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Just yesterday, Ave had been comfortably perched in the lap of her latest suitor, being spoon-fed wealth and luxury in gross excess. How she had ended up on a train, gagged and blindfolded, she had no recollection. But here she was, for better or worse.

The seat was luxurious, cushioning itself around her body wherever it made contact. The train’s vibrations were hardly noticeable through her seat on the plush furniture. Unfamiliar spices wafted through the air, tingling her nose, and the distant murmur of chatter taunted her. Whatever this was, it was a luxury experience. Too bad she couldn’t see any of it. Or meet anyone.

Something shifted to her right, making her start.

   “Hello?” Ave drawled, charm oozing into her words.

“Quiet, filthy woman,” a voice snarled in response. Ave sniffed indignantly but didn’t retort. Sometimes she listened to her gut when it warned her of danger. But only sometimes.

Her mind wandered, trying to identify as many individual voices in the murmuring of the train as possible. She and her captor must not be in the main cabin: all of the voices were muted, and no one was questioning the presence of someone apparently kidnapped. An exasperated sigh pushed its way out of her nostrils.

She counted twenty-four distinct voices from the train car before the it slowed to a stop. The person next to her grabbed her roughly by the arm, their calloused hands scratching at her skin.

They shuffled down a hallway and ducked through a doorway. The outside air was hot and dry, clinging uncomfortably to Ave’s layered clothes. The ground shifted under her feet as she walked. She still couldn’t see, but every sensation indicated that she was extremely far from the hills of her home.

Where that might be, she still had no clue.

They walked across the sifting ground for several minutes. This place, wherever it was, smelled and sounded like the train, just with the addition of fresh air and undertones of poor hygiene. Ave wanted desperately to see, to understand what was around her. She wanted to gorge herself on the luxurious smelling food, dance in the heat to the rhythm of its stale breeze, find new religion in a stranger’s bed.

Instead, she was led into a building. It was significantly cooler than the outdoors. Shadows darkened the edges of her blindfold. Her shoes tapped lightly on solid flooring.

“I have brought the woman,” the person from the train, still grasping my arm, announced.

“Untie her,” responded another voice, echoing through the room. The train person didn’t even try to avoid pulling her hair as they pulled off her blindfold. The room was massive, constructed of white stone, towering pillars holding up the roof. The glare of the outside light filtering through the wall-sized windows made Ave tear up. To the front of the room sat a man in a luxurious blue tunic, his lean body draped across a chair constructed of the same white stone. His golden-toned eyes glinted with a strange fervor.

“You really are stunning,” he said, taking his time to slowly run his eyes over Ave’s body.

“Thanks,” she replied curtly. “Where the hell am I?”

He laughed, a booming sound that filled the cavernous room, and the myriad of finely-dressed people clustered behind him halfheartedly chimed in.

“You are in my kingdom, Ai-Sharva, and I am the ruler, King Alidra.” His smile was too wide, his teeth too white.

“Why am I here?”

“Because you are beautiful and I wanted you.” King Alidra extended a hand in her direction and gestured for her to come closer. “Come, let me touch you.”

A million choice words in several languages flew through Ave’s head, but she knew it would be unwise to insult this strange man. Even without considering his status as king, his aura was threatening. Ave slowly crept toward the man, letting her eyes wander around the room as she stepped.

Ave almost stopped mid stride when she met a familiar pair of eyes: chocolate brown, soft corners, a constant squint of amusement. She knew better than to let her shock show, and the eyes warned her to keep moving, but she wanted so badly to run to them.

It had been four years since she last saw Nayoni.

Memories from that time in her life, from him, were a series of still shots. His face nuzzling into her neck, the soft tickle of his thumb tracing her jaw, burying her hands into his curls, brushing her lips against his face or anywhere else she could reach, interlocking their fingers and resting their weary clasp on her chest before dozing off to sleep.

They were separated during the civil war. Not knowing what else to do with herself but use her wit and physique, Ave began her sultry hermitage across her home kingdom. A part of her had always hoped that if she met enough people, charmed enough nobility, hopped enough beds, she might fall back into the one in which she knew she belonged. The one she had wanted every day of those nine years with a deep, primal ache.

And here he was, four years later, standing in the waiting room of a strange king in a strange kingdom. He was thinner, dirtier, and his remaining musculature was barely covered in the white tunic tied around him. But warmth still radiated from his face, his olive skin still glowed in the sunlight, his lips still puckered into a small smile at her gaze.

She succumbed to King Alidra’s thorough examination and interrogation. She swallowed her pride and let the man do what he wished, say what he wished. If she could avoid his suspicion and keep in good graces, she might have some freedom to find a way to see Nayoni. She had to find a way.

The rest of the day was tortuous. King Alidra granted her freedom to explore the castle, then proceeded to shadow her wherever she went. He talked incessantly and observed her constantly. Fortunately, he allowed her to have her own room, several doors down from his own. He showed no indication that he desired her night services, and she did not broach the topic, so she was able to retire early.

She paced her unnecessarily lavish room for hours, listening as the castle wound down for the night. Well past midnight, she cracked open her door and peered into the hallway. No one. Ave stepped out and tried her best to remember where she had found the servants’ quarters hours before.

The hallways were frigid in the dark. Goosebumps rose on her limbs and she wrapped her robe more tightly around her. Her footsteps pattered lightly with each step.

A soft wind blew past her ear, and she thrust back her elbow at whoever it came from. Light chuckling accompanied the hand that caught her flying limb.


She gasped and flung her arms around him. His nose quickly found the soft of her neck, nuzzling her lightly. They said nothing, just embraced for a few moments. He then quietly pulled her into his quarters, to escape any eyes that might lurk in the spacious hallways.

Ave had no clue how Nayoni had ended up here, and was well aware that her free will had been sold to the mercy of the king. She wanted so terribly to run away with Nayoni, find a place to finally settle down now that she’d found her home again. It would take careful planning to escape.

But this moment was all that mattered for now. Just Nayoni, her, and the steady rhythm of two parts of a heart, whole at last. 

September 18, 2020 21:08

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1 comment

Barbara Wychoz
15:23 Oct 03, 2020

A good story. The story plot is nicely outlined in the beginning paragraphs. The characters are identified well. It will be interesting to see what happens.


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