My, my, my! This chapter was hard to type simply because of the fact that it was heartbreaking to have to write all of our comrades as bad guys. Only two are revealed now, but the others will have their swing at Daria's head soon.
(Disclaimer: I do NOT own Prince of Persia or their characters. Only Daria, Sama, and any new characters that show up are mine. The Aeon bracelet belongs to me, Blue Rowan, and her sister. The storyline also belongs to us.)
I wake up in a start, my lungs heaving for air and not getting any. A sharp, cold blade is pressed to my neck and my hands are tied up above my head.
'Where the heck did all this come from?!' I think. I try to pull my hands free, but I'm stuck; the knots are too tight. The blade presses harder against my skin and I can feel it prick my flesh, releasing a trail of blood down my neck. I glare up into the shadowed face of my attacker, throwing all my hate at him with my eyes, and try to hurry my night vision along so I can at least know who it is that kills me.
Outside, I hear nothing, so the party must have ended a while ago, but that doesn't mean anything. There could still be a few stragglers left to hear my call for help.
The shadow man's free hand holds a rope that no doubt binds my hands and he pulls on it firmly. The ropes grind against my wrists harshly, rubbing the flesh raw. I bite my tongue; I've had worse pain.
"Excellent work, my pet." A smooth, lovely voice calls from somewhere else in the shadows. My eyes dart to my right and find Leilah's form step out of the darkness there. I narrow my gaze as I open my mouth to snap at her. Her sharp laughter cuts me off. "Do not even try to talk. It will not work."
I move my tongue to speak and nothing comes out, just as she promised. My eyes widen in shock. What the heck has she done to me?
"Worry not, my dear. Your life will not end here. I will free you. I will erase your mind, take away your memories of your kinsmen's death, and release you from your sorrow. You can live here in my city in peace for the rest of your life. You can be a part of my perfect collection." She tells me with a creepy smile.
Have her eyes always been that dark?
"Although, the process might be a bit more painful for you. You didn't eat or drink as much as you friends did so it's been a bit harder to work my way into the thick skull of yours." She chuckles as she sits on the side of my bed, reaching over to touch the man in shadow before me. "I cannot say the same for your handsome friend. He was much more willing to let me into his mind."
As if on cue, the moon comes out from behind a cloud outside and chases away the shadows in the room. And Kas's face is revealed as my attacker.
I struggle against my bonds, glaring at Leilah. She laughs louder at my response. "So it is true. His thoughts were so centered on you that I thought I would have to use my full power against him, but one kiss from me silenced them all quite effortlessly. It was laughable."
Kas doesn't move, his expression is blank and unreadable to me, and his pupils are so dilated that his irises are barely seen.
"Do not worry, my pet. You will not have to be pained by your memories of her for much longer." Leilah insists, brushing her perfect fingernail down the side of his blank as stone face. She then turns to me, her eyes dancing darkly, "Now sit still or I will have him carve open your throat and feed on it."
My eyes widen again. 'Feed on my throat? Like a monster? A cannibal? EW!'
Leilah reaches towards me, her finger touching the side of my temple, and a wave of heat tears through my skull. I scream, despite the hold she has on my voice. The pain is like nothing I've ever felt in my life; like a thousand white-hot knives are slicing into my head and straight through the bone. My mind bends to the pain, nearly blacking out into unconsciousness, but something tears the pain away from my in a rush and leaves me breathless.
Leilah screams in pain as she's hurled across the room and a black, barbed whip wraps around Kas's waist were he's crouched over me and he's jerked back with a snap. The invisible hold on my tongue vanishes like smoke and air fills my lungs; I gasp loudly. Heaving in big gulps of air, I cough roughly as I curl in on myself. A second later, the ropes around my hands are loosened and torn from around my wrists in a flash.
"Come, Carrier. On your feet now!" A harsh voice hisses urgently at me like a snake.
I try to open my eyes but my vision is blurry and I don't know why. Even my legs are shaking. I've never felt this before. Is this Leilah's magic?
"Get up!" The voice hisses again. A strong grip takes me under my limp arm and jerks me to my feet quickly.
I can't faintly hear Leilah's shrieking voice as if a faraway dream, a dream I want nothing more than to wake up from. Finding my strength, I force my legs to move and push myself up as the other set of hands pulls me to the giant window of my room.
And we don't stop there. My helper helps me to climb up onto the railing and then jump straight off into the darkness beyond. One of the most invigorating feelings in the world to me is the feel of free falling without knowing where you'll land. There's no attachments to the earth, nothing to hold on to you and guide you to a safe landing. It's all into destiny's hands. You may land in a soft bale of hay or you could land on the cold hard ground where you'll end up breaking a leg or a neck.
Thankfully for us, there are a few awnings, pulled tight over windows below mine that bounce us out into a dark empty street. We hit the stone street a bit softer than what I thought and I roll to a stop. The rocks have cut open a few areas of my skin and I'll surely have bruises in the morning, but I'm alive so I won't complain.
"Get to your feet."
"Would you stop saying that? I know," I groan as I climb off of the ground, every muscle in my body aching from the fall. "Get up, get a horse, get out of this weird city. I got it."
"No, we get up, we get your family, and then we get out of this city," He answers.
I look up at the Hassassin that had saved my life, although I still don't know how, and gaze through that mask over his eyes. "Right. Get my family."
He holds out a hand and I take it. "First is Arsalan."
"I know this is going to sound really mean, but why him first? Why not Sama?" I ask, hearing the break in my voice.
The Hassassin turns his head and I follow his motion. Through the darkness, there is a flicker of movement coming towards us. People.
"Oh, good. Let's tell the people what's going on and get them to help us." I start to walk towards the approaching crowd, but he pulls me to a stop sternly. "What are you doing?"
"They won't help us."
I turn back to the people. They approach slowly, moving easily down the street as if they've walked it a thousand times. And they probably have.
That's when I see their faces come into full view; their eyes dilated.
"No," I gasp in horror.
"They are all prisoners here."
I glance up at the Hassassin.
"They walked into this city, lured by bait just as we were, and then trapped here by their high priestess. She holds a strange power over the mind, a twisted and corrupted power."
"So that's where you've been off to."
He nods, "Scouting, learning, and then hiding when I discovered the lies the city hides beneath its mask."
"Coward," I growl.
"Call me what you will," He responds, "But you have to remember that I did come after you to save you. I could have left you all here to die."
"Why me first?"
"Because your mind is clearer than the rest of your group. Having your thoughts clouded by your losses and grief gave you less energy and need to join in the charade and eat their food."
I think over his words. I had been lacking in energy. I usually get that way whenever I'm going through stuff like that. Like all the times when Sama and I had failed at stealing something, I refused to drink or eat the following night. It's just my way of coping.
The people come fully out of the darkness and I get a good look at the big guy in front, cursing my decision to ever come to this cursed city.
"Arsalan?" I call to my friend. The big guy doesn't answer, his face as blank as Kas's had been. "Arsalan, come on. Don't do this. You know me! Arsalan?"
He still doesn't answer, instead he raises his broad ax and bares its blade towards us.
"Stop this, please! Arsalan?"
The Hassassin, takes my arm and turns me around. More mind slaves are coming up behind us, a group just as large and vast as the one following Arsalan. I swallow heavily and turn back to face my friend.
"Arsalan, please listen to me."
"He's can't hear you. None of them can. We must go."
"No!" I pull on his grip. "I'm not leaving them here!"
"We'll find your weapons and then you can fight them all you wish, but until then I have a promise to keep," He jerks me forward and pulls me into a run next to him. Behind us, the crowds start yelling strange war cries and race after us. The well paved streets suddenly don't look so well to me, my eyes catching every flaw, every mistake, in the stone. Why hadn't I seen all this before?"
The Hassassin pulls me through the front door to the temple and then jerks me backwards all at once to hide us both behind a long sheer curtain. Emphasis on 'sheer'.
"Nice hiding place," I whisper over to him as we press our backs to the wall and turn to stone.
"Shut up," he replies just as quietly. Literally a second later, a large group of people propel into the temple, their hammering feet echoing into the great hall, and right past us. I hold my breath, waiting anxiously for them to turn on us, to slice open our throats before we can have a chance to move.
"Come," he says quietly into my ear.
I open my eyes, spotting the tail ends of a few stragglers of the mob turning the corner far ahead of us down the hall. He takes my forearm and drags me into another muted dash down the hall we had taken when we had first arrived here; the hall that had led us to the chamber where Leilah had greeted us.
'Fitting that we'd end up back here,' I think. 'What irony.'
The Hassassin ducks to our left the second we enter the empty room, leaving me standing there alone to study the silent chamber before me. When we'd first arrived, this place looked so peaceful, so welcoming and warm. Now, eyes opened by the madness, I can see all the flaws clear as day. The multi-colored, sheer curtains hanging from the ceiling are the most concerning; swaying eerily from no type of wind what-so-ever. There's no draft in the room, no window to let in a breeze, so why do they move?
But still, this isn't what chills me. It's something else. Something smaller. I step forward, my gut tightening in my stomach, the bracelet heating up against my skin, and I narrow my eyes to get a better look at the shifting fabrics.
The first few aren't as covered but as they lift away from me, moving as if they are alive and fear my touch, the others farther in become clearer and clearer.
Tiny dots of disturbance become larger smears and drips the farther my feet carry me. The final curtains lift, despite the heavy splashes of liquid that stains them, and the horror beyond is revealed to me.
Thick and red, all over the floor of the raised platform lifted by the few stone steps that circle it, dripping heavily down the waist high stone pillar and statue that stands erected in the center of the platform. The statue is of some faceless creature, with shredded and split wings like those of some kind of bird who's had its feathers torn from the fragile bones under them, but the body is warped and thin. Whatever this statue is, it looks completely wrong, evil, but I can't feel any power coming from it like I felt from Leilah.
My eyes deviate back to the floor, where the murder scene lays before me shamelessly. A stone bowl, painted with those strange blue tattoos, is filled with the blood, sopping over the sides a bit. As I step forward, I cover my mouth against the vile smell that hits me: something dead.
My eyes widen and my stomach churns sickeningly. A monkey lies on its side, a cut gorging it open from the base of its neck to the base of its stomach, motionless and stiff. I choke back a sob as the Hassassin steps up to my side.
"That witch is messing with darkness she cannot contain," he states, pointing down to the bowl in front of the pillar. Even through my blurring vision I can see where the blood is smeared on the side of the bowl.
'Oh my-!' I turn from the sight, grasping both my hands over my mouth as I squeeze my eyes shut. 'Leilah's drinking blood!'
The Hassassin touches my shoulder, grabbing it sternly, "We cannot stay here. Clear you mind, center yourself. We must move quickly."
He moves a hand and presses a fist against my stomach. I look down and realize what it is he's handing me: my weapons. I take my belt, holstering my whip and one of my longer blades, into my shaking hands and try to focus on clipping it around my hips. He helps me to strap on my other blade to my back with the thinner belt that circles over one shoulder and my chest when my hands finally give out. He finally hands me my other sword, my father's sword, and I glance up at him in confusion. Why had he taken it from the horses' saddles?
"I figured that you would want it safe," he explains. "The horses have been taken and butchered. I was unable to free them in time after I realized what was going on. I should not have let them be taken from me."
I drop my eyes to the floor again as the news is dealt to me. Even though they were just horses, I have come to love them all so much. They've traveled with us across this vast desert and have been such close companions. So much death, so little reguard for life.
I clench my fists angrily, remembering the faces of each horse; they had all finally gotten around to naming each of them.
Myst, Firuz's horse, with her mischievous personality, had always snuck her way into our food rations for an extra snack when we weren't looking.
Demix, Sama's horse, had always been the first to fall asleep, even while walking, which most of the time sent him walking straight into something if Sama didn't keep an eye out for him.
Vitani, Arsalan's horse, had been the playful one, her bright eyes matching her sandy color and white star on her forehead.
Even Kas's horse, was beautiful with her deep rust color and white mane and tail, but Kas never revealed her name to us.
"Carrier, we need to move."
I rip open my eyes and we both freeze when we hear the footsteps, lifting our heads towards the sound. Someone is coming down the hallway towards us, in a hurry, but it's only one. My hands slip deftly up around the hilts of my blades and I slide them slowly from their sheaths. The blades ring beautifully, as if singing their joy of finally being drawn after so long. They would know the taste of someone's blood soon.
So...yeah...by the time I was done writing this chapter, I REALLY hated Leilah and wished I hadn't created her. She's CRAZY!
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