“Focus on one thing. Let all your feelings go, all your thoughts vanish. Pick one thought. Focus on it. Let it engulf you. Let it surround you. Let it consume you. Then let it go.” Laurena closed her eyes and emptied her mind clearing all her thoughts and all the emotions she had felt since waking up from her slumber. She focused on her thought. It appeared quietly a murmur of crackles and pops. And then all she could feel was heat, vivid pulsating heat, the image came up in a flash and all she could see was red and the darkest Orange. All that she felt was the pulsating heat. She threw up her hands and saw a shimmer on it. It was her wedding ring. Suddenly she knew, she was back home and this was the night of her wedding.
She looked down at herself and saw that she wore her white wedding dress, it still looked new, crisp and beautiful, each hem perfectly is done in a silver thread, each pearl fine and perfectly made. She closed her eyes bitterly knowing that the next thing she would see was her mother died in front of her.
"Rina!" Laurena's eyes snapped open at hearing the former name. Her human name. She turned to the doorway and saw her mother, with her long dark hair that flowed all the way down to her waist. She wore a simple white dress that fell past her knees, her heavy cloak hastily thrown over it. "Mother!" Laurena heard herself say. Except it wasn't actually her. She watched in shocked silence as she saw herself run to her mother and hug her tightly. She let go of her mother to clasp their hands together.
"Mom. I woke up to fire. I'm so scared. What's going on?" Rina said her eyes, not unlike that of a child. Laurena let out a strangled gasp, tears running down her face burning her. "Rina, your burning up." Mother said, putting a hand on Rina's cheek.
"No," Laurena whispered her head shaking as she watched her other self, the one wearing the wedding dress let out a squeal of pain. A shock ran through her body and flash out to her mother. Who crumbled on the floor in ashes.
Laurena and Rina both screamed as the world was consumed by fire. Laurena let out another gasp as she watched Rina run away, the whole vision snapped away in a flash and she was back in her nightmare world Vemos. She looked up at Simeon who leaned against his desk gazing at her, expressionless.
"I killed my mother," Laurena said her eyes filling once again with tears and falling once again. "She's dead because of me," Laurena said scrambling up, shaking her head, rising from where she sat back up against the opposite wall. Her head was full of denial, even though the vision had shown her that there was nothing left to deny. She alone had killed her mother. There was no one else. The house had been set on fire because of her. She had done it. She had killed everyone.
“Why?” Laurena said looking at Simeon.
"It was your time. Nothing would have been able to fight it. It's called Ascension. It's when you reach the peak of your potential and all your powers are released. Dorian and I went through something similar." Simeon said. Laurena tensed feeling a presence in the doorway. A presence that she knew all too well. Dorian stood in the doorway encased in another one of his three-piece suits. He was too beautiful to look at, as usual. Dorian stepped into the room towards her. Laurena tensed at his approach, moving away from him quicker than she intended. Laurena's anger snapped, "Don't touch me!" she shrieked. Gripping the table behind her she swung it at them both. They ducked quickly and when they got up again she had gone leaving papers scattered in her wake. "Well, at least it wasn't a fireball," Simeon said as he bent down to start picking up his work. "That's what I call progress."
Dorian moved toward the door, “I wouldn’t.” Simeon said, effectively stopping Dorian in his tracks. “I wouldn’t go after her. She’s rather volatile at the moment, and you’ll be the last person she would want to see.” Dorian looked away. “Except because of me, she has no one left to turn to.”
“She has her brother.”
Dorian’s face twisted into a grimace. He knew Simeon was right, he was the last person Laurena would turn to. He had seduced her in front of her soon to be husband. Whisking her away in a dance of romance, then holding her back, and making her watch as her own real family. Her blood brother kills her fiancé in front of her eyes.
Terry fought back a yawn as he stood off to the corner listening to the court proceedings. As always there had been the talk of war brewing in the south (When weren’t they at war?). Talk about the sea of decay spreading closer to the main kingdom. His eyes strayed to the window, and there he saw her, his sister leaving hastily from Simeon's tower. Terry glanced back at the court. Everyone was now standing, arguing once again. His eyes glanced the crowd looking for pale spiky hair. He finally saw him, his half-brother Raphael. He was in deep conversation with two members of the council. Terry with the newfound silent grace of his slunk out of the chamber and worked his way down the winding steps and out to the courtyard. He already knew where Laurena would be. She sat on a rock her ruby-colored dress billowing around her in the wind. She looked every bit the princess she truly was, and looked as dangerous as she truly was, with her face etched in stormy anger. He approached her silently, stopping beside the rock looking straight off into the distance at the shimmering lake that spun whispers of fire bubbling up on the surface. "Hello, Lauri," Terry said a slight smirk on his face.
“I told you to stop calling me that.” She said testily, glowering at him from where she sat. Her fingers clenched at the rock, hard enough that a sliver broke off, which she promptly threw at the lake. It skipped four times before disintegrating into nothing.
"Nice," Terry said nodding appreciatively. He bent forwards and sat down beside her on the floor, of the sloppy hill overlooking the lake. Laurena stared at him incredulously. "What are you doing?" she said, her voice almost breaking with shock.
"I'm sitting, it's not against any rules," Terry said. "You're the heir." Why would you sit below someone like, like …well me.”? She said sounding completely flabbergasted.
"I am sitting where I should be," Terry said calmly. "I'm sitting beside my older sister. The one I never knew I had." Terry said. Laurena looked back at the lake her mouth tightening. "That…Woman. She was never my mother. And she never will be.” Laurena said, thinking about the mother she had never met. But had been with Terry and had loved him, his whole life. The same woman who had abandoned her on the steps of the village square. “I’m not asking you acknowledge my mother as yours. Or asking you for forgiveness. Lauri your village…Dorian and my father chose that for my trial. It was my mission to destroy it, all of it. But when I first walked into the town square, I saw you. You wore blue silk, completely simple, and you were dancing around with children. When I saw you I knew then, as I know now, that I could never kill you.” Terry looked up at her, “You’re here because of me. Because I couldn’t kill you.” Laurena stared at him. “They didn’t know about me. Did they?” Laurena asked as she finally realized why there was such an uproar when she walked in the court for the first time. No one had ever thought that the banished King of Vemos, Nathaniel could’ve had a daughter. Another heir. But he had. Laurena shook her head. “I was born out of rape. I should be glad my real mother hadn’t decided to drown me.” She said her voice breaking now. Terry scrambled to his knees, his hands going to either side of her face. “Lauri don’t ever think like that. Nothing is ever truly hopeless.” Lauri shook her head her hands going over Terry’s. “It is for me. Your father knows I’m more powerful than you. That’s why I’ve been marked. Once Raphael finally decides to complete the deed I’ll be bound to him forever.” Terry dropped his hands truly shocked. Laurena her hands to her face and broke into helpless tears. “I’ll have to forget everything, my family, my village, everything.”
“No, you don't. Don't ever forget what you lost. I haven't. I lost my mother to death, and soon after I was taken here and told I was to become the ruler." Laurena looked at him, her face covered in tears. "You don't understand. I didn't lose my mother. I killed her! That’s what I just saw. My powers killed her! See!” She said throwing out her hands unclenching them into balls of fire burst out of her hand levitating just above her palms. She clenched back her hand the fire flowing back into her veins. Terry put one hand over her wrist. “It’s cool.” He said smiling softly. Laurena looked away bitterly but turned back when she felt something cool drop in her palm. She looked down at her hand and saw a band of gold with delicate wavy designs around it. She gasped softly, “It’s my wedding ring.” She said softly. She looked at him her eyes searching. “How did you get it?” I thought it had been lost on the way here.” She said wonderingly. “I kept it for you. It’s on a long chain so no one will see it, and it’ll be safe. Dorian and Simeon still have to give you your power crystal to hone your powers, when you do get it you can put it in the middle of it.” Laurena stared at him. “You don’t have to forget being human and you don’t have to forget your love.” Terry smiled, he lifting the chain, and the ring with it, putting it over Laurena’s neck. The ring fell past her breasts making it easy for her to lift the ring and hold it. She smiled looking at it one last time before sliding it underneath her clothes. “Thank you.” She said softly, looking at him warmly. Terry smiled, he glanced toward the castle. “We better get back. Before they start getting suspicious.” Terry grinned, getting up and pulling Laurena with him. “Go back to court. I’m going back to Simeon and Dorian.” She said lifting her skirts stepping off the rock.
Terry smiled, “Farewell Sister, ‘til we meet again.” He said as he watched her walk towards the tower, before turning back to the castle.
"Stand straight, don't slouch," Dorian whispered quietly, as the council members approached. Terry scowled at the reminder but followed it regardless. Dorian had been around for centuries now, and the council members were quick to prosecute. Royal or not. "My Prince." The head council member sneered giving a slight bow along with the other council members as they scuttled past. Following them were shadow wraiths; dark grey creatures that were neither organic or ghost but everywhere they passed they brought the stank of rotting corpses and burning flesh. With that thought in mind, and once the wraiths had completely left. Terry nudged Dorian and said, "Hey, how has Lauri been?" Dorian's left eyebrow twitched in what Terry could only assume was aggravation. "Terrence please refrain from speaking so brashly," Dorian said rubbing his head. "You mean stop speaking like a human," Terry said. "No, it's brutish," Dorian said blankly. "Translation, it's human. "Terry said fully grinning. Dorian rolled his eyes, "Terry you have been here for over twelve years. GROW UP."
Terry sniggered. "Just answer my question." Dorian tensed, "She's fine." He said looking away. Terry scowled, "that's not an answer." He glanced at the elaborate two-sided staircase that led to the royal rooms. Laurena sat perched in the middle of one, the skirts of her dress alone taking up half of the stairs. “Fine. I’ll just ask her.” He said abruptly walking away before Dorian could stop him. Dorian looked at him incredulously. “You can’t just approach Laurena!” He almost screeched his eyes wide.
"Hey, Lauri," Terry said grinning. Laurena looked away from her the book she had been reading with her eyebrow raised.
“Terrence." She said rearranging her skirts so he could sit beside her which he promptly did. "I take that back, apparently you can," Dorian said dryly as he approached them both. Laurena ignored Dorian in favor of her brother. "There's been the talk of war among the wraiths, have you heard anything in court?” Dorian and Terry both looked at her blankly. “War? With whom?” Terry asked sounding completely dumbfounded. “The wraiths talk to you?” Dorian said aghast. Laurena turned to look at Dorian and sensed immediately that something was off. “Dorian are you alright?” she asked a line of concern etching her brow. Dorian started at her concern. “She has a point, you have been off lately. Tense. Is there war brewing?” Dorian sighed. “I’m not at liberty to say. You both must know that.” He glanced towards the two Darkling’s who for the first time since he’d met them sat side by side. He could immediately notice the family resemblance between the two of them. The dark hair, strong facial features and both had clear blue eyes, eyes the color of the deep sea. Eyes that he remembered from their mother. Whom had been trapped here for so long. Gianna. He looked back at Laurena and wondered if she was destined to share her mothers' fate. If she too were doomed.
“Yes. War is brewing in the far east.” Dorian said. Laurena and Terry looked at him in shock. “The East? But there’s nothing there but forest!” Terry said looking back at Lauri, whose eyes had not left Dorian’s frame as he refused to look back. “Everyone avoids that area…something tells me there is a reason why.” Dorian looked back at her his eyes dead.
“Zafira. The Witch Queen. Nathaniel’s Witch Queen.” Dorian said looking intensely at Lauri. “Nathaniel. As in my father?” she whispered her eyes huge in their shock. “Yes. The same.” Lauri’s eyes widened as she thought of the past; her father had raped her mother while she had been held custody here for a stupid ritual to gain power. Her jaw tightened as she turned back to look at Dorian. He watched her with a knowing look on his face. "She left the kingdom a while back. Now she's starting to cause trouble again. Raphael and I will be leading a legion into the forest to eradicate her followers. We hope it will be quick." Dorian said. "You and Raphael? What of father?” Terry said looking up at him. Dorian cringed. “He’s in the North. Again.” He muttered rolling his eyes.
"I thought as much," Terry said irritated.
"What's in the North?" Lauri asked. "Nothing that I'm allowed to say," Dorian said looking down the hall. "Nothing you can say?" Terry said his eyes narrowing.
"Terrence drop it," Lauri said cutting off whatever Terry was going to say next. Lauri leaned back towards the wall, she looked at Dorian carefully before she looked back to Terry. “You overstep your boundaries brother. It is not in your place to question.” She said. Smiling she ran a hand through her curls. “You forget that Dorian is still Ariste’ and he’s bound to the rules in his genetic make-up. You don’t want to get him in trouble, do you?” she said. Terry grinned before he sighed. “I’ve been here for so long but I’m still rebelling. I feel like there’s something off. Like something is supposed to happen.”
Lauri’s eyes narrowed. “Like the calm before the storm?” Terry nodded, scrunching his eyes. “But how did you—”
“I’ve felt it too.” She said. They were both silent for a moment before they both looked at Dorian at the same time. “You need to be careful.” They both said in unison. Dorian smirked, “I knew you were going to say that even without reading your mind.” Dorian said grinning.
"Well isn't this lovely." Lauri's head swiveled around looking at the true bane of her existence. "Raphael." She said any trace of happiness gone from her face. He leaned casually against one of the stone pillars. He, like Dorian, wore an immaculate suit. The crisp white of his shirt was open at the collar giving way to the dark marks that curled his chest. Lauri knew that the marks went down all the way to his navel. Her fists clenched once before she forced herself to relax. Raphael's eyes glittered as his focus went straight to her before he straightened. “Terry. Dorian.” He said nodding at them both. He sauntered over to the steps in a gait that made Lauri’s skin crawl. Her mind flashed back cruelly to the first day she had entered the throne room, to her fate…
"Well done Terry. You found the lost princess. And the people that harbored her?" King Victor asked. He sat on his throne, his spiky blonde hair gleaming in the dark pallor of the room. Laurena's first thought was that he looked like one of those blood-sucking creatures that the storytellers used to wind long tales about in the village pavilion. "None were spared, My Lord," Terry said bowing low. Victor nodded, "Good." He turned his attention to Lauri. "By now you must have realized that you are not human. You are like us, and this is our true domain. Away from humans and Angels both. Free from conformity. Except for my own, and one day your brother shall inherit the throne."
Lauri inwardly shuddered as she thought back to the coldness, the hopelessness she had felt that day. She looked up now as Raphael put out his hand for her. Her face blank of any emotion she took his hand obeying meekly to the man she had been given to. The one that controlled her. She felt like screaming inside. A scream of torture and pain, fear, and anger. A scream that Dorian with his gift could hear clearly. He watched silently as Raphael walked away with Lauri at his side and knew without a doubt that between the two of them he helps more freedom than she, and he was but a slave. "That sickens me," Terry said a grimace on his face. "Why did my father give her away, to him no less.” Dorian masked his features and looked back at Terry. “Because he is your father, not hers.”
Dorian's eyes dimmed then his thoughts went back to his former master. Nathaniel. He had been cunning and cruel and had ruled with an iron grip. Dorian doubted if he hated anyone as much as he would always hate Nathaniel. The cause of so much death. And Treachery. Only Dorian and Terry's Father, Victor knew of their mother's true origins. Only Victor knew of what pain and injustice Dorian had suffered at the hands of Nathaniel. And now Zafira was back and seemed ready this time to bring Vemos to its knees.
Lauri waited watching the moon on her side of the bed for Raphael to reach a deep slumber before she dared to rise off the bed. Her clothes flew about her the cloth light as a feather and finer than any silk she had ever worn. It was dark blue. A color she seemed to wear more and more often since the Masquerade massacre as she called it in her mind. She slipped the light soundless slippers on and encasing herself in a robe she left the room to seek peace elsewhere. She finally found it in a shimmery pool of water that could only be seen by Simeon's Tower. She knew that even if he saw her here he would not bother her. With that in mind, she kicked the slippers off and let her flowing clothes drop into a puddle at her feet. In a single fluid moment, she jumped into the middle of the pool, submerging her whole body. When she rose up, she realized she was not alone as she had thought. His eyes seemed to gleam in the moonlight. "Dorian, what are you doing here?" She asked, bending deeper in the water, cursing her state of undress. "A woman should not be without an escort. Seeing as you have none, I decided to follow.” Dorian said calmly. Lauri narrowed her eyes at him. “Still tailing me?” she quirked an eyebrow. “I suppose I should be flattered," Dorian smirked at the pointed sarcasm. "Flattered or not. Someone should be watching you."
“Why because I’m dangerous? Unstable? Which one?”
"I'd say both. But that's not my point." Dorian slid down and laid himself down on the bank. His arm perched on one knee, his voice came out gentle, "It still hurts, doesn't it? Makes it hard to sleep." Dorian said nodding at the sunburst scar that laid just above her breast. She covered it with her hand, feeling the burn of it against her skin, always hot. Always burning.
“Must you know everything?” she said a little of her irritation showing. Dorian smiled knowingly. “He marked me. But he refuses to complete it. I know not what he’s planning.” Lauri said leaning deeper into the water. “Don’t worry for now. He won’t be able to do anything for a while. We both leave in less than a week. And we have no idea how long it shall take.” Dorian said. Lauri leaned against one of the edges of the pool, the water at her neck, she bit her lip her brow furrowed in worry.
“You will be careful, won't you?" she said looking at Dorian then. He smiled at her. "Don't worry I'll be back and when I do I'll expect you to be able to block me properly," Dorian said.
Lauri scowled. “Is that even possible?”
“It is for you. You are the Daughter of Nathaniel, High King of Vemos. He was a powerful warlord in his time.”
“If he was so powerful, how was he defeated then?” Lauri said crossing her arms in the water. “He had one weakness. Greed. He never seemed to have enough. And that is what did him in towards the end.”
Lauri choked on her goblet her eyes wide. Simeon chuckled at her discomfort, grinning widely. “Would you like to hear more?" Lauri dropped her head in her hands shaking it back and forth. "How are you a mentor. I will never understand." Lauri said her tone immensely irritated. It had been over a month and there still was no sign or message from those who had gone to fight. Both the Darkling's were worried and tense something that Simeon had noticed with great amusement, so now he was regaling them with stories of vastly immoral taste. Terry was barking with laughter while Lauri turned more and redder. “I swear if you continue on this vein, I will be forced to curse you," Lauri said. Simeon laughed a smile etched on his face, which was immediately erased as his senses went haywire. He froze listening hard and all he heard was silence. He stood upright, the two Darkling siblings looked at him startled at the sudden movement. Terry's eyes narrowed and his hand clenched on the handle of his sword, that was on his hip. As he circled around the table, approaching the door. Lauri stood slowly her senses indicating danger but unable to focus it she stood unmoving. Suddenly with a colossal boom, the door slammed open in a flash of light. Lauri watched blinded as Terry was thrown bodily across the room by what seemed to be a magical force of some kind. Simeon was thrown upwards and fell in a heap on the floor. Lauri looked wildly at the door and was shocked at the person at the door was a woman with long curly hair and red eyes. She was coldly beautiful and her eyes zeroed in on Lauri. She smiled once before she flicked her wrist and the table slammed up into Lauri, dropping to the floor unconscious, a trickle of blood falling from her temple. Zafira smiled darkly as she approached the one she knew to be her husband's daughter. Smiling to herself she saw that the girl took after her father mostly. She could see nothing of Gianna in her. She picked up the girl and walked back out the door as swiftly as she had come.
Simeon groaned as Zafira walked past, rolling over his eyes barely open, as he watched her boots walked further away from the chamber. His bones ached and he felt completely drained, but still, he rose to his feet. He heard the sounds of shuffling and turned to see Terry scrambling up as well. "What the hell was that?!" Terry said his eyes wide, running a hand through his hair as he surveyed the damage of the room. As he searched he realized something. “Where is Lauri?” his voice coming sharp, as a lance of fear shot through his chest. "Gone," Simeon said dully as he looked back at the empty doorway. “I don’t understand. Who was that? Where is Lauri?” Terry said his voice trailing off to a whisper. “The why is simple. The same reason your father made you take her. The same reason Raphael claimed her as his own. She’s the daughter of Nathaniel. And that woman that just stormed here. She’s his wife.”
“Zafira was cunning long before she met Nathaniel. But this is bridging on the absurd.” Dorian mused as he looked on at the battle raging on below. He and Raphael had gone for but a moment to look for an area to resupply, and when they had gotten back they found that their company was being attacked by shadowy creatures that weren’t really there but still caused plenty of damage. Raphael chuckled before he sat back on the haunches of his horse. It reared once before galloping toward the melee. Dorian smirked moving his rein to head in that direction when he felt a chill. He paused and for one moment he heard silence before he picked up on a message sent by Simeon and Terry. “Zafira has Lauri. Find her!” Dorian went pale at the news. He suddenly realized why this war had started. It wasn’t for land or any sort of vengeance it was so the castle would be empty would be empty so Zafira would be able to take the daughter of her unfaithful husband. The daughter that had more power than anyone could possibly dream. Dorian kicked the heels of his horse and galloped away from the melee and hoped he wasn’t too late.
Lauri gasped inwardly at the lance of pain in her chest. But as proud as her predecessors she refused to show pain to her captor. Zafira leered cruelly at her, her mouth twisted in a line of hatred towards Lauri. “Little girl you try my patience.” Her voice came out sleek and deadly. She pressed on one of the previous injuries she’d inflicted on Lauri. “I ask you again. Where is Nathaniel? Where do they keep him?” she said pressing one of the daggers into her chest, making blood squelch but not yet killing her. Lauri screamed as the blade pierced a blood vessel. “I don’t know! I know not where Nathaniel is, nor do I know what he looks like! Please leave me alone!" she said her voice reverting back to the accent of her village. She went back to that time of love, honesty, and sincerity. Fury at what she lost erupted out towards Zafira. Startled she flew to the floor at the echo of power that flew out of Lauri. Looking down at her through her hair her voice came out dark and dangerous. "I know not of this world. I am the wrong person to look for.”
Zafira gazed at her, her mouth moving into a cruel smile. "And yet you do have the power." Her voice came out sleek and soft. "You are born of both light and darkness. This power shall be mine for I'll rip it out of you." She said her eyes narrowed and she lunged toward Lauri her hands clenched angrily at her arms and dug into the sensitive flesh erupting it, blood flowing across her arms and to the floor. Lauri screamed at the pain of it, she watched in fear as fangs erupted out of Zafira's teeth and sunk into her shoulder the blood fell out in rivulets finally touching the blue mark that Raphael had grazed on her as he claimed her as his property. It flashed once but that pain was all she needed. Summoning her powers, she screamed into the air telepathically screaming for help.
Dorian reached the forest quickly but realized that he had no idea where to go from there. Suddenly he heard the echo of a voice floating in the wind his eyes narrowed towards the sound before it suddenly erupted into a scream. Lauri’s scream of pain and fear. Digging his heels into the horse he rode faster towards it in fear of what was happening to Laurena. Miles away Raphael galloped knowing somehow his Laurena was in danger. Grimacing he looked at the shadow creatures and realized slowly that this whole attack had been orchestrated. Fury mounting, he called his troops around him and they all galloped as one away from the melee. The shadow creatures screeched as they left, shuddering in place before vanishing into thin air.