The last place Anki expected to wake up the day after her husband's funeral was a slave ship bound for the barren desert island of Ki-Sir. Her wrists and ankles were shackled and linked to three other females with chains. She stood shoulder-to-shoulder as did everyone else in the hull of this giant ship. She was cargo, a nameless face among a sea of faces in an Angius slave ship bound for servitude.
The ship rocked violently with one turbulent wave after another. The hull creaked and moaned. She waited for the seams to burst and drown them all, but that never happened. She was sick more than once as she had never been on the waters like this before. She had never seen a seafaring vessel before, let alone traveled in one. To see this one from the inside was awe-inspiring. Were she here under different circumstances she might find it quite fascinating.
She had never met an Anguis in her long lifetime, not many had. The Anguis were an elusive serpent like race, their skin was covered in scales, however they walked upright like most of the people of Kisan. They thrived in the hot desert climate of Ki-sur, but not much was known about them as they were unable to live anywhere but their tiny island. Some said it was a curse, other said they were a weak race that would be eradicated if they lived on the mainland. It was theorized that the were the descents of a long lost god that was consort to Ki before the time of civilization.
Their land was lush with gold and jewels, but barren of food, and water. Many, many trade agreements were settled between monarchs of greater Ki-gal and this tiny inhabitable island. From the looks of this cargo hold, they were indeed rich. Hundreds if not thousands of slaves all standing side by side filled the cavernous hull.
She tried to recall the events that lead her to be sold like a slave, it should have been unlawful as she was Highborn. It should have been illegal for the Anguis to even accept her, yet here she was. She hardly remembered how much time had passed since the death of her husband. She tried to remember why and when she left Drakos, the planet she had called home for eons, but sharp pains lanced through her mind. She vomited as the pain intensified.
The slaves around her yelped and squealed their disgust. She couldn't blame them they were all so close together that she had little choice but to cover the person in front of her with the contents of her stomach. She felt badly, but there was little to be done. A slaver guard came over to the spectacle and sprayed them with freezing cold salt water to rinse off the remains of her sick. “Silence!” he shouted as he walked away.
Her teeth chattered from the freezing cold water that now covered her and her companions. Again she tried to remember that night, being careful not to go too deep. It was obvious her memories had been tampered with. She knew the word of Kurdzu's death had reached Izi. It had been one of the main directives to be carried out upon his death, out of respect to Izi. She wondered if he was looking for her. Again she wondered how long she had been gone, it felt like she had just lost him.
A son, the baby she bore that fateful night. She remembered him. She reached down to her no longer swollen abdomen. How much time has he been without a mother? She thought to herself. She swallowed a lump in her throat, she had a son. She remembered Kurdzu holding her hand as she pushed, this had been their 12th child he had become a pro at childbirth. As soon as the baby let out its first wail, Kurdzu collapsed. She shouted at the midwife to help him but she was handed her babe with the mark of the king on his backside. “The new king is born,” she said. "There is nothing to be done."
“LEAVE ME!” she shouted at the midwife.
“But, my queen, you are bleeding I must tend to you.”
“Leave me…” she wept and still holding her screaming son moved to lie with her husband one last time.
“I will give you a moment my queen, but i will be back. We must attend to you and remove the king to prepare for the rites.”
Tears were running down her face now and the females next to her kept urging her to be quiet. She was not keen on others knowing when she was weak, she swallowed hard trying to pull back the tears. Having just woken up, they probably assumed she wept because she was chained. She kept her tears as silent as possible and a guard passed by them just then. He grabbed her face smiled and kept walking. Relishing in the torment of another seemed a quality becoming in a slaver.
She went a little deeper in her memory and tried to find out when her memories stopped. She remembered the rites, she was asked to ignite the pyre as one of the last remaining in her bloodline. She remembered holding her son to her chest as she watched the blue flames engulf all that was her husband. He had never aged a day in all the centuries they had been together. Yet, there he was reduced to ash.
She remembered rocking the babe in the nursery, nursing him was gratifying, but she was empty from the loss. The baby's nurse came to put him to sleep then and took him from her arms. Barely a day old and already holding the world on his shoulders. She retired to her bedroom and wrote two notes, one of Izi informing him of the birth of her final child, and the death of her husband. She had often wrote to him about her life on Drakos. She then wrote a letter to Adair, she had only written to him a handful of times since she left his home. But, she was always sure to inform him of the big things. She didn't know if those letters had ever been sent
She was weary from a day of sadness and mourning. Having just given birth the very night before she was weak. She fell into the bed she had shared with Kurdzu and slept blissfully. that was the last memory she had that did not send a spike through her head. The next cognizant memory she had was the brothel she had been purchased from. It didn't come as a shock to her to have ended up in a brothel, she was well known for her control and power over sex and fertility. It was one of the things her father had boasted about when he created her.
She had quite a few lucid memories of this time. She was chained to a pillar and used as sort of an aphrodisiac. She would be “primed” they called it each night before the brothel opened, meaning she would be brought to almost orgasm and her magic would fill the room so that anyone who entered was instantly aroused. The owner had used this to get many unwilling females to almost beg him to bed her. It had made her sick at first to be an instrument of rape. but eventually she became numb to it.
She didn't know how many years she spent like that but she knew she was about to go into her needing, and so did the master. Next thing she knew she was aboard this ship sold to the Anguis. She wondered what he had sold her as. There were 4 classes of slaves; workers, household slaves, harem slaves, and elite slaves. Looking at the woman next to her who was one of the most beautiful beings she had ever seen she feared it was the later. However looking around at the rest of them, it was clear they were in with the worker class.
Little was known about Elite slaves, only that they were bound straight for the Emperor. Elites were paid handsomely for, but so were the harem girls. She hoped upon hope that she would be a worker. It would be a blessed change from her life. She was not conscious when the sorting happened which must have been difficult for the girls on either side of her. Did they have to carry her?
She whispered to the woman next to her and she shushed her. A boisterous roar came from the front “SILENCE” obviously they were told there would be no talking on this voyage. Her wrists and ankles burned. she glanced down and her skin was red and blistered. Iron, she thought grimly. She cursed loudly forgetting the previous admonition for speaking. Suddenly a hulking male stood before her. She whimpered and showed him her wrists. she was met with a raised palm. She flinched and waited for the darkness of being knocked out. When it didn't come she opened her eyes to another male holding back the upheld strike.
They hissed a language she had never heard before. The first male left in a huff forcefully pulling his upheld arm out of the others and walking away. “There will be silence in here!” He shouted as if to uphold his authority.
“I apologize, we have quite a large load this week so you have been misplaced.” She looked askance at him. He grabbed the chain and began pulling the 4 of them out of ranks into a door on one side of the hull. She could hear protests of the slaves around them as they were taken. The slavers began the process of silencing the crowd. She felt a pang of sympathy for them.
This treatment did nothing to ease her fears about being one of the elite. they were led through several corridors into a long hallway with several glass doors on either side. The walls were polished metal of some kind, it was darker than silver or steel, almost black. In each room was a soft cream colored bed, a table with cream colored flowers a small restroom and a book or two. Some rooms were occupied its occupants dressed in cream robes. Some were getting massages, some were getting their hair done up, and others being dressed in the cream robes.
She was filthy and bleeding from her wrists and ankles. She found herself wishing for a bath and a clean robe. She was led to a common room large enough for dozens of people to lounge in comfort and style. Another male was waiting for them in this room. More of that hissing language and the other male looked them over. He took her wrists in his hands and rubbed the sores. She hissed automatically out of pain making her feel faint.
They began the long process of removing the chains. She was afraid to speak, as she had almost been clobbered for speaking up before. She didn't think she would stay upright for much longer. The iron must have been in contact with her skin for quite a while. She of course had absolutely no concept of time at this point. The pain had reached a fever pitch, and instead of throwing up as she had been, black dots swam in her vision and she was blissfully lost to oblivion.
Balthazar looked down at the female's; three screaming their protest of the fallen fourth member of the group. They should never have been chained in such a manner and someone was going to get it for this. The fallen female was the most expensive out of all the elites, and the most important. SHe was also in the worst shape. “Quickly remove the shackles this one was never supposed to be in irons. She is Belgae you fools!” movements hastened as he barked orders at his troops.
He went to the intercom system on the wall and called to the infirmary for an emergency tech to rush down here immediately. The females were unchained and the healthy ladies were escorted to the baths and rooms while he lifted his charge from the ground and settled her on the sofa in the room. She was so small, he had never met a Belgae before, he knew of course she was not full blood. She wouldn't be on this ship if she was, but he knew Belgae could not tolerate iron in any capacity.
He cursed audibly once more said something about the incompetence of the fool slavers. The emperor would be displeased, mostly because he was expecting this one above all of the others, his bride. He felt a shadow of sadness knowing this female was destined for the emperor's bed and not his. He didn't understand it because never has a woman ever mattered to him more than a passing fancy. especially a slave.
The touch of her skin sent his body into a heat so hot it almost burned. he hissed in pleasure. He moved a strand of purple hair from her eyes and examined the wounds more closely. There were blisters and pustules covering every part of her flesh where the iron touched. There were parts where the chains simply brushed against that left burns as well. An irrational anger surged through him. He shook off that thought as the medical worker rushed in.
“Yes there was a horrible mistake and the Belgae elite was clapped in irons and thrown in the hull with the rest. she is unconscious”
“These burns are extensive, I may have to take her to the infirmary if it has entered her bloodstream. Let me examine her.”
As the medical tech examined the girl he saw all manner of scars all over her small body, he again felt that heat, only this was an anger unlike anything he had felt. he wanted to tear apart anyone who could ever hurt her. He again shook his head these feelings were very uncharacteristic of any of his people let alone the Ba’al – hand of the emperor.
“SIR!” shouted the med tech.
He shook his head again, “Huh?” he managed eloquently.
“How long has she been in Irons?”
He quickly tried to do the math in his head they had spent a week on the mainland. She was housed at the farms for several days before the ships landed. She was supposed to arrive with the previous shipment, but there was a problem with her paperwork. This voyage had already been at sea for 4 days.
“It is entirely possible she has been in irons for 2 weeks or more.” He finally responded. “She was supposed to come last week, but there was an issue with her paperwork. She was at the farms while we waited for the corrected paperwork. Due to the large shipment she was misplaced in the cargo hold with the worker class.”
“And was she conscious the entire time?”
“I don't know that. The other Slaves she was chained with said she wasn't conscious for more than ten minutes but that wasn't until they were in the hull. She had caused a bit of a scene it is the only way my men knew she was there.”
“How did she get missed on the manifest? Why did we take off without her safely in the proper care?”
“It was an oversight, one I intend to investigate as soon as I am able. I have been searching for her since we left the mainland. 10,000 head is a lot of people to search through.”
“She is poisoned and quite seriously. The iron is in her bloodstream and we don't have the equipment or know how to heal this type of illness. I have not studied anything about Belgae at all. It is why she was never supposed to be chained.”
“I am not hearing solutions here only more problems. Tell me what can be done.”
“I need to take her to the infirmary perhaps she will respond to something we have there.”
“Do it. i will report in 1 hour.” he walked out of the elite cabins and into the barracks. It was time he got down to the bottom of this.
She struggled at the edge of consciousness, trying to wake. When she thought she would break through her eyes would grow leaden, and she would be pulled under the waves of unconsciousness. It went on like this for quite some time, though she had no measure for passing time, only oblivion. The only other sensation she ever felt was the agonizing burn of the iron. She had hoped someone would have removed it, but still it burned and spread up her arms. Was she on fire? Would she burn this boat and all inside it to ash? At that agonizing thought she gasped and sat bolt straight up.
She realized two things at once, she was not ablaze despite the burning, and she was no longer in irons. She looked down at her arms and legs, the blisters were gaping wounds oozing and leaking all manner of things, they had not been dressed. She absently wondered why. The pain radiated up her arms and legs she was on fire inside. Sweat poured in rivulets down her face and the sheets stuck to her fevered flesh.
There were needles in her arms and tubes and wires attached to her everywhere. She removed them and tried to stand up. The white floor was cold on her bare fevered toes and it sent a chill throughout her body she was not quite prepared for. This place was pure white, sterile white. The white walls were bare, the white curtain blocked the white door that had a single window. The bed, the linens and even the instruments were all white, as if it were unclean to be any other color.
Her white robe gaped open at her backside and she couldn't be bothered to care. She put one foot in front of the other but didn't get far before weakness, and the sounds of approaching footsteps, stopped her. How long had she been in irons. She remembered the day a Belgae courtier stabbed her in the heart with an iron blade because he didn't want a half-breed to hold the power of the collective. It was an attack that was meant to kill. The burning of the metal spread throughout her entire blood stream swiftly, she had almost died then, and she would die now, only more slowly this time.
She put her back against the wall forgetting why she had even gotten out of bed in the first place and slid down until her bare bottom was on the cold floor. She hugged her knees and waited for the approaching footsteps. They were running, no doubt in response the all the beeping and alarms she had caused when she unhooked all the wires and tubes. Absently she noticed her arm dripping blood from the vein she had removed the needle from.
Two men burst through the door their eyes went for the bed she previously occupied hissing at each other while they came to terms with her no longer being in the bed. One was dressed all in white, she would have to assume he was the healer, the other dressed in black, he was a soldier. Their scaled skin seemed to almost glow in the pure white of the room. It was almost as if the white was a tool in order to see into the body of the patient. The iridescence became almost clear in the light. Despite the tales of the serpent people, she did not see a tail on either males backside, and she was appreciating the darkly clothed one's backside very much.
“Boys!” She shouted, it wasn't enough because they still hissed at each other louder than before. It was definitely time to get their attention, she needed to heal and now. Slowly she started to release her magic, it would be quite weak as the iron still infected her, even though the chains and shackles had been removed.
"BOYS!!” she tried again they both slowly turned each taking her in slowly she looked at them unsure if they would understand her when she said “I am dying!”
Balthazar looked at the girl she was so much smaller than he remembered; she looked even smaller cured up on the ground. She was covered in a sheen of sweat and she was more pale than before. There was a small pool of blood on the floor where her very weak looking arm lie. It was a stark contrast to the white sterility of the infirmary. She seemed somehow weaker awake than she had unconscious. Her lips were dry and her eyes seemed dull. She said she was dying, and honestly, in that moment, she looked like she would. The med tech knelt to her quickly taking vitals trying to stop the bleeding checking to see if she had hurt herself at all. She kept batting him away saying he didn't understand her as she shouted at him “There is nothing you can do I am dying!”
“Hold on, listen to what she says.”
“I do not speak the common tongue Balth. I do not understand what she says.”
He repeated what she said.
“I need to heal.” she said.
“We know, we don't have a way to heal you on this ship.” he said to her, “When we get back on land we will have more experienced medical teams waiting.”
“I won't make it, I need to heal now.” She said, her voice was thready, and weak.
“She just keeps saying she needs to heal.” He said to the med tech.
“That is what I am trying to do, tell her.”
“You can't heal me medically, the iron is in my bloodstream and it's moving to my heart.” She rasped and wheezed and struggled to get a breath to speak each word carefully. “Please listen, I can heal myself. I am Unseelie, do you know what that means?” she asked.
He shook his head in response and repeated what she said to the med tech
“No.” he said shaking his head.
She looked sort of defeated as the med tech shook his head.
“Please, listen I don't have much time. This is agony, I need you to find at least a dozen strong, virile, males and bring them to me. I can heal through my magic, weak as it is.”
He backed away from her, and shook his head.
“What is it?” the med tech asked.
“She can heal herself.” he said in a strange tone.
“That's great what does she need?” the med tech asked.
“Magic?” he asked.
“She is Belgae that is not out of the ordinary.”
“Then why does she need males?” Balthazar asked the med tech.
He shrugged and she spoke again “Listen, I don't have time for delicacy here, I can heal with sex. I can absorb the life force of my partners and heal through them.”
“Gods,” Balthazar gasped.
“What is it?” the tech asked.
Balthazar repeated what she said.
“Fascinating,” the tech said.
“How is this fascinating, do you realize we will die if we allow this?”
“What do you mean?” the med tech asked
“She is the emperor's bride and she is asking us to allow her to lay down in sexual congress with a dozen males so that she might feed off their life force in order to heal. You think the emperor might not have a problem with that?” Balthazar quipped.
“I think he might have a bigger problem with a dead bride, and we did nothing to save her.” The med tech corrected.
“It is treason!”
“It's our only option if were dead either way, I would very much like to see this before I die”
“You cannot be serious!” Balthazar said backing away further.
“What? It's fascinating! Ask her, could I take notes on the process?”
“You fool the emperor will have your head on a pike.”
“She was not untouched when she came here. She was in a harem when he purchased her she is already spoiled. This woman is incredibly powerful, you cannot blame me for medical curiosity, and neither can the emperor.”
He cursed under his breath. The female was shouting at him.
“Listen tall dark and sexy, I am going to die. Do you not understand that?”
His skin burned at her sultry complement. “This thing that you ask is beyond our ability to grant you.” he said.
“I could just take you now, all I have to do is let go of my powers. I don't want to do that as you seem so unwilling, and I don't do rape”
He wanted to retort with something witty, or brash but all he could do was pick her up and dare her to do just that. He burned for her in a way that he wished she could follow through with her threat. “Will you just take from me, little girl?” he said in a deep breathy voice that was far too alarming. He had never burned like this before he could not be the one to take her this was his emperor's female.
She licked her lips and stared straight through him with those green orbs. They began to glow and he felt her power take over him. He burned for her more intensely than he had ever burned for anything. even the med tech commented on his arousal.
“I cannot hold it back any longer,” she said apologetically, “I am sorry for this, no one's choice should ever be taken from them. My power will ride high and call out to anyone or anything to keep my body from dying. Just know, it is not my choice.” She closed her eyes and a tear weaved its way down her cheek. Then he felt it, the heat intensified his flesh burned where he touched her. He set her down on the bed and shook his hands off in the effort to cool them, but it did little to ease it.
He had never felt such desire before. It was all consuming, if he were not magically bound, body and soul, he would never have been able to resist her call.
“Listen to me carefully Medical officer Ra go to the barracks and find the strongest males we have, and send them here immediately. I cannot withstand her pull much longer. She is no longer able to hold it at bay. Gods forgive me but we will be powerless. Run and don't come back unless you want to lose your wits.”
“Sir, they are all weakened from the stay on the mainland. We are weakened.” the med tech said.
Then god's hope we can survive the final leg of our journey. Go bring a dozen and then lock the med bay completely. Do not open it for any reason.” he grunted as her magic grew even more intense.
GODS!” They both cried in unison.
“It's getting stronger, “ Balthazar grunted. “Listen carefully, when we reach Ki-Sur you do not open this med-bay you go straight to the emperor and explain to him what transpired here. You tell him you are there on explicit orders from the Ba’al they will have to listen to you. Go Ra now.” The medical tech ran like fire was on his heels out of the med bay he heard the airlock behind him. Smart boy. He spared a momentary thought for those he was dooming to heal her. Himself included, it felt as though this woman would break his curse and his oath with just a breath.
His mind tried to fight her he was powerful and fought her he did. “Please let me heal!” she begged him. “It is the only way, I will die. if you let me get to far I will kill everyone as i feed don't let me kill them.” She seemed like a being possessed; half of her was only need, and half of her worried for those she called. He could see the internal struggle on her face.
“Shhh men are on the way.” He said backing far away from her.
Suddenly her cadence changed,“But I want you great ba’al I can sense your power. You will feed me well.” Her need spoke to him now, she was gone.
“I cannot, do not ask this of me.”
“I need,” she said, slithering around on the bed like a female in heat. He pitied her, or maybe he empathized with her.
He walked closer to her and put his hand in hers. “They are coming I assure you, please I cannot do this thing you ask of me.” he said setting his focus far away from the female.
“Do you see?” She asked him as she held onto his hand tighter, again her cadence changed. Images swirled by in his subconscious, a love affair? This tiny female in his bed, smiling, swollen with child...his child. She was different then from either the need, or the dying girl.
He gasped and took his hand away as if she had burned him. “What was that?” He asked.
Her cadence changed once more, this time it seemed older somehow. “I am Ubatu, do you know that name?”
He did all he could do was nod. In fact he knew the Ubatu on a visceral level, not the myths concocted by the fear of the old ones. He didn't know the Ubatu had been born, however. Or that the Ubatu had been born a Belgae, a powerful Belgae. Suddenly her slave status did not sit well with him. He shook his head he was no longer that man. The man he was knew nothing of the origins of the Ubatu. “Those images can never be, do you understand? You belong to my emperor, I serve my emperor and only he.”
“I will die before we reach your emperor you know it to be true. How will that serve him if his bride is perished on your watch?” she said, her cadence changing again.
“I cannot do this thing you ask of me. It is impossible.” He had sworn not only to the emperor but an ancient blood oath. He sensed the old spirits stirring in this room. Old magic was riding high, and his demons bubbled to the surface.
“Tell me what you know of Ubatu?” Changing again as if there were three different people warring inside her. Being the Ubatu, there probably were.
“Every species has their own theory about the Ubatu.”
“Tell me what the Anguis believe. Take my mind off this burning. Let me die hearing your voice.”
She was pale, and her eyes dulled. “You will really die?
“The iron is rushing to my heart..I do not have much longer.”
He looked down at her observing her skin it was grey and sallow, her fever had reached excruciating levels.
“You are loyal and strong. I cannot fault you that. I will die knowing a good man has been saved from breaking his blood oath.”
“How can you know about that.” He asked.
“Sometimes I just know things, no explanation.” She shrugged.
“That is something no one alive knows of.”
“Ki and I are one, you know.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“In some ways I am their vessel; the 4 great gods. I come from their land from their stock. Ubatu means so much more there.”
“Where are my men?” he asked, attempting to change the subject. How did she know of the old gods? Even more, the great kingdom. What the Ubatu truly was. And a vessel for the old gods?! Impossible. He would order those men to heal her on pain of death.
“When he air-locked the med-bay he chose the quarantine sequence unintentionally. It is his first voyage he was so scared to actually have a patient. They cannot enter until a quarantine team can be dispatched. They are also awaiting our arrival. It will be all for naught, however, I will be dead within the hour, and we still have several before we dock.
“How can you know all this.”
“Tell me what you know of the Ubatu.”
“Tell me how to heal you!”
“You will break your oath.”
“I cannot watch you die.”
“And yet, you cannot heal me. We are at an impasse.” she seemed almost playful now, he wondered what part of her ruled now.
“I am more powerful than you realize. Please take from me what you need. If it is blood I’ll open a vein for you, if it is my life force I gladly give it.” He plead.
“I only know how to cure iron poisoning one way, and it is none of those. You have sworn a vow that even my magic cannot break. You are immune to me.”
“I am not, I feel your power.”
“Yes, but you did not succumb.”
“Neither did our medical tech.”
“He is not a lover of females.” she said coyly.
“How can you know such a thing?”
“I am a being of fertility magic, I know everything that has to do with my specialty. There are currently a dozen very virile males throwing themselves at the door crazy out of their minds from my call and they cannot get to me. They will kill themselves before they can reach me. And I will be to blame for their deaths. My power is out of my control and you are immune. A blood oath older than civilization…” she paused as her brows knitted together. A sudden recognition spread across her face. “I know you…” she said breathlessly, her cadence changing back to the wizened tones.
“You are, unbelievable.” He said his heart began to race. Could she actually have a memory from the old world? Could she really remember past life? If she was truly Ubatu that would make sense. Another thought blasted through the fog of his ancient memory, Belgae and fertility magic. What little he knew of Belgae suddenly clicked. In all of the Belgae species only one female had this power, The Unseelie queen. She had tried to tell him earlier, but he had lived so long as Balthazar, he had forgotten. He had to be remembering wrong, there was no way the Unseelie queen was a slave on his ship.
“At least I got to know you before I died. Tell me the story…”she said interrupting his train of thought.
“How can you have memory of me?” he asked before he realized he spoke.
“It's not really a memory. Something in me recognizes something in you.”
“You were never supposed to be”
“I know, I spent time in the realm of spirits to save Izi, I saw so much. I know so much. I do not remember my time there often, lucidity sort of drowns out the memories. It is how I know I am dying. I can sense so much.”
“You were never supposed to be, you were supposed to stay pure, untouched. What I know of the Ubatu and what the Anguis know of the Ubatu are two completely different things.” He began.
“Do the Anguis know who you are?”
“There are none alive who remember me.”
“So you have just blended in and inserted yourself as the Ba’al here. You are supposed to rule. what do your people really know of you Zida?”
“It has been eons since I have heard that name, that is not my full name it is but a pet name. I am Ningishzida, I am myth and legend, forgotten like the old gods. I am Balthazar now, Ningishzida is dead.
“Yes, Ba’al to the king. They need to know you Zida.”
“They know me as the Ba’al nothing more. It is better I serve in this way, fallen gods are not received lightly.”
“You are not fallen, you made a mistake, not even a mistake really. You acted well within your nature. ”
“It was a mistake that cost so much to my people, my children.”
“So free them, free yourself it's time for you to step out of the darkness. It is time for you to return and lead your people. It would not be difficult to show them who you are, Zida, or have you worn the form of a man for so long you cannot remember your true form. Must I remind you as I did izi?”
The air around him shivered and he returned to his true form. The serpent, the god of promiscuity, flirtation, infidelity and sex, in his resplendent form. His hair was long and black slicked back and braided, it rested just above his hip bones. The iridescent scales raised and lifted as his whole body reformed. He was muscled, and the markings of his scales made his skin look like a swirling mist, there were hues of purple, blue, turquoise and black. The myth had gotten several things wrong about the god. Most of which was the tail, he stood on two very muscled legs. He took two long strides and stood beside her, she felt his power riding high over hers. Even Izi was never this powerful. She was unequivocally at his mercy. Her chest heaved oppressive presence. His pain and guilt ruled him. She longed to heal him of all of his hurts.
He laid a hand on her chest and began to draw out the poison. She felt a warmth spread all throughout her body that had nothing to do with the poison.
“You could do that all along?” she asked breathlessly.
“Yes, and no. Only in this form.”
“What I showed you was true, Zida. You know what I am it is my job to heal your people.”
“My people are well.” he said dismissively. “Your true mission is to free me, that much I know. I am not worthy of it.” The more he rejected her the more she wanted him. She knew it was irrational and she tried not to succumb to those feelings. If she was being honest with herself, she wasn't entirely ready to love again.
“You're people are cursed and are dying everyday. With Ki’s blessing I can remove the curse and give the Anguis their proper place in this world.”
“They know no other place in this world to change that is to cause massive upheaval. Ki is dead and with her any chance I ever had at absolution. Besides, even your precious Izi hides behind the guise of Osaurion.”
“He still rules.”
“He is still young.”
She laughed, “Forgive me, I never could think of Izi as young, I suppose you would have a different perspective than I.”
“You make a mockery of this?”
“No, you see, to me and to most people on Kigal, Izi is one of the oldest living rulers, forgive me Osaurion. He is considered one of the old ones among political circles, and for you to refer to him as a child... Well, from my perspective, you see he is anything but young.”
“But, you are older than even he.”
“This body, this incarnation is not.”
“I watched this universe form out of nothing. Now, I pay a penance for my sins. It is an apt punishment. My sins here, as well as in the great kingdom are being paid for in full. I have been cast out well and truly, and I deserve all of it.”
Her heart felt heavy with his sorrow, all of a sudden she only wanted to weep for him. “No one deserves this, and the world is ready for your influence. The Anguis are ready for your power and theirs.”
“You know nothing of what I deserve.” he said coldly
“My heart breaks for you. No one should pay this price for a perceived slight. Even Ki knew when she fell for you you would hurt her. She fell for you because of what you are, and then lashed out at you when you continued to be what you are.”
“Were, I am no longer that man. I have no power.”
“Are, you are still that man, no amount of binding will change who you are in here.” she said placing a hand on his chest. Again a fire spread through her body. He still had it for sure. She sucked in a breath, and he put his hand over hers. He lifted her face to his and she found his eyes locked into hers. Her breaths came faster now and her heart raced. Gods she wanted what he had to offer her. Just when she thought he would kiss her, he broke the stare and walked away from her. Her heart sunk. “I'm afraid I have to disagree, you are far from powerless.”
“Still, I am no longer that man, this curse, this oath, that is who I am now.
She tried a different approach, for some reason she couldn’t let this go. She had to help him. “Wouldn't the Anguis benefit in ending their dependency on trade with the mainland? Wouldn't the Anguis benefit from being able to work their own land, trade their own slaves, barter their own rights?
“That is not for me to decide. I let them down eons ago. It is better that they think me trapped in the forsaken tomb then walking among them. I am myth now, i am the story they tell children to behave. I am a whisper.” He said.
“You were Ki’s consort before civilization...you were…”
“We created the Anguis yes...but I scorned her and she cursed me and mine and banished us to this island”
“That is why you can't leave the island without getting ill.” she realized.
“Yes that is why.”
When did the Anguis change from this form to the current form.
“They were born that way. They were a perfect match between me and she.”
“Did you love her?”
“No if I am being entirely honest, but she loved me. While she was creating and carrying the future race of the Anguis, I was taking everyone of her priestesses, and hand maidens. She was crushed, in her despair she created Ki-Sur, so aptly named the snake hole. She then cast a curse upon my very essence. Anything or anyone that was of my blood was sent to Ki-Sur. The curse bound my essence to the island, if ever died, so would it. I had to stay alive to give my people a chance at survival, but I also had to disappear.
“So you are the one who is cursed, not the Anguis themselves?”
I am the one who is cursed, but by extension so are they. That is why they banished and entombed me eons ago. Why they perform rites in their homes to keep me that way. Why they pray to the goddess Ki to keep the dreaded Infidelity god entombed. That is why among the Anguis, infidelity is considered a crime worse than murder. Also, in conjunction, why marriage is rarely entered into, and why fewer and fewer children are born each year.”
“Usually my premonitions come from Ki, but I am not sure now.
“Ki is very weak on the water, I am almost certain you alone generated that, it is not outside the realm of the Ubatu's powers. It is out of the realm of possibilities for that prophecy to ever come to fruition, you see after I was cursed, I took a blood oath that bound the curse to my godhead. As my powers are over sex, promiscuity and infidelity, the oath magically castrated me. It backfired, however, I have been cursed to feel, need, and desire, but never ever able to participate in the act itself. No release, it has been torment all these years.”
“Why would you bind your powers in such a way, that has to be agony.”
“I owe my people this, and much more. I am paying my penance.”
“That is a long penance to pay.”
“It will never be enough. Until Ki has forgiven me, it will never be enough, as she has died, I will never be forgiven.”
“She is still here in spirit.” she said
“I know she is with you, she is weak here, but I can feel it.”
“Can you?” she asked curiously.
“How were you able to heal me?”
“I am an old one there is nothing I can't heal. There is little that is beyond my power. I am older than even your Izi, or Ki herself. I can remember the creation of this world the very first cell that split to bring life to Kigal.”
“It was supposed to be a prison.”
“In many ways it still is.”
“It is time to be free of this Zida.”
“My curse is not important. What is important that you need to reign in your powers before those men out there really kill themselves.” He said effectively changing the subject.
“I do not know how without the release. I have never had to just call it back.”
“Well, release is simple just let go.” She looked at him askance a moment. She breathed deeply looking for a different kind of release. “There you go just let go of the magic holding on to you. Release the need tell yourself you are satisfied.”
“It cannot be that simple.” she said dismissively.
“You are actually a being of purity. Completeness and purity. You have been soiled on this world. It is enough to cause me to hate this world I helped to create.”
“I am an abomination. One does not usually equate abomination with purity. But you are not telling me anything i didn't know. I have visited the spirit realm. I met the man who created my spirit.”
“Created is too nice a word for how you came to be. You were born of violence lust, and slovenly desire, yet another of my great sins.”
“I know the story, you are not the one to be blamed. You could never have stopped it. He told me many things, one of those was that he had called her there to that wood. He used a mind control device and lured her out. When her father refused his peace offering, he took something precious from him.” she started. “In many ways this place is his Ki-sur. This planet was built to be a prison.”
“If this planet is a prison it was built to contain him.”
“Yes, it was not supposed to be a prison for you. Ki will release you. Death has given her clarity she did not have in her youth.”
“Focus child release your powers they are still riding high.”
“I have released them. The males at the door are dazed and injured but alive.”
“He took a deep breath why was this woman affecting him so. He changed himself back into the form of the Ba’al and they waited in awkward silence for the ship to dock there were hours still, and he had to steel himself for his duty to give this woman to his emperor. The idea made him sick deep inside. but he had to stop thinking about he had a duty and he would do it.
She waited in her pristine white robe on the pristine white bed in her steel chamber on the ship to be unloaded with the rest of the elites. Her room was slightly different than all of the others, for one she didn’t have a glass door, for another her room was done in white instead of cream. The privacy gave her very little comfort. Balthazar stormed out of the med bay as soon as the quarantine team had unlocked it. He had completely shut down after reverting back to his faux form. They had not spoken again after that. She had slept while they waited mostly because there was nothing else to do. He did not return to her after she was escorted to this room, she doubted she would see him before she was to be wed to the emperor today.
The thought filled her with a sadness deeper than she had ever felt. She had only ever wed her dragon and that was of her own free will. This marriage was forced upon her. She feared the next moments as she had never feared anything else before. If she fought the marriage, even a little bit, she was certain she would die a slave. If she went along with it she would be betraying her nature. The truth was, she was captive, she didn’t know if they had her child hostage, or if some other cruel fate would befall someone she loved if she fought. For now, she played along. Under most circumstances she would know to expect pain, and torture, but there was nothing but uncertainty here. She didn’t even know what her bridegroom looked like.
She was a Highborn no doubt the reason she was marrying an emperor today. She wondered how long this deal had been in the works. Had it all been some elaborate plot to sell her to the Anguis emperor. Also how did they get authority she was a free woman, her papers should never have been that of a slaves. How had she came to be here? If she tried to remember she would be racked with pain. Something about this didn’t sit right. She was made not to remember.
She wondered if she could get word to Izi. Would he rescue her? Would he be looking for her? She tried to remember the days after Kurdzu’s death. The days of anguish and darkness. Again Pain assailed her. Was she even allowed time to grieve? She would ask how much time had passed since the king's death, but she was unsure she would get an answer from anyone here. Most of the Anguis didn’t speak the common tongue. Something about this just didn't seem right.
She heard commotion outside, and she walked to her door to check. For whatever reason they didn’t lock her in, there were no guards posted, she could just walk out. But her only way out was straight into the Anguis city that awaited her arrival. The other Elites were being led out 2 by 2 dressed in cream gowns now much like brides maids at a wedding march. They had all been given slave bands to mark their owners. She saw several different kinds, one looking like two crossed swords with a snake wrapped around it looked much like the insignia the soldiers wore, she had to assume those slaves were to serve in the barracks as distractions to the soldiers. She didn’t envy them, and truly they were expendable, and expected much like food or water.
She was the only one dressed in white, which she found odd and somehow expected. She assumed the robe colors had marked them somehow for the journey, and then slave bands were added before they were unloaded. She watched them walk past her two by two, they were quiet, reserved, and all averted her gaze. She leaned against the door and wondered if they had been told not to look at her. When the last slave had passed she went back into her room and paced. Why didn’t she act? why was she being so complacent? She could have easily knocked out a slave and traded places with her. This was very out of character for her to take no action whatsoever.
If she was being honest with herself, she was biding her time. For what, she didn’t know, but something told her she had to go through with it. Besides, even if she tried to tell anyone she was of high born status, no one would believe her. In fact it would probably make it worse for her. Here she was a slave, no one knew who or what she was. Here she was just another half blood slave sold off like property. She returned to her solitary suite and closed the door She leaned against the wall beside it waiting for uncertainty
Suddenly an entourage entered the elite suite there were two soldiers leading a group of females into her room. They females were dressed sapphire and gold gowns, and were carrying various bags and cases. All wore slave bands on their upper arms that looked like a snake was wrapped around their arm. They must belong to the emperor himself. Behind them was a full accoutrement of guards. The tough ones like Balthazar. These were the elite soldiers. The strongest the fiercest. Briefly, her mind went to the women that wore the emblem of the soldiers. She both envied, and pitied them.
The females all set down their cases in different parts of the room, some began to set up a bust, while others removed swaths of iridescent white fabric. Still, others set cases down on the dressing tables. Three of them, still holding their cases, approached her along with half a dozen guards. They spoke the common tongue and said, “We must clean you and prepare you for our emperor, my queen.” Queen? She thought. Was that why she was unguarded? Was she thought to be a guest here and not a prisoner? Two of the guards took either of her elbows and led her out of the room and into the baths.
It was obvious that these guards, and the guards who had picked her up were two completely different castes. It was also obvious that some of them had been lied to, even Balthazar thought she was a slave, but these men considered her their queen. How had they been able to keep so much of this quiet, suddenly she felt sick for the men who had brought her here, and Balthazar. Usually things like this ended up in certain people disappearing or being eternally silenced in death. It scared her on so many levels, most of which was Balthazar was the only one who knew who she truly was, and that gave her hope. However misguided and inconceivable it was.
With little preamble or care for her modesty the females began to strip her, and the males holding her elbows. Her heart beat a little faster in her chest now, why on earth was this happening? She thought to herself. The males led her into the large hot pool, and carefully set her down on a seat on the pools edge. They then stood as sentry’s on either side of her. Next, two other guards had been undressed and sent into the pool. It was then she noticed the arm band on the four of them. It was subtle but there it was, the mark of the Unseelie. These men were hers? More and more of this just didn’t sit well with her.
The Anguis males approached her with hands outstretched and she had to appreciate them, but she was not prepared for this. They washed her gently and more than once she felt an erection rub against her flesh. She tended to have that effect on males. The females spoke then, “They are here to feed your hungers if you should need it my queen. We know your journey was a harrowing one, and we wish you to be in top health for your wedding.”
She knew the males were obviously willing, but were they on orders to do this? She didn’t need healing after...well she didn’t want to think of him. She didn’t know how to decline them without sounding bitter, or without asking what was really going on. It wasn’t that she didn’t want what they offered, she did, but she was not exactly in the right frame of mind, nor was she comfortable with this situation in the slightest. She just shook her head and was led out of the warm water and into the softest materials, as the males and females both began drying her.
The males that were still clothed escorted her back to her room which was now transformed. A gown was draped on the bust, and several women were putting finishing touches on it. She was escorted to a chair and several women began working on her hair, while others went to work on her face. Powders paints and colorful tubes came from every direction. When they were done she was escorted over to the gown. It was lovely, possibly something she would consider wearing to a wedding that she actually agreed to.
It was iridescent like the flesh of the Anguis, but it was also very see through. There would be nothing left to the imagination. Just then, several females went to work on her body, sticky flesh toned disks were placed over her nipples, and a flesh toned cloth was wrapped around her waist. Her skin was painted with random dots that looks like the skin of a serpent. They were trying to make her look Anguis? How odd.
Then several females began lifting the gown off the bust and on to her. The gown was odd, it was solid, yet pliable and soft all at once. It was the strangest fabric she had ever felt. It was form fitting and billowed out at her knees. A long train was added at her shoulders and fell several feet behind her. The gown, and train were heavy, but felt as if they had been made for her.
The two males that led in the entourage took her elbows, she noticed they had different armbands than any of the others, and they were a little more harsh with her. She was then led out of the suite and out of the common room. Finally she was getting off the boat. She could scope out her new surroundings and find an escape. She knew that would be impossible, this was an island surrounded by a sea that had only been crossed by the Anguis ships. She had to be smart, but she didn’t want to be a prisoner either. Her choices were limited, live or die. For now, she chose life. She could endure most things, not much was worth dying for. Besides, being considered queen left possibilities for intrigue and escape she could wait to achieve.
As she stepped off the dark boat the two suns beat down on her and blinded her. She held an arm up to shade her eyes from the bright suns. It took several moments for her eyes to adjust to the bright sun she didn’t know the last time she had seen sunlight. Her escorts waited for her eyes to adjust before they continued down the ramp. When she could see again, she took in her surroundings. There were several soldiers wearing the same bands her escorts were. She heard a distinct flapping of wings, and a screech above her. She looked up shielding her eyes as she did just in time to see a large bird of prey with a white speckled belly fly overhead.
She stared at it in wonder as it flew the path she was supposed to take up the streets of the city. There was several long sheets of white fabric swathed across her path to shade her and her entourage. In the city streets, the stones were covered in a red velveteen looking carpet all the way up to the palace. That is where the bird went, probably to notify them she was beginning her walk down the long street. The wooden docks had been covered for her bare feet as well.
When her feet finally touched the sands of Ki-Sur or the first time, it was almost sensual. The sand was soft like walking on clouds, but course like garden soil. It was hot and cold at the same time, and she found herself digging her toes in with every step. The guards had stopped for a moment, waiting for something she wasnt sure. So she took that moment to dig her feet deeper into the sand. She had covered her feet almost entirely and it felt amazing.
She reached down in the earth with her entire being trying desperately to reach out to Ki, and through that connection, Izi. She felt as if she had not set foot in the earth for quite a while. She reached deeper searching for him, but he was not there. She could feel Ki, only because she created this island, but they may as well have been in another dimension, because Izi was completely cut off from her. She wondered if some how it had become known of her connection to the earth.
Before her laid out an ornate carpet that led down a very long street to the Emperor. The sides of the streets were lined with cheering residents seemingly happy to welcome their new queen. Her escorts on either side of her pushed her forward and kept her pace steady. She wanted to stop to slow, but she was propelled forward. She did not want what was waiting for her at the end of this long road. Her heart sank as she realized she had no choice in this.
The people lined up on either side of the street all wore white and were waving white satin streamers to welcome her. She wondered, and not for the first time, what lies the emperor had told his people about her. To celebrate the wedding of a slave to an emperor seemed strange. These kinds of things were done behind closed doors, or not at all..a slave was a consort never a wife.
These people cheered as if they were well and truly welcoming a queen. Even Balthazar didn't prepare her for this. Of course, Ki-sur was a world away he could have told them anything he wanted about her. Truth was she was a queen, so very much a good match for the emperor but what they didn’t know is that she was here against her will. That her family might be missing her. Gods, she wondered how long she was away from her baby boy.
She faltered then, and the guard kept her moving regardless of her protests. As she took another step she dug her feet into the sand trying once more to reach out to anyone. Still all she could feel was Ki, but that was purely residual. She felt utterly cut off here. She had no choice but to keep walking to move forward to marry a stranger.
Her heavy gown shimmered in the sunlight, and as she looked at the Anguis at her side, she knew the dress was made to make her look like an Anguis in the sun. It was beautiful. The effect of the sheer fabric and the painted tones of her flesh made it seem as though she were scaled like the Anguis. She absently wondered what her wings looked like beneath the fabric. The mock scales shimmered in the setting suns their iridescent light glittering off the sandstone walls.
Each step she took quickened her heart beat. By the time they reached the velveteen carpet, she was certain the crowd could hear its thundering. They approached the carpet quicker than she was ready for and soon there were only a few more paces until it cut her off from hope. All her hope of reaching out to Izi would be lost. She would be cut off, alone. If her heart had been thundering before, she felt as if it could tear out of her chest at any moment now.
She looked around in the hopes he was there in the shadows waiting to rescue her from this. He would swoop in and take her home so she would never have to endure this. She knew that was impossible. Her dragon lord was hardly even cold in his grave before she was taken and forced into who knows what, and now this. The guards at her side forced her to move once more. She absently thought about begging them to let her go for all the good it would do. She could tell they had orders, and they meant to follow them.
The guards did not pause they simply propelled her forward and with that she was on her own here. She placed one foot on the plush carpet, then another. Her heart sank. This was it. Finally she had had enough with the apprehension and stalling. It was obvious she was going to have to go through this. She stopped fighting the forward momentum, and quickened her pace. Some in the crowd gasped as she hurried up the velveteen road. The guards didn't struggle to keep but, but they struggled to keep their calm demeanor as they attempted to slow her with force. Maybe once she got up there she could overpower the emperor and…She didn't finish her thought as she gazed up at the opulence of the palace for the first time.
The stairs before her were white marble with intricate gold and sapphire inlaid designs. They seemed to tell a story as she tried to decipher it the guards at her side once again moved her with ease. Her eyes moved up to the male awaiting her at the top of the stairs. She assumed this man was her betrothed. His gown was deep indigo and gold made to match hers in every way but the color. He was a very effeminate male with the same iridescent skin that Balthazar had. She wished he was here at least. He was a beautiful man, but she liked her men hard. Where Balthazar was muscled, this man was gaunt. Where Balthazar's face was angular and strong, this mans was soft and supple. This was definitely a politician's face. His small eyes were covered in khol which made them appear to be a piercing crystal blue.
He held out a hand and beckoned her to come up the stairs she did so grudgingly. She held up the heavy gown as not to step on it as she went. There were ladies behind her holding up the long train. She reached the top of the stairs and took his outstretched hand. It was cold as ice. She couldn't imagine this hand touching her intimately. She took her eyes of that hand and looked into her groom's face. Only all she could focus on was the man behind him.
Balthazar stood dressed in white leather armor. A beautiful silver sword at his side. The sight of the blade made her long for a weapon. She took her eyes off the blade and stared deeply into his eyes. Pleading silently for this to end. Balthazar only stared forward neither acknowledging her presence or ignoring it. He was protecting the Emperor, and by extension her. Her betrothed lead her away from the crowd and into the palace. Balthazar followed, as the dutiful servant he pretended to be.
Suddenly all she could think about was her former husband. Her heart was beating out of her chest and she felt all the pain of his death. How wrong this marriage would be. How much she wished she had time to heal her broken heart. Or how she longed to be with Izi, in his arms he would heal her heart. He would take her pain and make it his own. He was always going to be the one for her. He was always the love of her life.
Her groom led her into the castle and through several rooms. She was so lost in her pain, and in her longing she paid little attention. He stopped her then and took her face in his hands as if examining it. “You are even more lovely and person.” She felt Balthazar behind her stiffen at the candid way he spoke to her. Some part of her was glad he was feeling discomfort. He pulled her into an embrace and in a hissed whisper said to her, “You are well worth the price I paid for you. You will bear me sons, you please me.” The hissing in his voice sent a shiver of disgust down her spine. She would be expected to bear this man's sons. TO be seen not heard, to obey...She was the wrong woman for this man. She knew like a sixths sense that this man was going to make her obey no matter what. He would break her just as her father did.
He led her through several more corridors before stopping outside a door.
“You will do exactly as you are told from this moment on.”
she stayed silent averting his gaze.
“I can see the rebellion in your eyes, little queen, do not even think to make a scene in there.”
“And if i do?” she asked dripping with defiance.
“You are a slave, girl, do not forget your place I own you.”
She stayed silent then, she had little choice in the matter, to disobey would mean a great deal of pain. Se had no one here who could or would save her from that.
“I will have fun breaking you.” he hissed with a smile
“I have been broken before. I’m not afraid.”
“I like a challenge.” he grinned she noticed then that all of his teeth had been filed to sharp points. She shuddered inwardly.
The door before them opened and led into a large opulent ballroom. The room was filled with people who she assumed were the courtiers of Ki-sur. They were dressed expensively and looked her way when the doors opened. The emperor left her then with Balthazar. She didn't understand how the marriage customs worked in Ki-sur. When she was married to Kurdzu, there was a type of hand-fasting ceremony. In Kisan, there was no preamble to marriage you went to the court and signed papers. There were no fancy parties it was a legal matter and nothing more.
The emperor began to address the crowd after a few moments all the people turned to him as he talked.
She turned to Balthazar and quickly spoke, “I cannot marry him please do not make me do this.”
He didn't even look at her as he said, “It is the will of the Emperor that you be his wife, the ba’al has no say in this."
“I cannot please do not make me do this.”
“You have no other choice.” he said firmly
“You do. Please. I beg you.”
“You are his, and I am his servant.”
He placed a veil over her face and she could no longer see. Somehow it made all of this more final. He took her hand and led her forward. With every step her heart beat faster. Her eyes stung as tears welled up. She thought of Kurdzu again, his gentle hands his warmth. With that the tears fell unbidden down her face. She cared little weather the paint on her face smudged.
Her pain quickly turned to anger she directed it at Balthazar. He had the power to stop this, and every opportunity to do so. Hate filled her heart once again. She would be broken this night the Emperor had promised it. It was nothing new to her, her father made sure she was well prepared for torture. It was the betrayal and indifference from Balthazar that hurt the worst. That he would deliver her into the arms of this torment was enough to break her in a way. At that moment seething in her pain feeling the tears running down her face she knew he deserved everything he got from his curse. And she hoped it would never be broken.