The princes shadows, p.22
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       The Prince's Shadows, p.22

           Seoran Worg
 
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  A distant moment later, I feel he stops his kiss, drawing back but I follow him down still.

  “Ava,” he says between our kiss. And soon, I stop kissing him. I retreat back, but still hovering over him, our breaths mingle.

  “This is what I mean,” he rasps, “Whatever you think about me. I am still a man.”

  He strokes my face gently. “Go to sleep, Ava. Before you… I do something you’ll regret.”

  Oh Gods, no… what I have done.

  Immediately, I lay back at my position near the wall, willing my crazy heart to stop beating madly.

  Please forgive me, my prince. He just looks like you and for a while I forget myself.

  ***

  When the morning comes, he already gets up and standing in front of the looking glass on the wall, preparing himself. He looks normal like his usual self as if nothing happened last night.

  That wasn’t a dream, was it?

  Seeing his turned back, I feel myself blushing hard.

  “I’ll wait outside,” he turns and looking at me, “I’ll send breakfast here.”

  We depart to the south an hour later. I see green hills ahead. Through a dense forest we go. We turn around and around all day but no robber appeared. So we give up and take a rest near a small pond in the outskirt of the forest. And the sun is scorching hot. It makes me want to dip my body inside that pond.

  “We’ll train our energy here,” he says, “It’s been a long time.”

  I nod. So, he misses it too.

  We take our stance near the pond. I focus my sense to my energy flow. Immediately, I give my energy to him and try to take it back. But it is hard to catch. I try once more but it elusive still.

  “I think, it’s not true,” I say minutes later, feeling dejected.

  “What did the lady said about it? And how did you know?”

  I feel myself blushing. I noticed it when I read about her account of her tryst with her lover in the field, when they making love amid tall grass.

  He raises his eyebrow, “What of it? You’re blushing,” he says.

  “Her lover gave his energy to her. He is a Fire Blessed,” I say hastily, looking down, feeling shy suddenly.

  “Ah,” he says amused. “Let’s try again.”

  We take our stance once again. I give him my energy and once again try to take it back.

  “Don’t,” he says, “I’ll give it to you.”

  Suddenly, I feel the energy, slowly it comes to me. It is cold, like an ice. It flows to my hands and I let it out. It is rippling, spiraling out my body in icy waves. It freezes the path it travelled, the stones, the grass and the pond. I see the strip of ice is cracking in the pond and melting under the summer sun.

  My heart is filled with joy. I leap and hug Ryn but I step back as sudden as I come to him, remembering what he tells me last night.

  …I am still a man…

  “Thank you,” I say, smiling shyly.

  “You’re welcome,” he smiles back, “Let’s finish here.”

  He is looking around and says, “You can take a bath if you wish.” He then walks away, leaving me alone.

  I take off my clothes and padding to the pond naked. I feel the cool water on my feet and sink my body inside immediately. It feels so nice. I scrub my skin and wash my hair.

  An hour later, Ryn come back but I already bathed and now drying my long hair beside the pond. He then takes off his tunic and his upper garment but leave his trouser and sink his body inside the pond. I avert my eyes.

  I shouldn’t look at him. But curiosity gets better of me. His body lean and slender but it is well muscled. I see his toned belly; it is the first time seeing man naked flesh.

  “Is it your habit looking at naked man?” he asks, his eyes twinkling.

  I turn my hot face then, “Sorry, I don’t mean to…”

  “I’m not complaining, my lady. Merely curious,” I hear amusement in his voice.

  My face must be as red as tomato now.

  Shortly before sun sets, we depart again. I still can’t see him in the face.

  What came over me?

  I really want to kick myself.

  We go to the west. Ryn find a shallow cave between rocky hills so we stay there for the night. The cave is formed by grey stone with many jagged stones inside.

  He makes a fire from bushes to light the dark cave.

  “How do you know about this place?” I ask him.

  “One of the rebels told me about it. They often use this as their hiding place.”

  We sit near the fire, heating our provision in small pot that Ryn find hidden behind the rock.

  “Are you really one of them now?”

  He looks at me intently, “Yes, I wonder why you haven’t noticed it until now?”

  “Do you know who is the hidden prince?”

  “Why?” he ask back.

  “Do you really choose him over the… over Princess Larra and her family?”

  “It’s not I doing the choosing, my lady,” he says stubbornly.

  So, I am back being ‘my lady’ again?

  “Ryn… he cannot win this war. Can’t you see? Many will die in vain.”

  “So, what do you suggest? For them to beg and kneel in front of the empress? In case you forget, they already did. And died because of it.”

  “No, believe me. She’ll pardon them. She promised.”

  “And what she gets in return?”

  “That boy prince. She only wants him.”

  He laughs bitterly, “Only him? Really?”

  “Do you really choose him? You don’t know him well, do you? He can be as cruel as the empress.”

  “Yes, he could be,” he says softly, “Don’t you feel pity for him? Even a little?”

  I steel myself and say, “No, I love my family and friends more than him. He just unnamed boy I don’t know. It’s just one boy against thousands. Don’t you see?”

  “I see,” he stares bleak ahead and smile sadly, “You are right, my lady. He is just a boy that shouldn’t be born.”

  “So, will you betray him?” I ask cautiously.

  He sighs heavily, “Let me think about it,” he says finally.

  I nod. I am glad at least he listens to me.

  ***

  Dusk will set again shortly. The whole day we are combing the forest and rocky hills, looking for the robbers but we can’t find them anywhere. Now, we ride fast, racing with the darkening sky back to the crossroad inn.

  I can see the inn gate not far away now, less than a hundred feet ahead.

  “Stop!” I hear Ryn shouts, and I slow down my horse.

  “Let’s go back,” he says, looking around warily.

  But it is too late. We are already surrounded. They are the empress’ men. There are about thirty of them and I see half of them have collar in their neck.

  “Turn yourself in, my lord,” says their leader, Lord Kigan Dearg. “My lady,” he seems shocked seeing me here.

  Lord Kigan is one of Blessed leaders. I have met him when we march north with Prince Lex more than a month ago. He is well past his fifty years but I know he is still dangerous.

  “Shouldn’t you catching the robbers instead of me, Lord Kigan?” Ryn asks calmly.

  “By taking her with you, any chance for reconciliation is closed now, I think. Why you do this again,” he shakes his head.

  Ryn says nothing. He is just looking around assessing the enemies.

  “Arrest him!” Lord Kigan orders his party.

  Ryn dismounts from his horse hastily and I soon follow. He makes an air dome but we are outnumbered.

  I draw my sword, trying to be brave. And I concentrate on my energy flow and give it to Ryn. He accepts it readily and gives some of them back to me. I feel the ice of him.

  “I don’t want to hurt you, my lord. Just surrender,” says Lord Kigan.

  “That makes the two of us,” Ryn answers calmly.

  I see one of the soldiers draw his bow and shot. It penetra
tes the air dome and goes through limply.

  “Ready?” Ryn asks me.

  I nod as reply.

  He tears his air dome. And we dance with our sword, parrying and slashing. I direct Ryn’s ice to my sword; it is sharp and freezes everything it touches. I parrying with another Ice Blessed. She seems shocked at first knowing that I can control the element too.

  Oh, this power feels so glorious.

  From the corner of my eyes, I see Ryn takes five Blesseds including Lord Kigan at once. And I see others lying on the ground. They merely fainted. I know Ryn holds back his power. I can feel it in our shared energy.

  Another young Fire Blessed join my fight. Now, it is one against two. I feel his blade come closer to my body but Ryn as if come from nowhere and send the back of his sword to the young Fire Blessed. And he falls, limping to the ground.

  He is just a disciple, too weak to fight.

  We take our stance, back to back.

  “Take the horse,” he whispers, “We will flee.”

  I nod but he already parrying with others blessed. And I run dodging few soldier to take my horse. Swiftly, I mount my horse.

  I see Ryn fights against four. They move in swords dance now. Their swords are shining in golden and silver. One down and then another, falling down to their knees and to the ground.

  “Ryn,” I shout at him.

  He runs to me, but from the corner of my eyes, I see one of the Blessed, a young man, few years older than me, crawling to take his sword. I am sure he will throw it to Ryn in killing blow with the power of wind behind, for his is an Air Blessed.

  Without a though, I take my bow and arrow. I shoot him. For a moment, I see horror cross that young man before he falls down.

  Is he died? Truly dead?

  I feel numb, struck dumb. I barely feel it when Ryn mounts my horse and sits behind me.

  “Let’s go,” he says. He pulls the rein and we gallops passing the soldiers and the Blesseds. And we are racing together to the darkness.

  Chapter 18

  Ryn leads me to the cave again. I don’t remember how I get here. But here I am now, staring blankly at a shadow of fire on the cave’s wall.

  I kill again. The thought is killing me now. It is beyond sadness. It is entirely different feeling, knowing that I killed a comrade.

  I feel Ryn soft touch in my hand.

  “You’re too tender hearted.” He squeezes my hand.

  “I kill him,” I say softly. It is still hard to believe.

  “I don’t think he is died. You are bad archer as I recon,” he teases.

  “Even if he died, it’s not your fault,” he adds.

  “Do you really think so?”

  He looks at me tenderly and nods.

  It is different; he used to kill but not I. “When is your first kill?” I ask him.

  He exhales a soft breath, “When I am ten or eleven. I don’t remember,” he looks at me intently, “The empress made me. Back then I can’t stand the pain.”

  I remember the golden snakes with ruby eyes, the empress’ crown, and how it is coiling around Ryn’s body in deathly grip. I won’t ask who he had to kill for I know it is painful memory.

  “What you did back then? To ease the guilt I mean.”

  “It’s not I. But someone did this to me.” He hugs me, tightly so, stroking my back in soothing manner, “And I cried like a baby,” he adds.

  And I do too, cry like a baby until I feel weak and drowsy.

  I pray to the Gods, please let that young man live.

  I feel he lays me down gently.

  “Don’t go,” I say weakly. I am afraid I will dream about that young man.

  “I just take a blanket. I will be back.”

  I look at his retreating back. And true to his word, he comes back shortly after with a woolen blanket from my saddle bag.

  He makes a makeshift bed and we lay there. He lets me stay in his arm.

  I feel drowsy again and soon I feel myself go to the dream land.

  I stand in vast dusty field. I see a limp body at the center of it. I feel dread in my body but I force myself walking to him. As I draw near, I see that young man face. He lies on the ground, facing up. His sightless eyes are staring to the summer sun. I feel wetness in my cheek. But I can’t look away from his death body. And oddly, his face turning, his too thin lips change into full sensual one. His light brown eyes turn into the lightest eyes I ever seen. His cheekbone and face change into symmetrical beauty. I feel my tears are rolling down faster and my throat is hurting now. I hear my own loud whimper.

  “Ryn,” I wail and wake up with a start. Looking around, he is nowhere to be seen.

  “Ryn,” I call out again.

  I hear hurried footstep come from outside of the cave.

  “What happen, Ava?”

  Ryn comes and crouches near me, seeing my tears streaked cheek with worried face.

  I shake my head, “Only bad dream,” I say and I hug him tightly.

  “Where were you?” I ask him.

  “I just going outside for a while,” he says softly, stroking my back.

  “Don’t leave me again,” I say. I hate the pleading in my voice but I really don’t want him to die. Is it an omen? I hope it is not.

  He lays me down again and lies beside me.

  “It’s just dream. Sleep again, Ava. I am here.”

  I nod and hug him still. And I feel sleep is coming back again slowly.

  ***

  The dawn comes and we ready to depart. We ride in tandem, for we have only one horse now. So, we ride in slow pace. Ryn tells me about another gathering. It will be held at south west near the sea in fourteen days. Since waves of pirate attack, most of the rebels is scattered around seashore so the gathering will be held there. But we are heading to the east now, to Magali Village. We still have to throw false trail for the Oracles.

  The sun is already high in the sky when we arrive at the village. The village has no more than eighty houses. It located between two green hills with thick woodland.

  “We’ll stay here for the night,” he says as he dismounts from our horse.

  The chief is an old man in his late sixty.

  “Welcome, my lord,” he bows low to Ryn, “My lady,” he adds. His back is stooped but he is bowing low still. He seems genuinely happy seeing us here.

  His granddaughter leads us to a small room at the back of the house. She looks so young and small, much shorter than I. She has cheerful manner and smiles a lot.

  Looking around, I see that there is only one bed in the room. Of course, they think we are husband and wife.

  After the girl closes the door and leaves us alone in the room, “We’ll wait the others here,” Ryn says.

  I nod.

  “I’ll go outside, talking with the chief and villagers. Are you okay here alone?” he looks at me with concern

  “I’m fine. Do what you must,” I say calmly. I hate being weak.

  I still see worry in his face so I smile as bright as I can. He leaves me alone then.

  I am lying on the bed, warding off the morbid thought from my mind. I decide to busy myself and go outside.

  I meet the chief granddaughter in the yard, her name is Lisa. I tell her that I want to walk around the village.

  “I’ll go with you, my lady,” she says eagerly.

  We are walking around the village in slow pace. The villagers bow deeply whenever I walk past them. I get used to people respect now.

  This village seems wealthy. I see that the villager’ houses are well keep, and the rice fields are green and vast.

  “How old are you?” I ask Lisa as we walk passing the maturing rice field.

  “Fifteen, my lady,” she says with shy smile. Not much younger than me. But somehow I feel that I much older than her.

  “You don’t have to go with me,” I say to her, “I won’t go far away. And I can go back alone.”

  “It’s okay, my lady. My lord says you’re not feeling well.
I’ll take care of you,” she says with small smile.

  My lord? It is Ryn, she meant.

  We are slowly walking back to the house. I can see that many people are gathering in the yard. Under the big cherry tree, two carts and a wagon are parked. And Ryn is talking to two men, both in their late forty. They seem so serious.

  I walk to them. They seem on guard as I draw near.

  “This is Lady Ava Worg,” Ryn introduces me to both of them.

  “I am Kirk Sevarr and he is my brother, Dirk,” says the younger man.

  “My lady,” says the other. For a while the look at each other and then look at Ryn, looking some sort of understanding. Ryn nods to them curtly.

  “We will depart to the midland soon. We’ll leave the weapon here,” says Kirk Sevarr, breaking the silent. Then, they bow to both of us and leave.

  “Weapon?” I ask Ryn.

  “Yes, we will bring them to the gathering,” he answers.

  I look inside the cart. I see that the weapon is finely made. It is castle forged swords and arrows.

  “Where did you get this?” I ask Ryn.

  “The robbers,” he says succinctly, “Let’s go inside. Don’t worry Ava, another party will bring it to the gathering. We merely guarding it for few days here,” he adds.

  Oh Gods, what are they planning?

  ***

  Night comes and I am turning around in our bed. The room is dark, only the moonlight penetrates the small window on the east wall.

  Where is he now?

  It is almost midnight. I know that another party comes shortly after dark. Ryn went to meet them and not back until now. I wanted to join him but he forbade me.

  I hear creaking sound of the door.

  “Ryn?” I ask softly.

  “Yes, it’s me,” I hear his soft footstep drawing near. And soon I see outline of his face in the darkness of the room.

  “Why do you still awake? Nightmare again?”

  “No. I am waiting for you.”

  I feel a small dip in the bed. He sits at the edge of the bed. I move to other side of the bed to make a room for him. And I feel he is lying down beside me. He takes me into his arm. And I lay my head on his chest.

  Soon, I feel drowsy and I go to dreamless sleep.

  The morning light comes through the small window on the east. I open my eyes slowly. Ryn handsome face greets me. He is still deep in his slumber. Gingerly, I touch his cheek where his rare dimple will appear when he smiles.

  I can hear that people are already busy outside but I don’t want to wake him up.

  He must be so tired.

  Gingerly, I am caressing his cheek. Out of sudden, his hand grabs my wrist, and I see straight to his pale eyes. It is look darker than usual.

 
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