rebellion is starting to take shape now, and I've decided it will only be "released" here until I've finished it in it's entirety, too many annoying fans get pissed at my slowness - see if you can figure out who's who, i give physical clues in each "scene"
Her thighs burned. She closed her eyes for a moment, reaching for her center, the place she in her mind where she escaped. Tonight the meditative state proved elusive so she attempted to block the fatigue by staring at the overly opulent carving on the head of the bed. Twisted faces of satyrs and nymphs leered at her, their bodies fornicating in positions that looked more painful then pleasurable. The muscles in her calves had started to shake and her attention was drawn to the purple silk bed hangings, ruining the attempt at meditation. She blinked rapidly and tried to clear her mind again.
Her eyes danced over the dark wooden paneling and finally focused on the painting splashed in shades of red that stretched across the wall above the bed. The image was as obscene as the carvings on the headboard. She focused on the eyes of a particular creature in the travesty of art. It was a woman, her eyes hard and cold as she plied a whip on the back of a kneeling man. It was like all the other images in the room, sex at every turn, naked men and women with bodies entwined, from the walls and bed to the carpet on the floor. She considered the room the embodiment of lust.
Her lips curved halfway between a grimace and a smirk as the manâ€™s breath quickened and the grip on her hips became almost painful. This was the longest the bastard had ever lasted, almost an hour now. An hour of letting him slide inside her body while she feigned pleasure and release. But the fatigue was getting to her now. She needed to finish him before the spell wore off. Her internal muscles clamped down tighter and she moved faster. Her legs shook in protest.
The body below her shuddered and a cry erupted from the manâ€™s throat. She tried not to grimace as he erupted inside her; it was a thoroughly disgusting feeling. His hands reached for her, drawing her body against him. He stroked her back softly and she let the tension leave and sighed in relief. There was a long moment of silence and she could feel the sweat on her body dribbling down her chest. Then the hands lifted her off easily, set her on the floor beside the bed, and followed the action with a low grunt.
â€œPerhaps this time youâ€™ve managed to conceive, woman.â€ His voice was soft, the tone longing. But sheâ€™d long ago learned to ignore his emotional games. There was a long moment of silence. She kept her head bowed low, hands clasped in front of her naked body, and ignored the disgusting feeling of his seed slowly dripping down the inside of her leg.
â€œIf it is the will of the goddess, my emperor.â€ She knew he didnâ€™t believe in the goddess, knew that the phrase would touch a nerve and sheâ€™d get the quick dismissal she desired. The man on the bed reacted as sheâ€™d planned. He growled and stood. Two dark-skinned, half-clothed female slaves immediately rushed forward, wet cloths sweeping away the evidence of their recent activities from his body. Her eyes swept up his figure and down again. Some might have found his body attractive, lean, muscular and tall. The two shared the same white-blonde hair from their father, but she had inherited her motherâ€™s pale blue eyes, while his were a strange brilliant purple. His face was controlled, emotionless. She felt only disgust and the bile rose in the back of her throat.
â€œSheâ€™s not seen fit to answer your prayers yet. Perhaps you should try the stronger power of the god.â€ He spit the words, his disapproval of her religious beliefs in every word he spoke. She kept her head bowed and tried not to shudder as he stroked a hand over her hip and slid it up her shoulder to her face. He lifted her chin and stared in her eyes as though he could read her soul. However, she kept her gaze straight ahead, and her emotions hidden. She couldnâ€™t show her fear, her anger, and her absolute hatred of this man. â€œIâ€™m beginning to think I made a poor bargain. Iâ€™ve fulfilled my part of the deal. Now itâ€™s time for you to fulfill yours.â€ She jerked her head from his grasp. Her voice was crisp but even.
â€œI promised to become your concubine, to share your bed when you wished how you wished. I may share the same fate as my half-sister, unable to bear a child. I cannot change what the goddess has decreed.â€ Another long silence stretched between the two and the man sighed, his shoulders dropping and a touch of real pain and bitter irony laced his reply.
â€œI seem to have no luck at all with picking fertile women. You are dismissed.â€ He waved her from the room with one hand and she gladly obeyed, thankful to be out of his reach, desperate to wash the sweat and grime and his scent from her body. The ships would land today. Just a few more days of this, and then she would have her revenge. Her mind vibrated with the dark thoughts. For a moment, she imagined death, the carnage that would follow the great army. The burning homes, children ripped from their motherâ€™s arms. That entire accursed island would finally fall to the greater power. Her greater power. She stopped in front of a large mirror in the hall, idly admiring her sweep of hair. It was in a ridiculous style that looked like she had two dumplings on top of her head, but it was her way of remembering, her way of honoring a mother long dead. She smiled again, seeing the suffering and destruction she would bring to the last free kingdom in the world. Then sheâ€™d personally see that every one of the fucking witches burned alive.
Conal vowed to kill that dark haired oracle should he ever lay eyes on her again. Of course, that was likely to never happen. He ran a hand through his curling, greasy black hair and wondered if heâ€™d ever felt so dirty. He was chained to a line of equally filthy, desperate humans in a cold, disgusting, stone holding cell, and the oracle was safe in her mountain temple with only a volcano and pet crows as company. At least until the armies swept across his kingdom and burned her alive. The thought made him shudder and he closed his sapphire eyes in despair. Would they kill his sister as well? He swung his fist into the wall, ignoring the pain that announced broken knuckles and the dust now climbing its way into his lungs.
Why had he believed the witch? It was a foolish plan, a gasp in the dark, a pitiful attempt to halt the horrid fate that would soon be dealt to his people. He should have stayed with his sister, should have met the invaders and died an honorable death. He should never have placed his hands in the capricious grasp of the elements and their ever changing visions of the future. Hadnâ€™t she warned that the future was always in motion and nothing was set in stone? And yet he had agreed to this insanity, agreed to cut off his hair, sail to the empire that wanted his head, pose as a poor peasant in hopes he could get a job at the palace. But then heâ€™d been so stupid, heâ€™d ruined every hope of reaching the evil witch who had decreed death for all he held dear. And all because theyâ€™d been beating a little slave girl.
He should have stayed out of it; after all it wasnâ€™t his problem. Heâ€™d done so well, had almost achieved his goal. And then because of a childâ€™s tears heâ€™d murdered a lord and ended up sold for his crime. Now he was a slave. A well beaten slave who would have scars for the rest of his life, a slave with a temper and death wish. A slave who wanted nothing more than to rip out the throat of every man responsible for allowing such inhumanity to exist. And theyâ€™d still killed the girl.
Even now the thought was enough to make him lash out, pounding fist and foot, elbow and knee against unrelenting stone, hoping the anger and pain would finally fade and leave him room to breathe. Heâ€™d failed. His people, his sister, even the little girl with the sad eyes. Heâ€™d failed them all. He collapsed in a heap on the floor, too sore and tired to move.
Aurelia hated men. She kept her face completely impassive as she helped her younger half-sister scrub thoroughly. There were bruises on the younger girlâ€™s hips and a cold light in the pale blue eyes. Aurelia grimaced, knowing that look was pasted often enough on her own face. She had never wanted to see that haunted look on anyoneâ€™s face, and she cursed the goddess for giving her such a horrid fate. She cursed the emperor for treating women like pieces of meat. And she cursed herself for ever being born. Her sister spoke, the words sorrowful and tired.
â€œHe was overly long this evening.â€ Oriana scrubbed her stomach harder as though the sponge could remove the memories. Aurelia moved the sponge across the girlâ€™s upper back and allowed the smug success in her mind to flow through her words.
â€œYes, but the spell held long enough. I was successful again. You will bear him no bastards tonight.â€ Oriana sighed loudly and Aurelia laid a hand on top of the younger girlâ€™s head, stroking long fingers over the soaked silk. â€œI know this is hard for you, but it was your decision.â€ She couldnâ€™t keep the disapproval and censure from her tone. She couldnâ€™t keep the despair from her eyes, but Oriana ignored the former and couldnâ€™t see the latter.
Aurelia hadnâ€™t approved of Orianaâ€™s mad plan for revenge. She only wanted freedom. Knowing that freedom, and the added bonus of revenge for those that had murdered her mother, came at the price of Orianaâ€™s innocence, that thought made Aurelia long to hurl herself out the nearest window. But if she died her husband would kill her entire household. She allowed herself a long moment of pity and then finished washing the girl. Neither of them had time for their sorrows. Oriana had generals to meet with, and if Aurelia wasnâ€™t back in her apartments on time, naked and ready for the bastard she called husband, Adonis would beat her again. Aurelia hated men.
He watched her with the eyes of a hawk. His gaze could be described as possessive if any who knew him well had seen his eyes. But Megas dux answered only to his emperor, and then only rarely and there was only one other soul who could tell what the gaze meant. He leaned against the wall outside the royal consortâ€™s apartments, his gray hair bright against the dark wood, where heâ€™d been waiting since sheâ€™d entered the elaborately carved doors almost two hours earlier. But he had nowhere else to be, nowhere else he would rather be, and heâ€™d been absent from the capital for too long. He would have waited all night just to see her again.
The doors opened slowly and he didnâ€™t move, didnâ€™t breathe. She moved out into the hall quickly and closed the doors gently. She never looked his way. His grey eyes drank in her small figure, her gentle hands clasped before her, a pale blue chiton flowing around her body like water, simple jewelry of gold and topaz at her neck, ears, and dancing on her left wrist. He noticed every detail, from the soft leather sandals to the way her hair was braided and caught up on her head. She moved through the corridor with a silent tread, head bowed, arms folded softly, eyes downcast. Even her spine flowed in a curve of submissiveness and defeat. The posture made him growl under his breath.
He recalled the glittering jewel she had once been, the Principessa who laughed and danced and made the court flutter about her like a flock of trained doves. The brilliant days and nights under her sharp but witty tongue and her gentle smile for every man. He pushed himself off the wall gently and followed her. Soon he would have his chance, and the man who had reduced her to a shadow would die. And she would belong only to him.
For fifteen years sheâ€™d watched the coast, the first ten with her father, and for the last five, alone. Fifteen years since the death of their princess, fifteen years since the dark empire pulled back from the brink of invasion. And now she kept her eyes fixed on the dark, pulsating ocean, desperate to separate the red sails of the imperial fleet from the white and blue of the sea.
Sheridan hung onto the branch of the tall tree that had been her perch for so many years. The twisted, dark roots of the conifer clung to the rocky clifftop like spiderwebs. The rough bark bit into her hands and the sharp needles stung her skin, but sheâ€™d grown immune to the discomfort. As a child sheâ€™d sat in her fathers lap and told him stories about the shapes in the clouds. She hadnâ€™t understood the vigil then, hadnâ€™t understood why he never turned from the dancing waves, and never understood why he came to this spot every day, in any weather, at the time when the tide would let a fleet over the vast shoal protecting the island Innes.
This was her homeland, a rich place of green and mist, the same green the filled her eyes, where the old ways still prospered. Sheridan fisted her hand and glanced at the sun. Only an hour more and the sea would recede, returning the protection the elements had granted to their sanctuary thousands of years ago. Her name meant â€œprotectorâ€ in the old language, the language still spoken in the villages, although the empires flat speech had overtaken the lilting song of the old tongue in the cities. And so she had taken on her fatherâ€™s duty, her fathers curse. She watched and prayed that she would never seeâ€¦
The flash of red was just over the horizon, barely visible as a swell rose and fell on the far edge of the shallow waters. She held her breath. There it was again, whipping over the whitecaps, standing out like a splash of blood. She lifted the glass to her eye, the old telescope made long ago by a craftsman on Avalon. It still displayed crisp, clear. The boat surged into the waves, hid behind another roll, and then was close enough to be seen clearly. And the wind was at their back. She lowered the telescope, all the blood draining from her face. There were thousands on the horizon. More ships than she had seen in her life. And they were headed for the stretch of beach she called home.
She was down the tree and across the barren cliff so swiftly that her chest burned. She had to reach them in time, had to warn them. But the damn wind had picked up, ripping her hair down from itâ€™s confinement to whip around her face in a flurry of red-brown curls. Sheâ€™d never remembered the path to the lookout being so long. And the damn elders had refused to continue the signal lights. Theyâ€™d frowned and clucked. Fifteen years was too long, the invaders wouldnâ€™t return. Theyâ€™d had their fill of death and destruction. The breeze scraped against her body, holding her back, while at the same time allowing the destroyers to gain on their target.
The trees seemed to push her ahead. She could hear them in her mind, their song of danger and sorrow sweeping through her soul. The element of her village, the great tree where they sang and danced and made love. The woods understood her panic, shared her distress. Maybe the elemental of wood would come forth herself, green hands wide, and crush the invaders. Sheridan gasped every breath.
Sloan stood at the prow of the ship, his brown hair floating in the breeze. He was almost home. The word echoed in his heart, in his soul. He was returning home, the bastard, the exiled child. Traitor, weakling, coward, thief, so many insults had been thrown at him. But today a new name would be added to his litany of titles, conqueror. And he would make them pay.
He hadnâ€™t seen the shores of Innes in ten years, ten long lonely years in a land where his dark hair and strange name made him an object of laughter and spite. But heâ€™d done well in the Empire, where a good sword arm and a great deal of loyalty would grant the world. His eyes traveled the length of the ship. His ship to command, his navy to command. The soldiers on the decks bristled with impatience. They were not his, in their red and silver uniforms, brilliant red plumes rustling in the breeze. The soldiers were Varianâ€™s men, but well trained. And they would be responsible for the slaughter.
He kept telling himself that he was only the ferryman, only the one delivering the messengers of death to the land heâ€™d once called home. But a part of him reveled in the fact that the people who had cast him out would soon be begging for mercy. The other part of him kept repeating that since he was only the ferryman their blood would not be on his hands. The mantra was not helping much.
Their orders were simple, complete and total subjugation of the island. Every village and person was to bow down to the might of the empire and proclaim the great leader as their own. Cassius had a far more difficult task. He was to purge the island of elementalists.
Sloan felt his heart skip a beat at the thought. The empire had no idea how the magic penetrated the island, the people. They could not be wiped out so simply, they would not be wiped out. The elemental powers that protected Innes would never allow a heathen female from across the sea to drink their blood in her quest for vengeance. He gripped the deck tightly as the boat swept against the gentle sand beach and disgorged its deadly cargo. He gripped his sword tightly and leapt over the side, his men following. It was time.
Brenna stared into the flame, her entire soul screaming in horror and terror. But her lips were pressed into a thin line, their edges tight with suppressed anger. She had hoped, prayed that her visions would not come to pass. Sheâ€™d secluded herself in the temple, called for the prince and sent him on a foolâ€™s errand. Sheâ€™d done everything her protector had asked, and yet the demons had still come to annihilate the freedom of Innes.
She finally closed her eyes to the slaughter the fire showed. The visions were no longer of the future, but rather the present. That made them even more horrifying.
â€œMy child, you asked to see why the western shore gave off such a great flame. I merely showed you what you wished.â€ The fireâ€™s voice rumbled gently and Brenna shook her head slowly. She had been born in this temple, raised to listen for the voice of the elemental powers that lived and prospered on the isle, trained to interact with the powerful, if bloodthirsty fire spirit. She had studied the past vociferously, as though every past war, every past discovery, every rise and fall of a civilization could somehow defeat the visions sheâ€™d been granted.
â€œHe did not succeed. Why did you send him if you knew the path the future would take?â€ She hissed the words. The reply was equally angry.
â€œWho are you, little girl, to question my methods? There is more happening, more here than what you see. Did you think we would stay here on this island forever? We were born of the planet, we are the planet, and we are dying. But todayâ€™s events can change all that and will change all that if you stop questioning everything I tell you.â€ The last words rose on a shout and the sleeping volcano beneath the temple quivered with the spiritâ€™s anger. Brenna slammed her hands against the polished wooden floor and screamed.
â€œI do not like being a pawn.â€ A growl was her only answer. She stood up slowly, turning her back on the pit where the sacred fire burnt. â€œI will not be a pawn in a game I do not understand.â€ A deep sigh echoed through the room and the fire fluttered.
â€œYou are not a pawn, child. But you also cannot change what must be done. You must be strong, for only in your strength will your people live on, and only in your strength will our purpose be fulfilled. You are our queen, flexible, powerful, and extremely important. But you must not go off on your own or our plan will be spoiled.â€ Brenna let the tears fall then, tailing down her face, salty and bitter on her lips, but silent.