Larten sat in the front row, his hands trembling. He pushed them together in order to stop it, but with little success. Arra was sitting to his right, Gavner to his left; their eyes were both glued to the scene. Darren was enduring his third of the five trials. The fire challenge is the toughest one thus far, and each hoped he would make it out of there alive.
"He'll be fine," Gavner said. "Arra's been training him. Don't you have faith in her skills, Larten?"
"I have every faith in her, Gavner," Larten replied. "I am just a tad on the nervous side."
"I don't blame you," Arra spoke up. "I'm nervous too. I hope my training didn't kill him."
Kurda stood in the back, watching as well; he was mentally cursing the Princes for their decision to force Darren to take the Trials of Initiation, or as he preferred to call it "The Trials of Death."
By Darren's screams, Larten knew that the fire had to be burning his body. The screams would come and come, then they eventually stopped; time was almost up.
Larten, Arra, and Gavner got out of their seats, wishing with all their hearts that the worst did not come. Then, their prayers were answered when Darren staggered out of the fire chamber, half-smiling.
"Darren!" Larten roared, running to his badly burned assistant. "Darren, are you alright?"
"Y-yeah…" Darren muttered. Larten caught him when he fell.
Darren was taken into the hospital wing where the medics applied ointment to his reddened skin and bandages. His hair was burned off from the trial, but at least he was alive. The pain for him was unbearable. It was unbearable not only for him but also for Larten, Arra, Gavner, and Kurda.
When he awoke, he was in his cell, Larten and Harkat looking at him with worry in their eyes.
"Darren, you are alive," Larten said.
"I am?" Darren asked, moving his hands despite the pain. "What about my next trial?"
"I am afraid they may not be any time. Those who are unfit get taken…"
"To the Hall of Death, I know." He smiled sadly.
At that moment, Kurda came in and grabbed Darren's arm; he winced at the contact. "Come with me," he told him. "You must pick your next trial."
"There is no way he is any shape to…" Larten began to complain, but Kurda was already halfway out the door, dragging Darren along with him. Larten ran after him.
In the Halls of Princes, Darren was brought in on a stretcher. He was still in a lot of pain.
"Darren will now pick his next trial," Kurda said. "He is a fine condition."
"Very well," Mika said in his cold, uncaring voice. "Let him come choose. Remember, if he cannot, he will be executed."
"Of course. Darren, come on!"
Darren struggled to get up, hoping he would be able to. He got up off the stretcher, and slowly, yet painfully walked to Paris, who held a small wooden bowl in his hands. He put his hand in and withdrew a slip of paper. Paris took it from him.
"The Blooded Boar," he announced.
"I will be ready for tomorrow…" Darren said.
"Oh, I will not be there. Mika can take my place," he said, patting Mika's back.
"Actually, I am busy as well with the Vampaneze Lord business."
"I'm busy too," Arrow said.
"Well, then, I suppose we will have to postpone the trial," Paris said, smiling at Darren, who felt his lips twitch into a grin. "We will give you seventy two hours."
"Thank you, Sires," Darren bowed, wincing as he did so.
Larten and Kurda helped Darren onto the stretcher and led him out of the Halls of Princes.
While Darren was recovering, he received many visitors, including Gavner, Kurda, Vanez, and Arra. Though when Arra arrived, she spent most of her time talking with Larten about their past. Darren could easily see the love displayed in their eyes and smiles.
"He passed out again," Arra said, looking over at Darren.
"He will be fine," Larten told her. "I have confidence in him."
"As do I…" She smiled; she grabbed something underneath her seat, and presented it to Larten. It was a gift, wrapped in dark red wrapping paper with a black bow sitting on top.
"Arra, did you really…?" Larten sighed.
"Happy birthday," she said, handing him the gift with a big grin.
"Arra, please, I am not one to celebrate birthdays so this gift really is not necessary."
"Open it! Come on, come on!"
"Alright!" His fingers gently stroked the beautiful paper before he started unwrapping it. He opened the box to reveal a beautiful pair of red gloves. "Arra, they are…"
"I know," she said, grinning. "I made them myself."
"They are amazing." He took them out of the box and put them on. "I love them. Thank you so…" His words were cut short by her lips on his. Hoping, but never thinking this would finally come, he deepened their kiss, throwing the box aside, and wrapping his arms around her.
He gently caressed her tongue with his own while one of his hands was entangled in her silky black hair.
She kept both of her hands on his face as she sat in his lap, wrapping her legs around his waist.
Both of them knew Darren was in the room and could gain consciousness any minute now, but they didn't seem to care.
Arra's hands slid down to his cloak, which she unclasped and threw to the floor. She then busied herself with the buttons on his white shirt. She stroked the buttons before unbuttoning them.
Larten broke the kiss, breathing heavily.
"Arra, need I remind you that we are in a teenage boy's room?" He asked her, laughing slightly.
"You don't need to remind me," she said. "I don't care." She started to kiss him again, her lips working fully against his.
He couldn't believe this to be real; every day since his departure from the mountain he wished for her to kiss him like this again. He had suspicions that this was really a dream, but it was the best dream he ever had.
Everything else in the world began to fade away as they were entangled in their romantic circle; all that mattered now were him and her. They were in their own little world, and they were loving every minute of it.
They hoped the dream would never have to end, but alas it did. It ended when Gavner and Kurda walked in the room.
Kurda screamed a high pitch scream and covered his eyes with his hands. That caused Arra and Larten to abruptly pull away from each other, faces red with embarrassment. Gavner fell to the floor, laughing hysterically.
"I knew you guys still had a thing for each other!" He said between giggles. He banged the ground with his fist, tears rolling down his cheeks.
"Gavner, if you do not shut up this instant," Larten threatened," I will rip your heart out."
"How could you guys do this?" Kurda asked, lowering his hands from his eyes and stepping forward. "There is a teenage boy in here!"
"Relax!" Arra said. "Darren's unconscious."
"Actually," Darren spoke up. "I'm not."
"What?" Larten and Arra screamed at the same time.
"I've been awake for a while. I saw everything." He smiled sheepishly. Gavner started cracking up again. "I didn't say anything because… I thought it was sweet. I was waiting a long time for you two to kiss, and you finally did it. You guys make a good couple."
"They do," Gavner said, getting up from the floor when his laughs passed.
"Well, thank you…" Larten said uncertainly.
"Happy birthday again," Arra said, kissing Larten on the cheek and leaving the room, but not before giving him a wink and telling Darren to get well soon. Larten kept his eyes on the door even after she left.
"Hey, Larten," Gavner said, tapping his friend on the shoulder to get his attention. "You may want to button up your shirt."
Larten looked down to see his collar shirt unbuttoned revealing his bare chest and stomach. He blushed, hastily buttoning it up with a scowl at Darren and Gavner who had begun laughing. Kurda face-palmed and left the room without any further word to any of them.