Gray showed at his temples and throughout his short black hair. His blue eyes shone as if there was a dim light behind them. His face was as gentle as his smile, but there was an aura around him that spoke of malice contained. A few inches above Kara’s five foot seven, he was handsome in that older gentlemanly way. His clothes were strange. A black tunic with a strange design embroidered down the front that seemed to move as she watched. A trick of the shadows, or maybe…something else. Black pants tucked into knee high black boots, his black cape moved in a breeze that did not exist around his ankles. This man held power that Kara could only imagine. Power far beyond her own.
“Hello Kara. I have been waiting for you for a long time,” he greeted in his deep voice.
“How do you know me?” she asked stopping at the edge of the meadow. Something told her to go any closer would not be good.
“I know a great many things about you,” he mused. “Things that you can only imagine in your dreams. Shall I show you?”
Then he changed. He grew taller, his hair grew longer changing from its black to a deep blood red. The eyes also changed to red, and his smile was no longer gently, but full of that contained malice. He was beautiful. So beautiful that it took Kara’s breath away, but the evil radiating from him spoiled that beauty. She took an involuntary step back. She knew those eyes, that smile. It haunted her nightmares, promised her blood and pain. So much blood and pain.
“No,” she breathed shaking her head in disbelief. “You can’t be real.”
“I assure you I am very real. I have been waiting a very long time for you to reappear, Kara. Long, torturous years, but I have not been idle while you hid from me. Now I have found you we can begin.”
“No!” Kara screamed stumbling backwards. The wind whipped around her, making it hard to breathe. When it died she looked down and her dress had changed. It was the same white, but now the front plunged down to her navel. The sides slit up to above her hips, a panel that barely covered her ass and the front of her dropped to her feet, the back panel trailing on the ground. She felt the cool breeze on her back and knew that nothing covered her skin there. Her hair floated around her in the surge of her own power as it answered his as if it knew him.
“You cannot run from me Kara. Wherever you go, whoever owns you, I will come for you. I will have you.” He stepped towards her, his hand outstretched, his eyes flames. “There is no God or Goddess that can keep you from me now that I have found you. No one. You are mine!”
Just as he was about to touch her, his power caressing her skin, Kara screamed again and the world shifted.
“Yes, yes he has,” Kara breathed her skin running cold as the depth of the lies that Caius had fed her all these years, the betrayal. When they had found her, Caius had seemed her salvation from Colin’s cruelty. Now she knew differently. Caius knew all along who she was, what she was to him, yet he allowed the demon inside him use him as a mask to draw her in so he could wrap his spells around her. She was the key, the glue that kept the balance between good and evil so the universe kept spinning. To control her was to control the universe. And now it had all three of them.
“It was all lies,” Aden said softly, his voice strangled with the pain that revelation brought. “He knew who I was, what I was, and he won my trust, my love, and it was all lies.”
Kara turned to face him, her hand resting on his cheek as she stared into his pain filled eyes. “Not all of it,” she assured.
“How can you say that when his betrayal to you is far greater than to me?”
“Because I see how he looks at you when he thinks no one is watching. When the real Caius peeks through the demon’s eyes. The Caius I know would never use you in a bid for power. Not when he knows the part you play.”
“Then I am just a pawn to be played in this great game of chess,” Aden said bitterly.
“You are the son that he could never have,” Kara corrected gently. She understood his pain. Knew it was justified to a point. She just needed to make him see beyond that pain. “The demon may have whispered where you were, what part you played and Caius in turn found you earlier than was prophesized. That does not mean that he did not grow to love the boy who turned into a man as if he were his own. Caius may be labeled evil in words, but he has a heart and he loves deeply. Even as a mortal, when I first came here I saw that love. It wasn’t until the demon took complete control did that love turn to greed and hate.” Kara relaxed a fraction when she saw the anger and pain in Aden’s eyes turn to uncertainty. When he closed his eyes, his body shuddering, she felt him had push his pain back so they could focus on the danger at hand. When he opened his eyes, the pain was replaced with focused determination.
“If the demon has control of Caius, what can we do to free him. The prophecy was very clear that the catalyst only comes once. If we kill Caius’s body in an attempt to free him it may not kill the demon. The other side of that thought is, according to the prophecy this is the one and only time I, the catalyst, will be present. Killing Caius may cause a chain reaction that will destroy the universe. Is it a risk worth taking?” Aden asked his own horror filling his voice.
Aden was right. Killing Caius in an attempt to free him of the demon would not work. The demon would just jump to another body and be waiting for them when they emerged again. Kara shook her head.
“No, your right. Killing Caius will not work. If the universe survives, the demon will only be waiting for us to reemerge and we will start all over again. What we need to do is work together. If you, Tanis and I combine our powers we may be able to chase the demon out of him long enough to finish the prophecy. It’s the only way,” Kara answered.
“Even if we could without setting off the necklace, Tanis will never allow it. I can feel his presence pressing against mine. Fighting me. He does not want to share you,” Aden whispered his lips in her hair as his arms tightened around her.
“He is afraid you will take me from him,” she explained resting her check against his chest, snuggling closer. It felt so good to touch him. “This is new to him. For so long it has only been the three of us, no one else. Give him time to wrap his mind around you being a part of the prophecy, a part of us.”
“His stubbornness will only end up hurting you. I can’t trust him to keep you safe.” Aden cupped her cheek with his hand, moving her head so he could look into her eyes. “I could barely keep myself from killing everyone in the garrison this afternoon for what they did to you. I don’t want you to endure that again. I won’t allow it. I need to stay here, with you.”
Giving him a smile that was filled with sadness and did not reach her eyes, Kara put her hand over his.
“Don’t Aden,” she begged. “You must do as Caius ordered and go down to the planet. If you disobey he will either use me to force you to go, or I will lose you altogether. I barely survived when you were torn from me in the throne room. I can’t go through losing you again.”
Aden looked at her with such anguish she thought her heart would break.
“It felt as if you were being pulled from me cell by cell. The pain was so excruciating I couldn’t…breathe. I thought I was dying, and no matter how hard I tried I could not feel you even though you were right there in front of me.”
“But you feel me now?”
“Yes, but it’s not the same.”
She could see the uncertainty in his eyes. Feel the fear of losing her again tearing him up side. Even now, with Tanis in the other room, the link between them was growing stronger, binding tighter, trying to push out everything before this moment. Yet there was something about Aden, a feeling deep down inside her that told Kara no matter what happened between her, Tanis and Caius, she would always and forever belong to Aden. Once the ritual was completed, nothing in the known universe or beyond would ever tear them apart again. Ever.
“What I feel is…different. Distant,” Aden continued taking one of her hands in his, bringing it up and kissing her fingers while his other arm stayed firmly wrapped around her. Keeping his eyes on their hands he continued. “I know they insist I let you go, but I can’t.” He looked into her eyes. “I won’t, and I don’t think you want me to otherwise you would not have pulled me back to you. You are the only thing that makes my life bearable. Before you, I was floating through a haze of pain and hatred. I don’t want to go back to that. I can’t,” his voice was almost a whisper. He leaned closer, his eyes moving to her lips. “I am yours now and forever. I love you,” he said before kissing her.
With her heighten sense of awareness Kara not only felt the demand from his kiss, but the fierceness of Aden’s feelings for her like never before. It was not the need to possess her or own her like Anthony or Caius, but to have her love him as much as he loved her. To assure him that she still loved him. His emotions weaved themselves around hers, intertwining until she could no longer distinguish his emotions or his powers from hers.
Words so ancient Aden did not recognize the language but somehow knew the meaning played across his mind. A compulsion so strong there was no chance of fighting it consumed them both. Suddenly Aden knew what he must do to make Kara his until the end of time. Just as he was about to flash them to his room, pain exploded through his body right before Kara was ripped from his arms. Distantly, through the roaring of his blood rushing through his head, he heard her scream but all he could see was a white haze as he collapsed to his knees, his hands pressing either side of his head. It felt as if it was about to explode. Then as suddenly as it started it stopped.
“Kara?” he gasped trying to stand only to fall back to his hands and knees as the room spun.
“I’m here,” she hissed, her voice strained.
Something was wrong.
Looking up he found her across the room with Tanis in front of her half holding her up and half holding her back. Her face was pale, her body trembling. Whatever Tanis had done to him had spread to her, and that pissed Aden off.
“You bastard! Does your stupidity know no bounds?” Aden rasped his voice hoarse with pain as he staggered to his feet. “She is bound to me. Everything I feel she feels. You know this.”
“I will not allow you to finish what was started,” Tanis snarled.
“You can’t stop it,” Aden growled back pushing himself to his full height even though what he really wanted to do is collapse back onto the floor. Gods that had hurt! “Neither of you assholes can. Whether you or Caius like it or not, Kara belongs to me just as much as she belongs to you. Keeping us from finishing the ritual will not change that.”
Snarling, Tanis rushed Aden slamming him against the wall. “You will never touch her again, or by the Gods I will kill you.”
“You will try,” Aden hissed struggling to pull Tanis’s hand from his neck. As his breathing was being constricted he could see so was Kara’s.
“Tanis! Stop!” Kara cried pulling on his arm trying to force him to loosen his grip on Aden’s neck as she tried to suck in precious air.
“You kill me, you will kill her,” Aden gasped.
Before Tanis could comprehend what Aden had said, the door slid open and three men with guns rushed in. Without even looking, Tanis sent them crashing against the far walls. The moment they hit the hard surface Kara screamed in agony, crumpling to the floor. The pain lashed out taking Tanis to his knees. Aden dropped to the floor next to him gasping for air.
“What the hell was that?” Tanis gasped.
“What I’ve been trying to warn you about,” Aden snarled. “The prophecies portrayed you as intelligent, not an incompetent ass.”
“Watch it boy,” Tanis growled as he watched Aden push himself to his hands and knees. “You have no idea who you are dealing with.”
“Oh, I’ve seen enough,” Aden snapped crawling towards Kara who lay on the other side of Tanis barely conscious.
“Stay away from her,” Tanis warned grabbing Aden’s arm as he passed.
“I’ve had enough of your stupidity for one day,” Aden hissed.
Suddenly Tanis found himself flying across the room, but just before he hit the wall he stopped and dropped onto the floor in a heap.
“Stay out of my way,” Aden warned. Crawling to Kara he carefully pulled her into his arms. “Are you all right?” he breathed checking her over. When she could only nod he pulled her close and glared at Tanis who had managed to stagger to his feet with the help of the wall. “What will it take for you to understand you cannot fight any of them without hurting her?”
“What is it going to take for you to realize she is not yours?” Tanis countered glaring at him.
Before Aden could do more than narrow his eyes and growl in frustration, Captain Wells strode through the door. One glance around the room and what he had felt in the hall told him what had happened. That much show of power was not going to go unnoticed.
“My Lord,” he interjected calmly. “If I felt that in the hall, the Emperor will have felt it too. He will be here soon to see what the hell is going on. If we don’t leave now…,” he let that thought finish itself.
“Thank you, Captain,” Aden acknowledge mildly, unable to keep the weariness out of his eyes. It had been a very long day and too much had happened physically and emotionally for him to even try. Moving his eyes to Kara, he gentle removed a stray strand of hair off her face. He did not want to leave her. Not with Tanis this angry and so unwilling to listen. “Wait for me outside,” he ordered not taking his eyes off of her.
Captain Wells nodded then motioned the three soldiers who had groggily stumbled to their feet to follow him out the door.
Once they were gone and the door was closed Aden rested his lips on Kara’s forehead. Just from that small touch he could feel the link between them tighten, strengthen. It felt like small tendrils reaching out and intertwining with each other, making them one. How was he going to be able to walk out of this room? Just thinking about it viciously twisted his stomach. What will it be like leaving the ship? Movement caught his eye and he looked up to see Tanis standing over them.
“You stopped me from slamming into the wall because you knew it would hurt her,” Tanis said, his eyes thoughtful.
“I won’t do anything to hurt her.”
“Then let her go,” Tanis ordered quietly.
“You know I can’t,” Aden responded his eyes narrowing. “No more than you can. I don’t understand what is going on any more than you do, but somehow I am a part of this. A part of her. There is nothing you or Caius can do to change that.” As if his name conjured him, Aden felt Caius coming closer, and he was livid. “I must go.”
Standing a bit wobbly with Kara in his arms, Aden carried her to the couch and laid her down. Kneeling down next to her, he brushed her hair from her face as he looked into her eyes, seeing the same unease he felt. His voice showing just how unsteady he was not only in body but emotionally, he whispered, “I will try and find out why this is happening. In the meantime, be careful what you do or say. Try to make Tanis understand what is at stake if he doesn’t do as Caius commands. What he will do to you.”
“I will. Now go before it’s too late,” Kara urged.
Aden looked into her eyes not wanting to leave. With one last kiss he stood and glared at Tanis. “I know you have had more lifetimes with Kara than I can ever imagine, but I have been with her through this one and there are things that you do not know or can even begin to understand. I don’t have time to explain everything to you before I leave. All I ask is that you tread carefully with Caius. He’s been…unstable lately, and Kara has been paying the price of that instability. I don’t want to see her hurt anymore. Not like…,” Aden’s voice trailed off as his eyes found Kara’s.
“You say you love her, that you know better than I do what her life is like, yet you leave her here to face the demon without you,” Tanis said quietly, bringing Aden’s eyes up to his. The anguish in them shocked Tanis.
“You do not want to know what he will do to her if I stay,” Aden whispered.
Closing his eyes, Aden swallowed hard before turning and walking out of the room. Outside Captain Wells and his guards took up formation behind Aden as he headed towards the landing bay. As hard as it was to walk out of that room, he did not want to be anywhere near the destroyer when Tanis took Kara and finished the ritual. He could not promise he would not go back and rip her from his arms and kill him. What Aden did know was powerful immortals or not, Caius and Tanis could not keep him away from Kara forever. One day they would finish what they started.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
There was very little time and too much to do, to say but he had to try. First….
“Get out,” he ordered to the remaining spectators who were lingering, his eyes never leaving Kara who lay on her side on the cold metal floor with her back towards him.
As the room slowly cleared, he made his way to her, praying her injuries were ones his limited healing power could fix and that she would not hate him for what he was about to do. The gods only knew she had plenty of reasons to hate him already.
They knew all the legends and myths surrounding who they were, what their purpose was, and some of them were actually true. The one that was not necessarily true was that he and Tanis hated each other and fought to win Kara’s affections every two thousand years. Where there was a little rivalry between them, Tanis and he both knew that the most important being was Kara, because without her the universe would cease to exist. She was the glue that held everything together. If her life force were to be extinguished for good, then yes, he and Tanis would be at war and the universe would crumble into complete chaos. Until then they shared her just fine.
The hardest piece of the prophecy was the part where Kara died by one of their hands. Each of them worked hard at not being the one who hurt her, but eventually one of them would falter and she would pay the price. Last time it was Caius who faltered. No. Falter was to mild a word for what he had done. He tripped, fell flat on his face, scraping skin and muscle from bone leaving them all raw and exposed. He had been so blind in his stupidity he was not sure there were enough “I’m sorry” or “Please forgive my stupidity” he could say to lesson the hatred he had seen in both their eyes.
Caius had no idea why the demon had receded, allowing him to come to the forward, but he would not waste the time he had been given. Carefully kneeling down next to Kara, his body aching with age, he gently rolled her over onto her back. Relief washed over him when he saw her eyes closed and her breathing even. She was unconscious. Good, because what he was about to do would hurt and he had hurt her enough.
Closing his eyes, he placed his hand over her heart and carefully probed through Kara’s essence, knowing one false move could kill her. He did not want that, never had wanted it, but in order to break her the demon had brought her to the brink of death many times. Now she was as close to an immortal as they could become and her will was once again strong. Caius knew she would fight the constraints of her bonds and the demon’s control once she woke, as would Tanis. If he did this right, he could minimize the damage the necklace could do to her. While they were hard to kill, there were a few weapons they did fear. This necklace was one of them.
After he healed what he could, he turned to the spells the demon instructed him to weave around her through the necklace so they could control her. As he thought, the spells had been weakened by Tanis bonding with her. Taking a deep breath, clearing his mind of his churning emotions, Caius carefully strengthened the spells. Tweaking them here and there so whatever the demon tried to force on her, the punishment would not be as severe and in turn leak out onto them.
Even though Aden had tried to hide the fact Kara had helped him earlier, Caius had felt it. He felt everything she did. Even if there was a great distance between them, they were never truly without the other. While knowing the other was still alive, what they were feeling at any given moment was the only solace they had, it was also a curse. For they felt every injury, every death as if it were their own. That was one of the reasons Caius began looking for a way to stop the endless cycle of life and violent death they were trapped in. He could not bear to endure feeling Kara’s life force slip away from him again. At least he knew he would follow her soon after.
His brow beading with sweat, Caius broke the connection and straighten, leaning back on his heels, his head back, eyes closed. In order to heal her and mend the spells, he had to delve deep into Kara’s soul, who she was. A sort of melding of the two of them. Where they had done this many times before, it was always disorienting when they pulled away. Once he felt more himself, he looked down at Kara. This time would be different. This time, if what the demon had promised him was true, the cycle would end and the three of them could live out their existence in peace, together.
“Kara,” he called softly.
Caius’s breath caught when Kara opened her extraordinary hazel eyes looking directly into his. There was no fear, no defiance in that look. She knew him now. Knew herself. She gazed at him as an equal, as a sister to a brother. As someone whose love knew no bounds, and even after all he had done to her, that love still filled her eyes as she gazed at him. Yet underneath that love was a flinching that he knew he had put there. A little piece of his heart died with that knowledge.
“Hey,” he said softly, smiling.
“Hey,” she answered smiling back. An emotion flicked through her eyes. Sorrow. Her smiled dimmed. “Why, Caius?” she breathed.
Guilt washed through him and he could no longer keep her gaze. There was no good reason, no excuse, that could make them understand why he had betrayed them so completely, so he did not try. Instead he pushed himself to his feet with an ease he had not felt in many centuries and walked to his throne. Just that one touch and he was already feeling the effects of having his siblings awakened. His body was growing stronger, years melting away from him as it did them. When the process was done, they would all look like they were in their mid-twenties and their power would be unstoppable. Tanis and Kara would reach their peak much faster than he would. Caius had centuries to melt away. Instead of days it would take weeks to finally reach his prime. Then…. He pushed that thought away. Now they were aware, his siblings could read his emotions, maybe even his thoughts. He did not want Kara to know the horrors the demon had waiting for her.
When he turned and sat on this throne, Kara was on her feet facing him looking down at her dress, such as it was. Shaking her head, with a sigh the white material slowly melted into a light green flowing dress. The scoop neck was still low showing cleavage, but that was all. The shoulders were held together with small broached leaving her shoulders bare. The dress was gathered just below her breasts then hung down in folds to the floor with a small train behind her. She looked up at Caius, her lips somewhere between a smile and pursed in disapproval.
“You never could stand seeing a woman dressed properly,” she grimaced.
“That is not quite true. Just not you,” he smiled.
Waving his hand in front of him, a brush of power washed over Kara and the dress shimmered then solidified. It was still the same color, the same design, but now it was layers of chiffon so sheer it barely covered what lay underneath. Kara looked down at herself knowing this was the only compromise she was going to receive. Yes, she was his equal, yes she could fight him, but at the moment she had more important matters to discuss than waste her energy on how sheer her dress was.
Kara could feel the spells along with the necklace’s magic surrounding her, constricting, binding. The years of torture were still firmly imbedded in her memory, as was the promise of more violence the demon had excluded before it had disappeared. Their souls may not be connected, but through the necklace she still belonged to the demon. Was still his…pet.
“Tanis will not be easily broken,” she said looking back at Caius.
“No, he won’t.” Caius sighed. “Although, once he realizes the lengths the entity will go, I think Tanis will concede. As stubborn and proud as he is, he loves you too much to see you suffer.”
“Can you?” she asked looking directly into his eyes. “See me suffer?”
Again he could not meet her eyes. “I had no choice,” he answered stiffly.
“We all have a choice, Caius,” she chided.
“Not anymore,” he countered so quietly Kara almost did not hear him.
When she did not respond to his comment, Caius turned back to her. The sorrow in her eyes as she watched him tore at something he thought buried long ago. Standing, he swept down the stairs to stand directly in front of her. Reaching up he gently caressed her cheek with the back of his hand, his eyes taking in every nuance of her features.
“It will all become clear soon,” he whispered his lips a breath away from hers. “Now you must finish what we have started today. Then…then we can begin.” It was then Caius felt fear flash through her. She should be afraid, he thought his own pain of what he must do creeping forward. “He will not rest until he has broken us all to his will. What he wants…,” he hesitated, his eyes closed as if in pain. He did not dare share what the demon wanted from her. Not if he wanted to be strong enough to mitigate the horror of what she would go through. Kara was not the only one with chains binding her. “Go,” he ordered turning away from her so she would not see his own fear.
“You never answered my question, Caius,” she reminded.
Caius closed his eyes, the sound of his name on her lips stirring that once lost and forgotten emotion. Compassion. “There is a price for everything, Kara. For what I want my price was high.”
“And what is it you want?”
Caius turned his head so he looked at her. “To never feel you die again. To know there is nothing or no one that can separate us again,” he whispered.
“And what was your price?” she asked her voice a whisper because something deep inside her knew she would not like the answer.
It was not the tone of his voice that sent a chill down Kara’s spine freezing her blood in her veins. It was the low guttural voice that radiated an evil so foul she did not know how Caius stood under its weight. The one that flashed red in Caius’s eyes as it said at the same time, “His soul.”
“What have you done?” Kara breathed her hand over her heart as she gasped for air.
“What I had to,” Caius said wearily. “Now go. If you stay much longer I will not be able to let you leave. Not to….” Closing his eyes tightly he turned away from her. If he wanted to finish what he started over two thousand years ago, Caius needed Tanis to finish bonding with Kara so the demon could use it against him. “Go,” he whispered his voice echoing throughout the room
Kara did not hesitate. She turned and quickly walked from the room, the guards outside taking positions around her as they escorted her to her new quarters.
Caius slowly walked over to the windows, staring down at the planet below them. Soon Aden would be down there, away from Kara. The pull on their souls would be painful, excruciating if the demon decided to leave the planet’s orbit and head to their next destination. Caius would do his best to keep in control of his body so they stayed. What was to come would be painful enough for Kara. If he had any control of their destiny, he would not add to it. He just wished there was some other way.
If you truly want the cycle to end, you must do as I say or you will lose her. Forever.
With a small shudder as the evil he had invited inside him slid through his soul, Caius closed his eyes bowing his head. He would do as he was instructed. He only hoped he could live with himself when he was done.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
Kara lay gasping for air, Tanis’s heavy body lying on hers making it harder to breath. Groaning, Tanis lifted himself far enough so he could look into her eyes, his shinning with his triumph. When he saw the look of horror on her face, that triumph wilted.
“Kara?” he whispered not understanding her reaction. They were together again. She should have been happy.
“What have you done?” she breathed.
He frowned down at her. This was not what he was expecting. Always their reunion was a happy one, a joyous occasion as they relearned each other’s bodies, souls. Then he felt it. Although their memories had been restored and the players were once again immersed in the elaborate game of chess they had been playing for thousands of lifetimes, something was different. Because this time Tanis was the one who started the ritual that bound their souls, he encompassed a majority of Kara’s soul. While Caius was still there, his presence had been pushed to the background, so he was there but not forgotten. Although this time there was a difference. Someone else, a stranger, held a larger piece firmly in his grasp. Someone powerful who was in this room. Tanis had a moment of disbelief followed by a stab of jealousy that stoked his fading anger. That was before his eyes saw what lay around Kara’s neck. Then the focus of that anger switch and boiled into a rage that blotted out all other concerns. His eyes filled with blue flame and locked on the necklace.
“I will kill him,” Tanis snarled. Before Kara could caution him, Tanis’s eyes shot to where Caius sat. “You dare!” he hissed.
“Be careful of your tone, Tanis. The rules have changed, and you don’t know the dangerous line you precariously walk on,” Caius warned his eyes narrowing.
“Take this piece of filth off her!” Tanis demanded, ignoring both Caius’s warning, and Kara’s pleading eyes.
“No,” Caius replied calmly.
The silence that followed was heavy with unfiltered hatred. The onlookers who were still conscious stared in amazement at the unknown male as he glared at their emperor as if he was an equal.
“Then I will,” Tanis snarled in the silence.
Before Tanis could touch the necklace he found himself flying across the room. Slamming into the floor and sliding across the polish metal, lifetimes of training kicked. Rolling until he stopped himself, one knee was down while his hands held his torso up, ready to attack, a snarl on his lips, he readied himself for attack. “You bastard! How could you defile her with that abomination?”
“There are more ways to defile than a cursed necklace,” Caius sneered, the innuendo of what he was referring to thick in his voice.
The memories of what he had force on Kara only hours ago once again filled Tanis’s mind and he saw red. Snarling he stood. The only thing that stopped him was Kara’s desperate voice yelling in his head, “No!”
Before Kara could scramble to her feet to physically stop Tanis from making a huge mistake, Caius spoke.
“Kara,” he ordered calmly.
Weeks of pain and torture, along with the knowledge of what the necklace would do to her if she disobeyed, froze Kara on her hands and knees.
“Very good,” Caius cooed as he once more stood. “Very good. You will do well to remember your place. It may be less…painful for you both.”
“I said, take it off her,” Tanis demanded striding towards Caius.
Guards moved to stop Tanis, but with a wave of his hand they flew backwards away from him.
Kara screams filled the room as she collapsed, writhing in pain on the floor.
Tanis froze, staring at her in horror. “What have you done?” Tanis whispered his eyes returning to Caius. Tanis was far too old not to know exactly what the necklace was and what it meant that Kara wore it. The necklace rendered the wearer unable to disobey its master. It did not harm the wearer if someone else caused harmed to others.
“I tweaked it a little,” Caius shrugged. “You harm any of my guards, or me, Kara feels our pain tenfold. Her soul may be yours, but the rest of her is mine.”
As Tanis watched the gleeful abandonment fill the face of the male that stood before him while he watched Kara writhe in pain, he realized that this was not his brother. Caius would never have caused Kara this amount of suffering. Not even when he was the enemy and Tanis was her choice. No, what stood before him not his brother, but the demon they had fought two thousand years ago. The one who had enslaved his brother’s soul. The cost was their lives, but the demon had been defeated, or so they thought.
“How?” Tanis breathed.
The smile the demon awarded Tanis spoke of a madness deep seeded within its evil soul. “Easy.” he answered in a tone that left Tanis cold. “We never died.”
Tanis eyes grew wide. If they never left the physical plane, then the demon had had two thousand years to plot and plan, to lay his traps and wait for them to resurface. Tanis looked at Kara as she stared back at him, her face struggling for neutral and failing. They both knew what this meant. For the first time in the history of the universe, another entity, one that was not of this dimension and made of pure evil, was in control.
The outcome of the universe was no longer in their hands.
An unpleasant thought crossed Tanis’s mind. If the demon inhabited Caius’s body, then, “Where is my brother? Where is Caius?”
“Gone. He used the last of himself in a useless bid to give you time to start the ritual.” There was no inflection, no emotion what-so-ever in his expression. It was just fact. The parasite had taken the body and the host was gone.
Tanis staggered sideways a couple of steps, his lungs having trouble drawing air, his heart stuttering. Gone? But that was impossible. If Caius was gone, then why were he and Kara still here? The demon had to be lying. It was the only explanation.
Clinging on to that one thought, that one hope, he stared at the demon who stood staring at Kara with a look of hunger and longing.
“They would not have allowed this,” Tanis breathed.
“They are too arrogant in their power to see me,” the demon sneered.
“Now that we are awake they will know what you have done. They will destroy you.”
“They have already tried…and they failed,” the demon shrugged. “Do you think this is the first time we have been here, at this exact moment. Oh, the place is different, the shells that hold our souls different, but the circumstances, the juxtaposition have all been the same.” He turned to face Tanis, the madness in his soul turning his eyes red. “There is not a word that describes how long I have lived. How many times we have faced each other, fought each other, lost. No more!”
Without warning bolts of energy shot out of Caius’s hands encircling Tanis. He screamed in agony as they hit him sending fire into his spine spreading outwards, dropping him to his knees. Every nerve ending was on fire, every muscle contracted, threatening to tear. His lungs froze leaving him unable to scream, and there was nothing Tanis could do to stop it. From across the room, far from the fight, Kara screamed in agony, yet nothing touched her. After a few moments, the lightening disappeared, and the pain stopped as suddenly as it had begun, leaving Tanis on the floor gasping for air as bright spots danced across his eyes.
“In the end you too will fail, and you will be mine. Just as Caius was. Just as Kara is,” the demon snarled.
Tanis looked at him then followed his gaze. Kara lay on her side clutching her abdomen in obvious pain.
“Such a helpful side effect of the bond you cling so desperately to. That one feels what the other does.” The demon glanced at Aden who lay next to the throne unconscious, the tearing of Kara’s soul from his too painful even for the strong sorcerer to endure. Now to see if all his careful planning held true. He glanced down at Kara, his senses reaching out to her, gently searching her soul as if he was afraid he would hurt her. A far cry from the way he had treated her body, but then again, a soul was a fragile thing, and killing her was not what he wanted. What he found pleased him.
“Yes!” he breathed. “Her soul. Don’t you feel it? You don’t surround it, saturate it. Although she does yours. Interesting,” he mused walking towards Kara, his hand outstretched.
“Don’t touch her!” Tanis snarled as he pushed himself to his feet. Reaching out his hand he lashed out with his power, knocking the demon across the room away from Kara. Just as quickly Kara screamed in agony and pain lanced through Tanis, once again dropping him to the floor.
The demon’s evil chuckle filled the room. Tanis looked through the watering of his eyes, watching Caius slowly climb to his feet, unharmed. “You were always a slow learner.”
“Bastard,” Tanis hissed clenching his hands trying to keep himself from lashing out again. The demon had set his traps well. There was no way Tanis could fight him without hurting Kara, or worse, killing her.
“You need to find a new name for me. That one is becoming tiresome,” his voice bored.
“Then give me a name,” Tanis suggested.
The demon chuckled. “And give you power over me? I think not. Now, back to my original thought. Kara is not completely yours.”
“She has never been completely mine. My brother always held a part of her, and I believe he still does,” Tanis added carefully. The demon hesitated only for a moment, but Tanis saw it. It gave him hope that Caius was still in there, somewhere. Still, the demon was too close to Kara and too unpredictable to push. The gods only knew what would happen if he completely went mad.
“While that is true, there is a small obscure piece of the prophecy the powers that be keep hidden that tells of a time where there will be a third that will bind him or herself to the Key. It is called the Catalyst.” He glanced up at Aden who lay still as death then back to Tanis. “After the ritual that awakens the part of her that is immortal, a part of her soul remains open and vulnerable for a short period of time. Waiting for the catalyst to claim what belongs to it. If that piece is not claimed within a certain period of time, then whoever she bonds with in that life time, which is either Caius who represents evil or darkness or you who represents good or light, will fill the void.” He looked back down at Kara, his red eyes darkening with eagerness and hunger. “This is one of those times. By ripping Aden from her, you have opened her soul, her power, her destiny for me to claim. It’s time I right a wrong that was made long before this universe was created. Time I take what should have been mine,” Caius declared slowly walking towards her.
“Caius or I would have felt the difference, and Kara has never mentioned it.” Tanis had no idea what the demon was talking about, but the ten layers of hell would freeze over before he let the bastard touched her again.
“That is because it is only felt when the Key is nearby. I have not been idle these last two thousand years. It took time but I found the Key. I kept him hidden, molded him into my weapon and brought them together when the time was right so her soul would open, and I could claim it before you appeared. What I did not consider was the binding would be instantaneous and unbreakable. No ritual, not even touch. Just one look and they were one.” The smile he directed at Tanis made his pulse race as the enormity of what he had done finally sunk in. “Now, thanks to your deep seeded jealousy, you have done what should have been impossible.” He turned back to Kara. “Now she will be mine.”
“You will not have her!” Tanis vowed staggering once again to his feet. If he could not use his powers against the demon, then he would physically stop him. He just hoped his brother would forgive him after he was through. Reaching his hand out, he willed Kara’s body to come to him. Sliding across the slick metal floor as if invisible strings pulled her along, she was almost to him, his fingers brushing her skin when he found himself in the air, an invisible force squeezing his neck cutting his air off.
“You will not take what is mine,” the demon snarled stalking towards them.
“She is not yours,” Tanis choked, his fingers on his neck trying to pry the invisible force away. It was only then he realized just how powerful the demon was. Far more powerful than any of them were, maybe even more powerful then the powers that be. This was not good. How were they supposed to fight something this powerful? The thought was interrupted when the demon in question shoved his face into Tanis’s face.
“She should have been mine! She would have been mine if not for the other’s interference.”
Something in the demon’s tone made Tanis think he was not talking about Kara, but someone else. Then he sensed Kara’s soul once again seeking, looking for what had been so viciously ripped from it.
No, Kara, Tanis begged desperately, the thought of sharing her unbearable even though he knew it was the only way to save them. Please!
There is no other way, she whispered the pain and desperation in that thought forcing a shudder from Tanis. Just as she was about to reach the one she sought another soul, a malevolent soul, brushed against hers, burning her as acid would burn skin. A soul that was ancient.
No! He could not have her. He could not bond with her or all would be lost. Desperately Kara tried to pull back, but the tendrils of that soul were sticky, and the more she struggled the more of it touched her. Much like a fly caught in a spider’s web.
“NO!” she screamed aloud.
Aden lay on his side near the throne barely conscious. Power crackled around him, screams of terror filled his ears, but he could only lie on the floor struggling to draw a breath. She was gone. She was gone and his whole world collapsed in on top of him. Better to die then live with this mind numbing soul crushing loss.
Aden, Kara breathed through his mind, desperation thick in her voice.
Kara? unwilling to believe it was her.
Then the most incredible thing happened. Her soul brushed against his. Just as quickly something ripped it away. Something…evil. No! It could not have her! Not as long as he lived.
Gathering what strength he had left, Aden pushed himself up far enough so he could see what was going on. Tanis hung suspended in the air clutching at his throat. Kara lay below him with Caius leaning over her, his eyes gleaming red, his long fingers reaching down to touch her.
A voice Aden had never heard before whispered in his mind. You cannot allow him to touch her. If he does, all will be lost.
Fear stabbed Aden heart. He had to save her, but in his weakened state he knew he would be able to make it to Kara before Caius touched her. He needed time, but to attack Caius would bring pain down on Kara. Maybe if he aimed at Tanis, breaking Caius’s hold it would be enough of a surprise to give him time to pull Kara closer to him.
Shoving his hand towards Tanis, Aden unleashed what little of his power he still commanded, sending Tanis flying backwards while pulling Kara towards him. Unfortunately, he was only able to bring her halfway. He would have to go to her if he was to save them all.
Caius stumbled backwards, blinking in shock at the suddenness of the attack. Even as she moved, Kara arched her back, gasping for air that would not come. Grimacing at the knowledge he had inadvertently harmed her, Aden staggered to his feet and down the stairs to where Kara lay, collapsing onto his hands and knees next to her.
The last time it had only taken one look into her beautiful hazel eyes and he was hers. This time he could feel their souls reaching out to each other, but for some reason it was not enough.
“What do I do?” he whispered desperately.
“Kiss me,” Kara answered hoarsely.
He could do that. Smiling down at her in response to her smile, Aden leaned down. Just before his lips touched hers the demon’s voice, thick with malice filled the room.
“Touch her and the last two weeks will seem like a caress to what I will do to her!” he snarled.
Aden hesitated. He would not do anything to hurt the female in his arms. Even if it meant his death. Kara did not give him the choice. Reaching up, she tangled her fingers in his hair pulling him down to her.
“NO!” the demon roared.
The moment their lips touched power flared out with enough force it knocked everyone against the back walls. Deepening their kiss, Aden wrapped his arms around Kara, pulling her tightly against him as once again their souls wrapped around each other, tangling together becoming one. Tanis and Caius may have held her soul all these eons, but they were no longer the only ones, and with that one kiss Aden changed the course of the universe.
With that one kiss, he was home.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
Power filled the room, immense, suffocating. Power that was foreign as it was familiar. Power that staggered Tanis, engulfed him as soon as the door slid open. Gasping for air, he dropped to his hands and knees, the guards around him taking a cautious step backwards, their eyes wary as they watched. Did they not feel it? Did it not slither down their throats through their mouths, their noses, choking them?
Then the memories came again. Not smooth as a stream that lazily wound through the forest, unimpeded, but with the force of a tidal wave crashing into a rocky cliff, tearing, forcing its way into the cracks and crevices, destroying everything in its path only to be remade on the ocean floor, full of sharp jagged edges.
Tanis rose up on his knees, head thrown back, arms wide, and screamed. All that he was exploded outwards, rearranged and slammed back into him remade. Something deep within him he did not know existed, something that had been waiting for just this moment, clicked into place and suddenly he knew…everything. Who he was. All of him. The lives…so many lives…he had lived, loved, died in. The battles he had fought, the women who he loved and had borne children for him so the prophecy lived on. The power he held. Power that branded him and his siblings gods. In that one moment of clarity he knew exactly where he was in the universe. Everything about the mortals surrounding him, their strengths, their weaknesses. Who the male on the throne was to him. His brother, his nemesis. How many times they had fought together, against each other. The betrayal that was still bitter in his throat, painful in his heart. The one that cost them the very reason for their existence.
Rage, two thousand years simmering, roared through Tanis, blotting out every thought but one. Kill the demon sitting on the throne. Not even the call of his beloved would deter him from his revenge. That one thought brought a whole new barrage of memories, none of them his, all of them of the female lying on the floor clinging onto a life she no longer wanted. Memories of love, of joy, of misuse, of pain. So much pain. And as his memories awoke the part of him that was immortal, her memories awoke the part of her that understood what was happening to her, to them. A part that screamed to be released from the bonds Caius had woven within her, around her with the cursed necklace. Chains that were unbreakable even for a god.
Tanis’s rage intensified. How dare he!
Dropping back onto his hands, sucking in precious air, Tanis tried to speak and failed. A few more gasps and he managed to raise his head to glare at the figure who sat with a smile so full of triumph, of evil, that any sane male would recoil from it. Tanis was not one of those males. He was too old, to jaded, to familiar with the figure before him that all that smile did was piss him off.
“You bastard!” he snarled hoarsely.
The room gasped at the audacity of the newcomer. Did he not know who he spoke so disrespectively too?
“Hello, brother,” Caius sneered, the last word uttered as if it were something foul.
“You are no brother of mine,” Tanis sneered, pushing himself up so he sat on his heels. The room spun before settling into vision fuzzy around the edges. It was always like this when they woke to their true selves. Painfully disorienting. Something Tanis did not want to be when he knew the bastard in front of him was already very aware of who he was. “Not after what you did to her.”
Caius shrugged. “I did what I had to do to win.”
“It has never been a competition,” Tanis yelled pushing to his feet. Staggering a few steps forward as the world ran in streamers, he caught himself on a nearby post with one hand. The other he put to his head and groaned. He always hated this part. Almost as much as each time the love of his existence died in his arms.
“Hasn’t it been?” Caius asked, his anger leaking into this voice. “We awaken. We vie for her affections and she chooses. Then the battle begins. It has always been about competition. Who is the strongest, the most willing to fight for her, to die for her.”
“Which is why we are still fighting,” Tanis hissed, a sudden spurt of pain slicing through his head. Gasping, he blinked his eyes, trying to clear his vision. If he was going to survive this, he needed to have his wits about him. He looked up at Caius and was happy that the fuzzy edges had become clearer. “She loves us both.”
“Yet time and time again she chooses you because of a lie.”
“I never lied to either of you,” Tanis snapped.
“True, but you never corrected it either,” Caius countered.
“And when she chose you. Did you tell her the truth? All of it? Or did you only tell her the parts that would draw her to you?” Tanis asked taking a step towards the dais.
“Enough of this,” Caius snapped, waving a hand to dismiss the conversation. “Finish what has been started so we can finally end it.”
“I will not allow you dig your claws into her any further,” Tanis swore standing his ground. With Kara so close, so near death already, it took everything he had to stand his ground. Every cell in his body screamed to go to her, to save her.
“She is already mine,” Caius snarled, slipping forward on his throne as if he wanted to stand then thought better of it.
“If that were true, you would not be pushing me to finish it,” Tanis smiled knowingly. “You may have bound her to you through that damned necklace, but you do not truly have her soul. For that you need me.”
The smile Caius gave him made Tanis uneasy, but his own smile did not falter. He would not allow the bastard to know how hard it was to allow Kara to die. It was what she wanted. To end this existence and be free of Caius.
“She will never truly be free of me, for even if she dies, I will live on and I will find her as I found her this time. Do you really want her to suffer as she has again and again, for I will find her in every life time until the two thousand years are expended, and we once again stand before one another. Do you hate me that much, brother, to cause her that much agony?”
A movement caught the corner of Tanis’s eye. As one, he and Caius turned to the boy who had fallen to his hands and knees next to the throne, gasping as if it was hard to catch his breath. Up until that point Tanis had not even noticed him, which confused him. The power that radiated off the boy, and he used the term because he was comparing the thousand plus years with his own many millenniums, was impressive. He should have noticed him among the mortals, but he hadn’t. Thinking harder Tanis realized that he knew the boy was in the room because he had seen him walk in here before him. Just as suddenly the boy was a blank, as if he was not right there in front of them. A few flickers of life, as if whatever was shielding him was losing power, and suddenly the boy was a brilliant white light.
“Aden?” Caius asked reaching for him, concern lacing his once scathing tone.
“Why are you trying to hide him from me?” Tanis demanded stepping forward. A sudden rustle of cloth and metal froze him in his tracks. The shock of what they had witnessed had worn off and the guards were suddenly doing their job. Guarding their emperor.
“I have done nothing,” Caius answered absently, the anger evaporating under the sudden sharp concern for his apprentice. The sudden emotion had confused the demon who possessed him, for he did not understand love or compassion, and allowed Caius to escape the prison the bastard had put him in in the back of his own mind. Kneeling down next to Aden, Caius was careful not to touch him. Something was wrong, and he had little time to find out what it was before the cold-blooded demon took control again. “What is happening?”
“She’s dying,” Aden squeezed out. There was no air to show the panic that thrummed through his body. He was losing her. Not in that even though she was not his, she would still be there. He could still see her, talk to her, hold her. But in that final there is nothing left but memories and grief and pain.
“What?” Caius asked in alarm, his eyes shooting towards the figure on the floor. “No!” he breathed.
“I’m trying to help her, but she does not want to live so she is fighting me.” He prayed that the panic he felt coming off his master was real. Only the man who cared for them both would panic like this. The man who had tortured them as if their pain gave him pleasure would have revealed in their pain. He gasped out the one last bit of information that he hoped would drive Caius into action. “Our bond is taking me with her.”
The panic in the eyes that shot back to Aden was very real. Maybe there was still hope.
In the back of Caius’s head the demon roared. It would soon break free of the cage Caius had thrown it into and then there would be hell to pay. It had been only in these last few months that he had realized what a fool he had been. Now he barely had time to warn the male who now hated him and save the female that was the reason for his and the universes existence. Struggling to his feet, Caius looked at his brother, the only other person he trusted with his life, his soul, and those two things were lying on the floor dying.
“I have little time,” he said waving the guards to put their weapons up.
“What are you talking about?” Tanis snapped, although there was doubt in that tone. There was something different about Caius. Something in the eyes, in his posture.
“You must begin the ritual or he will take her,” Caius urged.
“That boy is no match for us,” Tanis sneered. “And Kara would never allow him to bond with her.”
Caius closed his eyes and counted to ten. He had forgotten how frustratingly stubborn his brother could be, and he was supposed to be the reasonable one. Opening them, he narrowed them on Tanis. “Don’t be a jealous fool. It does not become either of us,” he scolded.
Before Tanis could retort, he was suddenly airborne and flying towards the dais. When he reached Kara, Caius dropped him on the floor next to her.
“Unless you want to lose her forever, start the damn ritual. Now!” The last was meant to be forceful, but the air left him and the demon roared in his head. Doubling over, Caius fought not to lose consciousness so he could hold the demon back for as long as possible, giving his brother time to do what he had been created to do. Save them all.
Tanis stared at the hunched figure on the dais in confusion. What the hell was going on? Then he felt it. Evil so vile that it burned his skin where its power touched. A laugh that did not belong to his brother but something dark and depraved started low and eager from Caius’s mouth. Tanis did not hesitate. Looking down at the prone figure next to him, he reached for not only with his hands, but his mind, his soul, his power. The moment his skin touched hers, it felt as if the very air around them stopped moving. Carefully he turned her over, brushing the hair from her face. Wishing he had more time to learn her features in this life time, he leaned down, pressing his lips to hers. There would be plenty of time later, if they survived.
Pressure within them, around them, began to build, contracting down to a single pinprick, waiting until the moment when their souls touched before it exploded outwards with such gentleness the only outward signs that anything had happened was those in the room, across the ship shivered as the power danced over their skin.
Time stood still. There was a moment of understanding, of joy. They were together again. Two thousand years of waiting, of stuck in the endless loop of her dying in his arms and she was once again here. Alive. Then he felt it. A strange link that was not his and did not lead to Caius, but someone that did not belong. Tanis followed it down the metaphysical line to find the boy. Aden. At first Kara’s soul, the essence made of who she was, began to rise, to protect. Not in fear Tanis would harm her, but in fear of what Tanis would do to Aden. Where there was confusion on how or why the bond was forged in the first place, one thought was very clear from both Kara and Aden. They did not want it broken, and they would fight with everything they had to keep it whole.
Tanis, no, Kara’s weak voice breathed through his mind, pleading with him not to do this.
He does not belong, Tanis growled. Aden was not part of the universe’s equation. Kara belong to him and his brother, and neither of them shared her with anyone else. It was not the way the Gods intended it, and Tanis would see that it stayed that way. Gathering his will, he attacked Aden’s hold on her.
The room stood in silence as they watched the figures on the floor. Kara lay motionless as Tanis leaned over her, head bowed in concentration. Aden was on his knees, his eyes closed tightly in obvious pain, sweat beading on his face as he fought some unseen force. The emperor was now sitting on this throne, his elbows on the arms of his chair, his fingers tented as he watched the two figures on the floor before him. He could feel the power between them building, intertwining, tearing. The second burst of power that filled the room slammed all who stood in the room back against the walls, dropping them in heaps onto the floor. With a cry of agony and profound loss, Aden collapsed to the floor at the same time Kara screamed, her back arching. Tanis’s head fell back and he roared to the heavens in triumph before collapsing on top of Kara.
In that one instant, the universe shifted.
“It is done,” Caius breathed, his red eyes full of triumph.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
Music | Literature | People.
Currently Researching the Disaster of Pompeii in 79 A.D.
An Empyrean Cycle
Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry Journal
Mindfulness, Philosophy, Spirituality, Meditation, Awareness, Religion, Nature Photography
Layers Of Life
Conjured by Sarah Doughty
Excerpts from book writings :)