A/N: Sorry, it has been so long my lovely readers. I've been so busy with school and such that I haven't found much time for writing. But I did manage to type up this short little chapie. I Hope it will sate your appetites for now. Read and enjoy...
It was many hours before Alya regained consciousness. As she slowly drifted back to reality, the throbbing pain in her head greeted her. She winced against the pain; a quiet groan rose from her throat. Hesitantly, her eyes opened, blinking rapidly against the bright, orange light in front of her. Though blurred at first, her vision gradually began to clear, and the light before her came from a small campfire. It was nighttime, and the forest had grown very dark indeed.
Alya's muscles were sore and cramped from lying in one posture for so long. She began to move, trying to bring herself into a sitting position. It was then, she realized her hands had been bound behind her back. Feeling the same pressure about her ankles, Alya looked down at her legs, and sure enough, they were bound together as well. Alya pulled at her binds fiercely, a scowl set upon her features. She had no memory of this. When had she been bound up like a prisoner? Had her guards done this? Something was dreadfully wrong… Panic settling over her, Alya struggled against the ropes, pulling with all her might to be free.
"I see you are finally awake." A voice stated from beyond the fire.
Alya's head snapped up in surprise, and she looked over the blaze of the fire. There sat a man, his pale face glowing in the light. Long hair framed his face like a white-gold halo. The fire was reflected in his dark, emerald-colored eyes. His features were firm and guarded as he stared down at her.
"Do not try to struggle. It will just prove to be a waste of your time and energy." He told her. "I tied those knots myself. They will not give easily."
Alya stared up at him incredulously for many long moments, almost as if she did not comprehend what he was saying.
"Wha…what is the meaning of this?" She asked him, trying to grasp the situation. "Why am I tied up like this? Where are my guards?"
The man looked slightly taken aback at her questions. He leaned forward slightly; his green eyes flashing in the firelight.
"You do not remember?" He inquired.
"Remember what?" She exclaimed, helplessly.
And then, it all came back to her in a rush…the ambush, the chase, the fight. Both of her guards were dead, killed by unseen assailants. She had been attacked too, knocked from her horse and forced to fight for her life. And just when it had seemed she was beaten, a light…no, an angel had come to save her. Alya closed her eyes as if to block out the memory. Her guards had proved loyal in the end. The one had ridden with her until the end when he could have fled. Tears sprang to her eyes, cold, bitter tears of loss. Her body trembled from the force of the cries she kept within her. The man just continued to survey her indifferently, watching as she suffered within herself.
When she finally opened her eyes, she looked up at him, tears glistening in her blue eyes and down her cheeks. Realization and grief flickered in their clear depths, and they pierced the man accusingly.
"It was you, was it not?" She choked, coldly. "You were the one that killed them. You tried to kill me."
The man just sat silently across the fire, neither avoiding her gaze nor denying her accusations.
"I slew the one." He admitted, nonchalantly. "My partner killed the other."
Pure unadulterated hate blazed from Alya's eyes. More tears poured down her face like rain.
"And what about me?" She spat, vehemently. "Why did you not kill me?"
The man sat back to survey her; his look became almost thoughtful.
"I know who you are. I recognized your face," he explained, "Princess."
Shock flashed over Alya's face; the tears suddenly ceased.
"Ho…how?" She asked, unable to quite get the words out.
At this, the man chuckled deeply. A scowl reappeared on Alya's face. She hated being laughed at.
"The right hand of Queen Demelza is known by many. You cannot expect to not be recognized, Princess." He told her, amusement still apparent in his eyes. "Even to my kind you are was well-known as our own kin."
"Your kind?" She questioned in confusion.
A flutter of white behind him caught her attention. At first she thought it was just the glow from the fire, but through the haze she was able to make out what looked like a collection of snowy white feathers. Her eyes widened slightly. Wings…they were wings! Of course, how could she not have seen them before? The man across from her was not a Human at all, but a Winged Elf. It made sense now: her guards being dead, her current state of captivity…
"I still do not understand? Why not just kill me? What use am I to you alive?" Alya inquired, seethingly. "You would cripple the Human armies and leave the kingdoms without an heir; take care of two nuisances at once."
The Elf lowered his gaze to the fire, the flames dancing in his eyes.
"It is not my decision to make." He replied, softly. "That is to be left up to the Elders."
Alya's expression remained unmoved, though inside she felt her heart plummet.
"You mean to take me to Plume." She stated, solemnly, as if her fate had already been sealed.
He said nothing and merely nodded in reply. Alya hung her head; a wave of helplessness and despair flooded through her. The Elders of the Winged Elves would surely condemn her to die. She had led many who had killed their kin and taken many lives herself. There would be no mercy for the Human's Commanding General, and deep down, Alya knew she deserved none.
The silence was broken when someone entered their small camp, carrying the large carcass of a stag over one shoulder. He was hooded and cloaked in black; Alya could only distinguish the lower half of his face. From beneath his cloak showed an armor that consisted of leather and metal. A great scythe and sword were strapped to his back. He was a tall, menacing figure and Alya did not know whether he was man or demon. The Elf raised his eyes from the fire, and a small smirk formed on his lips.
"That is quite a kill you have got there, Dham." He commented. "I am guessing you plan to feast like a king tonight."
The dark figure grunted in reply as he set the stag down on the ground. Alya gazed at what was once a magnificent creature and noticed how hollow her stomach felt. It had been a long time since she had last eaten. The black hood that covered Dham's head turned down towards her, and though she could not see his eyes, Alya felt them burning into her. The Elf noticed his companion's drawn attention and said nonchalantly, "As you can see our guest is awake. Princess, this is Dhamashir. He once had the pleasure of serving your aunt as one of her finest Blademasters. As you have most likely assumed, that is not longer the case."
Internally, Alya chuckled mirthlessly. Yes, she had drawn that conclusion. Now that she thought about it, Alya wondered if this was the traitor her aunt had put a heavy bounty on for taking battle plans to the Elves. That was how they had lost Archosaur the first time. If so, she could tell just from appearances and the sharpness of his scythe why no one had caught him yet. She turned her gaze back on the Elf and sneered "You introduce your companion when you yourself have yet to give me your own name, Master Elf."
The Elf's expression remained unmoved, but amusement danced in his green eyes.
"I am called Zahariel," he told her with mock formality, "if it pleases Your Grace."
Alya felt the back of her neck growing hot with irritation and embarrassment. She looked away, appearing very dignified for one who was bound up. Another small smirk graced Zahariel's lips at her display of pride before pulling out a piece of flint and a set of arrows from his quiver to sharpen. Dham sat down with his stag to begin the cleaning process. The camp fell silent, but the atmosphere wasn't wholly awkward. It was almost peaceful…calming. Alya lied on her back, staring up at the stars as comfortably as she could. The crackling of the fire and the soft sounds of her companions only helped to sooth and lull her into a drowsy state. Her over-stressed nerves had taken their toll, and she was utterly exhausted. Her eyes began to flutter shut as she gave into her fatigue…
Then, something nudged at her and startled her out of her stupor. She looked up to see Dham laying a cooked slab of stag meat beside her on a cloth. Her expression showed much confusion as she looked between him and the meat. How was she supposed to eat this? Suddenly, she felt the pressure of the ropes on her wrists from the rope slacken. Turning around in shock, Alya came face to face with Zahariel, who held the fraid ropes in his hands. She pulled her hands out from behind her, massaging her aching wrists gently as she kept her cautious gaze upon him.
"Your hands might make it easier to eat opposed to just using your mouth." He stated, matter-of-factly.
Her untrusting blue eyes never left his; hints of bewilderment still glinting within them.
"And if I try to run?" She asked, bluntly.
The edge of his mouth quirked up in a smirk, which made the redness return to her face, and he replied, "You will not. Even if you tried, your legs are still bound. You would not get far."
Alya glared at him as he rose and went back to his place opposite her the fire. With that, she turned her attention to the food placed in front of her and felt her stomach grumble as its delicious scent reach her nose. All sense of formality and manners left her then, as she took the meat in her hands and began to tear at it ravenously with her teeth. As she ate, Alya began to feel the extent of her hunger. It felt as if she had not eaten in years. She inhaled her food chuck by large chuck until there was nothing left but the bloody juices on her hands. Another smaller piece of meat was offered to her, which she accepted and ate at a more reserved pace. She savored each bite, not knowing how much longer she would be able to eat this well. When she had finished it off as well, Zahariel tossed her a flask filled with water, and she drank it down gratefully so it could sooth her aching throat. Her companions paid her no head and kept their attentions on their own meals. Dham was salting the remnants of the meat and letting the stag skin dry by the fire. Zahariel chewed on bits of root as he continued to sharpen his arrows.
Alya surveyed the two almost curiously before lying back down on her side. Pillowing her head on her arms, her eyes gazed through the fire at Zahariel. She could not describe the feeling she got from him, whether it was resentment or gratitude. For someone as fair as he, strength ran through his entire body, even in those deft and skilled hands of his. Feeling her gaze upon him, Zahariel looked up, emerald eyes meeting hers. Alya felt something within her stir, and her eyes narrowed at the feeling. With that, she rolled over onto her back and gazed up at the star. The branches littered with leaves above her waved slowly in the breeze. A pale, crescent moon made its nightly climb up into the sky. Alya sighed heavily as weariness seeped throughout her being. As she let her eyes drift closed, Alya felt herself travel back to the home of her Sensei. Sadness pressed down upon her as she thought of how their latest parting had been their last. Though he had never spoken of it to her, she knew he had had high hopes for her.
Alya held back the tears the swelled beneath her closed lids. No more tears must be shed. It was done. Fate had finally shown her its cards. This was her path now, and she must learn to accept it. And so, Alya drifted into an empty sleep, bravely facing the darkness ahead.
A/N: Well, that's all I have for now. Leave me lots of wonderful reviews! Love, LOR