11. An Unexpected Turn

Chapter 11

An Unexpected Turn

            I was awakened to the feel of a heavy weight on my chest and the smell of dog drool. When I opened my eyes, I was greeted with the sight of one of the gazots lying on top of me. He almost appeared to be grinning at me as he panted and wagged his tail excitedly. Upon further inspection, I discovered that the entire pack surrounded me. I wasn’t sure what time it was, but the sun wasn’t up yet and it wasn’t very cool out. The gazot body heat was too hot for me, causing me to sweat.

“The hell?” I rasped out as I tried to move the one on top of me. It wasn’t long before I heard Faxus whistle to summon his beasts. They all perked up and quickly ran over to him, trampling over me in the process. I let out pained cry when one paw got me in the stomach and then rolled over to curl into a ball. They were heavy bastards…

“Are you alright, Dantia?” Cegil inquired as his high-end footwear came into my view.

“Just…winded,” I replied as I held my arms over by mid section. Another pair of boots came up- these were made from the skin of a tougher animal and had tassels hanging from the top.

“Sorry about that,” Faxus said, sounding more amused than apologetic. “The boys took a liking to you since that serenade of yours last night. It’s not often they get to howl for fun.”

Serenade? What in five hells was he talking about? I rolled over onto my back in time to catch Cegil in the process of gesturing his cousin to be silent. He seemed panicked as he glared at the mixed breed and earned a sheepish look from his target.

My guardian then turned to look at me and told me, “You had a nightmare last night.”

I did? I didn’t remember it- though that was nothing new. But what did Faxus mean by his choice of words? Was I making loud noises? And why did Cegil seemed so upset? He was acting as if he didn’t want me to know about it. I simply assumed that he wanted to spare me the embarrassment and left it at that, but I couldn’t completely squash the idea that something was off.

Cegil made sure that it wasn’t brought up again as we quickly ate and placed all of the camping materials into the wagon. I wasn’t so sure if it was to protect me or to hide something.

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It was about mid afternoon when Faxus began to slow the wagon. I was once again in the back, lamenting how I was dirty, grimy, sweaty, and smelly, when I head the announcement that we had arrived.

I quickly crawled up to glance out between the men, only to find nothing but endless golden brown earth with occasional cracks up to three feet wide. I soon noticed that there were a few boulders nearby, but I dismissed them as quickly as I saw them.

“What do you mean ‘we’re here’? I don’t see a town,” I commented while trying not to sound annoyed.

Faxus let out a grin as he inclined his head towards the three strangely shaped rocks to our right. “Well, we can’t let you humans find this place so easily. You have to know what to look for in order to reach it. For instance, watch those rocks over there closely.”

I did as I was told and found that it was a trick so I would miss whatever the falucite/demon did to open the real entrance. It was the giant boulder to the left of us that was of importance. It slowly pulled back, away from us, and revealed a slope that led into a hole. It was then that I learned that Cec’re was an underground city. So that was how they survived out in the Wastelands.

The pack of gazots was soon directed to head into the hole and we slowly descended underneath the heated earth. The boulder soon crawled back into place, momentarily leaving us in total darkness. Faxus still continued onward, apparently using his other senses to get around, but it soon became lighter as we came across green glowing stones. Even though I could now see, there wasn’t much to talk about.

We were just in a tunnel that looked to have been carved from some beast. There was nothing natural about the cuts in the rocks and those glowstones seemed to have been placed there, rather than appearing there naturally. The temperature dropped dramatically the further we went. I actually felt chills as the cool air hit my sweaty skin.

After a while, the tunnel widened to reveal a giant cavern where a city made of hardened mud and stone settled. Over us, light filtered through large cracks in the ceiling and it took me a moment to realize that it was the dried plains of the Wastelands. This place was obviously crafted from dragons and their magicks- otherwise such a structure wouldn’t be able to exist. The ground above was too weak to actually support itself nearly thirty feet above.

It was very spacious and cool within Cec’re- the town sat at the bottom, in the center, while the outer edges contained ledges for earth dragons to slumber in their natural forms. Dragons had the ability to shape shift into humanoid- type creatures so they could better interact with the other, much smaller, species. While the town was clearly made for slighter forms, there was a flattened platform beyond it with large pools of mud. I assumed that was an area for dragons only.

Directly on the other side of the cavern was a considerably large tunnel, enough for a dragon to fit through. I wasn’t sure where it led to, but I decided that it was none of my business and ignored it.

As we descended into the lower portion of the cave, I scrambled to get my collar out and put it on. We were now in a world that was too dangerous for humans- and frankly I didn’t want to become some dragon’s meal. The choker was a simple black one that was made for large dogs and it fit over the high collar of my dress without any discomfort.

“This should be fine, I thank you for the ride,” Cegil told Faxus once the wagon came to a stop in the middle of town. I only climbed out when my guardian did, choosing to err on the side of caution. There weren’t many out walking the streets, but I didn’t want to take chances of a starved dragon spotting me without Cegil nearby to stop them. Though the collar should be enough to protect me.

“It’s no problem. I’ll be in town for a day, and after that I’ll be back in a week or so. If you’re still here, I’ll be glad to give you a ride to Creskaela,” the red haired mix breed offered in a kind tone.

I wasn’t sure what we were going to do in a week’s time. I would like to think the ordeal with Satel would be over long before then, but then what would be next? Depending if Cegil wins or loses, there were actions we had to take. Even if we could convince Satel to not go through with the ceremony, we would have to prepare for the eventual consequences.

Cegil told me that his clan wouldn’t take it too lightly and would hunt us down along with the Daedeleth. We could end up fleeing the continent with Satel in tow. It was a scenario I didn’t really mind- leaving the continent, I mean. I wasn’t speaking of the fact that we would be traveling with Satel… heh… heh…

We watched as Faxus rode on, further into town, before I took my first up close look at Cec’re. It was evident that they weren’t too focused on being visually appealing. The buildings were nothing more than rectangular shaped mud huts- some reaching up to three stories. I had a feeling that the hard clay made to create them was for practical purposes, but I couldn’t for the life of me think of what. Perhaps it was a dragon thing that I would never understand.

I almost expected there to be some kind of moisture in the air or the ground, but everything was bone dry, allowing for smooth, solid streets and sturdy walls for the various structures. Considering how dry the topside was, it made sense, but I had to wonder about the mud pits near the back of the cave. Maybe there was a spring so deep down that it couldn’t reach the surface without dragon aid.

From what Cegil told me, he had spent a few years in Cec’re shortly after his exile and made friends with a dragon that owned a restaurant. He knew his friend would offer him a room if needed and would protect me from any other hungry dragons. We headed there quickly since there wasn’t much we could accomplish on the streets.

As I mentioned before, dragons had a humanoid form, but they looked nothing like humans or falucite- though some might confuse them for greater demons. Dragon’s possessed silken manes that transformed into what looked like hair in their smaller frames and they kept their distinctive ears, but in a more appropriate size. Their feet and hands took on softer, fleshy skin like the rest of their body, but they still maintained a miniature version of the original shape and bore claws. They also kept their golden lizard-like eyes and forked tongues as well.

Their ‘true’ forms varied depending on the type of dragon. Sea dragons had long, snake-like bodies with translucent fins on their sides and webbed feet while earth dragons were vertically challenged creatures with four squat legs and a massive, often clubbed, tail. Fire dragons were the only kinds that could fly and were known to be the tallest of the three height-wise (if they were compared length-wise, then sea dragons would win).

Contrary to popular belief, dragons weren’t as arrogant as say…most falucite. They were vain, yes, but not all lorded over other races. Some, like Cegil’s friend, preferred to work or help others- it depended on their nature and whatever skills they had.

Cec’re was more or less a trader’s village for dragons and falucite (and, of course, some hybrids), but they also dealt with some black market stuff, too. This was why Cegil made me promise not to wander out in the town without him- even with a collar, I could be kidnapped and sold by some shiftier dragons if I wasn’t careful. All the annoying accessory did was prevent me from being eaten and elevate me to the status of ‘someone’s valuable pet’.

Lukon, Cegil’s friend, chose to open a restaurant because he had a gift for cooking and he wanted to feed anyone who stopped by. I ignored the fact that one of his house specials involved human ingredients and chose to appreciate how open minded he was to learn that I was actually Cegil’s adopted charge instead of a pet.

He owned a moderate establishment with bone furnishings and enough of those odd glowstones to brighten every corner. It still appeared a little drab, thanks to the grey clay walls and flooring, but I could see he was trying to compensate for that by using colored fabrics as table cloth and drapes. The ‘windows’ in Cec’re were nothing more than holes in the walls, but since they didn’t have much in the form of precipitation or excessive sunlight, they didn’t need glass to protect the inside.

The second floor was reserved for living space and he had more than enough room for Cegil and I. I even got to have my own room while we stayed, but there were no doors, so no real privacy. Even with the shady dealings that happened in the dark areas of town, it was still a relatively safe place for dragons so long as they didn’t own anything that was perceived to be very valuable. But with Lukon, Cegil, and the trusted greater demon servants to watch me, I was protected enough without doors.

My room was as grey and boring as the lower level, but it was a little cozy with the small wine colored rug on the floor and matching bed sheets. I also had a table, chair, and a little desk for writing- too bad I couldn’t write. My only complaint was that there was no bathroom. Dragons did their ‘business’ elsewhere, but Lukon’s restaurant had what they called a ‘water closet’. It consisted of a sink and toilet, but there was no bathtub or any way for me to wash up.

Earth dragons loved to take mud baths and despised anything that washed off their dirt. The only reason Lukon had a water closet was because he had guests other than his kind. Cec’re did have a mineral bath near the mud pools, but pets like me weren’t allowed in them. This meant that I had no way of bathing any time soon.

But I couldn’t wait for that- I had to do something to get rid of the smell of gazot drool and sweat and there was no telling how long we would stay here. While Cegil was downstairs talking, I borrowed a large plaster bowl I found in another room and used the left over water from one of my canteens to wipe down my skin with an old washcloth.

When I was done, I quickly changed into some fresh clothes (which I had because the Creskaela inn we stayed at two days ago had laundry service, thank goodness) and put on extra perfume to cover up anything still lingering. I then set out my old dress and trousers on the table to air out. I couldn’t wash my hair with this arrangement, but at least the rest of me was clean enough. So long as I didn’t work up a sweat, I could last another several days before I would feel the need to clean up again. Thankfully, the underground city was too cool to heat up my body, so I didn’t have much to worry about.

I headed downstairs with the bowl so I could empty out the water, only to find someone was occupying the water closet. That was the only door in the place, allowing privacy for those who needed to use it. I assumed Lukon used demons to install them since dragons wouldn’t know anything about doors.

I was currently in a narrow room with the stairwell at one end and the water closet at the other. The only thing separating the living space from the restaurant was a thick, royal blue velvet curtain hanging over the top step. On my right was the outer wall of the building while on the left were two openings- one connecting to main room of the eatery and the other to the kitchens.

I let out a quiet, annoyed groan as I leaned against the outer wall and waited for the person to get out. As I did so, I overheard voices in the kitchen and soon realized that it was Cegil and Lukon. I leaned over to see past the entryway and found them sitting at a small table close to the edge of the opening. Beyond them, I could see several greater demons of various types rush about the stoves and ovens as they prepared meals for the customers.

I only had a good view of Lukon from where I stood- all I could see of my guardian was his back. Lukon had dark skin, the color of rich soil, and his mane was golden-brown. I had forgotten to mention that some dragons kept smaller versions of their tails in their humanoid forms, but it depended on the dragon. Lukon had his clubbed tail gently swaying beside him- the blunt, nearly round end dragged against the surface of the clay floor.

I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but it was hard to block out their voices while I waited for my turn. I stood as still as I could and hoped that Cegil could detect I was nearby and refrain from saying something he didn’t want me to hear. It seemed they weren’t discussing business matters, but catching up on old times.

“You’ve gotten so stiff and formal since I had last seen you, what happened?” the dragon said as he scratched behind his round, rocky ear with a claw.

I couldn’t see Cegil’s face, but I did notice his large frame wilt some from the upright position it was in. “I would not say ‘formal’, I have more or less tried to stop feeling since I had left, but I think I am beginning to heal.”

Lukon huffed before a look of disbelief crossed his features. “What in five hells broke you? You stayed so strong after all that you’ve been through.”

“No- I was not strong,” Cegil denied with a shake of his head. “I was on the edge and needed only one more push. I suppose you had not heard yet- that my daughter had died shortly after I had left here.”

My eyes widened at the news- I didn’t know he had a daughter before me. Almost instantly my mind was filled with questions like ‘who was she?’ and ‘what was she like?’ Surprisingly, I found that I wasn’t upset to learn this. I suppose some part of me should’ve been worried that I might’ve been a replacement for what he had lost, but I knew that wasn’t the case. I understood exactly what he was going through. True- I didn’t have any children, but I did lose someone just as precious.

I knew Cegil loved me as a separate individual- not once did he even act as if I was someone else. At the same time, I loved him and never confused him for the wise man I once admired.

“I didn’t know. I’m so sorry…” he replied in remorse before he inquired curiously, “Is that why that human is named after her?”

The lavender strands swayed in motion of Cegil’s head as he shook it again and relaxed his posture a little more. “I still do not know why I named her as such. I see her as a second daughter- not a replacement, but I could not think of anything else to call her.”

That proved my point- I had nothing to be concerned over. But the fact that Cegil lost so much wasn’t that comforting either- I didn’t want him to be grieving anymore.

“Well, you never were good with names. Wasn’t Oria the one who came up with ‘Dantia’?” Lukon inquired with a short chuckle.

“Yeah…” Cegil’s voice was soft then, as if he was recalling a fond memory. I felt kind of bad that I was intruding on something so personal, but I couldn’t help but feel giddy over the new knowledge. When I first met him, he was a cold and silent giant, but now he was slowly melting and showing more of his true self. It was both endearing and somewhat amusing to learn about his past follies and habits.

It was then that the person inside the water closet decided to emerge by slamming the door open and letting out a loud cry to announce his victory over his latest ‘challenge’. …Disgusting.

I quickly noticed that the commotion grabbed Cegil and Lukon’s attention, causing me to bolt for the room before they caught me- provided that they didn’t already know I was there. I had to move carefully so that the water in the bowl wouldn’t spill over the edge and drench me.

Unfortunately, the previous occupant hadn’t returned to his table yet and saw me coming. He was another mix breed- possibly half-human, but I wasn’t in the mind to pay attention to him. He blocked my path and tried to corner me with a charming smirk.

“Well, well! You’re a cute little thing, aren’t ya?”

I nervously glanced over to the kitchen entrance and saw shadows, indicating that someone was coming to check out the ruckus. I wasn’t sure why I was being so skittish when I hadn’t really done anything wrong, but I felt like it would be awkward to see Cegil in a situation like this. I glared up at the man, then at the bowl I was holding before I threw the contents at him and ran for the stairs.

I could hear the man sputtering and Lukon demanding for an explanation by the time I made it past the thick curtain. I didn’t bother to listen in on the proceedings and rushed back to my room after returning the bowl I had found. It wasn’t long before I heard footsteps coming up and I rushed over to the window to pretend that I was looking outside.

“Are you alright?” Cegil asked once arrived in my room. The fact that he asked meant that he had seen me and I tried hard not to appear guilty as I faced him.

“Y-yeah- some guy was flirting with me and I had to get out of there. He didn’t touch me or anything,” I explained in a rushed tone, hoping to focus completely on the incident and nothing before it.

My guardian raised an eyebrow before he crossed his arms- a sign that he knew something was up. “I am surprised that he was unharmed. You must have been in quite a hurry to leave the vicinity.”

His tone said it all- he knew I didn’t run because of the man, but he wasn’t sure why I did it. It was then that I had to wonder if he knew I was nearby listening in or if he was truly unaware. Was he just waiting for me to confess or could I actually lie my way out of it?

“Sorry…” I muttered, deciding to come clean. “I accidentally overheard you talking about your daughter and I didn’t want you to think I was eavesdropping. I was just waiting to use that water closet room.”

“…I see,” Cegil replied with an unreadable expression. He didn’t seem upset or that surprised, though I couldn’t really tell. For a moment I was afraid that he was going back to his cold shoulder ways and brush me off. “I was wondering if you overheard that. How much did you hear? Does the knowledge bother you?”

“No- not at all! I don’t mind that I bear her name and I know you don’t think I am her. I just… feel bad that you had to go through all that. I know it must’ve hurt to lose her and the others.” My voice became quiet as I reached the end of my little speech. I was relieved that he didn’t seem mad at me, but that was trivial compared to the nature of the discussion. It wasn’t easy to talk about the past- I knew that very well.

I could see the sadness in his cinnamon colored eyes before he glanced away and lightly glared at the nearest wall. “…Such is the price of revenge. You end up losing more than you would gain.”

I stared at him curiously as I wondered what that meant. Who did he try to seek vengeance on and how did that affect the original Dantia? I hesitated to ask, but I had a feeling that he wanted to say something. I crossed the room so I could look him in the eye to let him know that I was listening.

“What happened? …Or are you not ready to say?” I prodded, giving him the opportunity to retreat if he wanted.

“Your…sister did not understand what ‘exile’ meant and tried to search for me against the elders’ wishes. She was killed on her journey and I never learned the identity of her slayers. …I do fault the elders for not keeping a close watch on her, but the blame also lies with me. It was my actions to avenge the death of my mate that led to my exile. Had I simply stayed and consoled my falcie, she would be alive today.”

I wasn’t sure what to say to that- or rather, I was afraid to voice my thoughts. Had Cegil stayed at his homestead, then he wouldn’t have saved me in Port Sibest. I knew it was a selfish thing to think and it wasn’t much of a trade-off for the life of his real daughter, but I was grateful that he was there for me. Though, at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilt. Cegil treated me as part of his family- even referred to his real daughter as my sister. I couldn’t cast her aside and act as though my existence was better than hers.

Instead, I chose to close the distance between us and wrapped my arms around him in a tight hug. It was better to comfort and console him than to ruin everything with callous words. I was sure he would understand that I meant no offense if I did say anything, but it wouldn’t make me feel any better.

Cegil responded by returning the hug. Since his frame was much larger than mine, he was careful with his arms and made sure not to crush me by accident. They both stayed on my upper back as he bowed his head down to look at me.

“I swear I will not let it happen again. I will no longer seek vengeance against those who had wronged me and leave my loved ones on their own. I will not abandon you,” he told me fiercely as he let his emotions go. With that vow, he was finally moving on from his past- moving on, but not forgetting those he loved.

I wasn’t completely sure what happened to send him into exile, but I was glad to hear what little he did tell me. I understood him a little better and knew why he chose to put up with me. He was a father before and he wanted to be one again.

After a while, we let go and he held me by the shoulders as he looked me in the eyes. “When this is over, I will tell you the rest of the story of how I left the clan. Until then, let us focus on what is happening now.”

“Okay. I can wait,” I said with a nod. I was shocked to see a real smile on his face and a warm look in his eyes as he nodded back to me. It didn’t last for long- he soon reverted back to his usual face, but it was not as cold and hardened as it was before. It was then that I realized how much he had changed since we came to the Wastelands. It was like he had been frozen in time for the last seven years, never changing until he had to confront his past.

For the next hour or so, we planned what to do tomorrow before retiring for the evening. Cegil was going to use Lukon to introduce him to older dragons that might be able to give him ideas on what to do about Satel. We decided it was a better idea if I remained here and stayed out of trouble until they returned. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do to entertain myself, but I promised I would do as my guardian requested. After all, it wasn’t as if I could get away with anything here, unlike in human villages.

Until Satel arrived, all we could do was continue with our plan. Cegil wanted to be prepared for anything just in case Maetira’s reading was simply a bluff on her part. If it were to come true, then it was certain the über hat falucite would find us on his own.

With nothing else to do, I put on my long sleeved nightgown and climbed into my twin-sized bed.

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After spending close to twelve days in the Wastelands, I had nearly forgotten what it was like to feel cold. There was practically no warmth in Cec’re and my nightgown was thin, so I ended up using all the blankets that were on the bed to keep snug. At some point in the morning, my body felt a heat source and had curled around it.

When I began to stir, I found that I was quite comfortable and didn’t want to move. I let out a content sigh as I snuggled closer to the warm pillow I was hugging and ignored the coarseness of the material. It wasn’t long after that when I realized I didn’t go to sleep with a pillow larger than my own body. What woke me up fully was that I could also hear something beating under my ear.

Cautiously, I opened my eyes and saw a plain of black and some dark red. It was slowly rising up and down in rhythm similar to relaxed breathing. Little by little, I began to acknowledge that the ‘pillow’ was actually another person.

“Heh. You know, I could get used to this,” an amused, masculine voice said before I raised my head. I was met with mischievous red-brown eyes framed by familiar braided white-blonde hair. As an afterthought, I glanced around the room to see if the über hat was here- I wanted to see it more than the falucite partially beneath me. I managed to catch a glimpse of it on the small table in the corner.

“Why are you in my bed?” I hissed as I pushed away from Satel. He was appearing rather relaxed with one arm resting behind his head.

The man gave me a demonic grin as he waved his free hand and gestured to himself. “Now, now, don’t get so upset. It’s not as if we’re doing anything wrong. We’re still fully clothed and notice that I’m not touching you- you were the one cuddling with me.”

He was also lying over the covers while I was under them, but that was beside the point. I wasn’t concerned that he might’ve done something to me in my sleep- I was nervous over the sudden breech of my personal space.

“That doesn’t answer my question,” I pointed out with a sneer. Satel only let out another chuckle before he rolled over to his side and supported his head on the hand that was previously under him. Suddenly there was a predatory glint in his eyes and I began to feel exposed. I soon pulled my arms under the blankets and made sure to bring the edge up to my neck in an attempt to cover myself.

“Why are you so concerned? You had no trouble sleeping beside me before,” he replied, noting my actions with interest.

“That was different- Cegil was in the room and you didn’t have it in your head that we were dating,” I managed to get out before I mentally kicked myself. I didn’t mean to say it like that! All it did was show him how uneasy I was to have him near me. His grin widened at the heavy implications behind my words.

“What’s this? Am I making you nervous, ‘Tia-dear?”

Damn him to five hells! I knew my face was burning and I couldn’t keep the panic out of my tone. “Get out of my bed!”

Satel then rolled over again so that he was on top of me. He supported himself up on his arms so that his weight wouldn’t crush me, but he made sure that his hips pinned down my lower torso and that my arms were effectively trapped under the covers. He then hovered over my face, close enough to where the loose strands of his hair curtained around our faces and obscured my view of the rest of the room.

“Hmm? Why is your face so red?” he asked in a cloyingly sweet tone. “Are you worried that I might take your innocence? Or are you simply afraid to admit that you might like my touch?”

“Satel…” I growled at him warningly. I knew he was joking- that playful look on his face said it all. This was only a game to him and he wanted to drive me insane.

“Or maybe you’re worried about your reputation? I wouldn’t worry about that. Cegil isn’t here- I checked,” he informed me before he moved his face even closer to the point where the tips of our noses were touching. “We could have some fun right now and no one would know about it.”

No amount of reassurance that he wasn’t being serious was enough to stop my bodily reactions. My heart was hammering against my ribcage and I could feel my cheeks grow hotter. Something told me that if this were any other man, I would be reacting much differently and would have had better luck in getting rid of him. I wasn’t sure what it was about Satel that set me on edge- was it because he was falucite? Or was it because it was just him?

I prided myself in being impossible to intimidate and yet he was the only one to slip past my defenses to the point where I couldn’t trust myself around him. He excited and scared me- I wasn’t even sure what I was supposed to be feeling or why when we were this close. All I knew was that I had to get out from under him because… well… he was right.

As much as I didn’t want to admit it, everything he had just taunted me with was true. I was frightened at the thought of things getting that deep and I was concerned that some part of me wanted this. I shouldn’t be with him like this- he was a monster to my kind and he was supposed to be with some dragon, not me.

“Get off!” I insisted as I gave him the darkest glare I could muster.

“Why? Can’t you get out on your own? I thought you were good at escaping holds?” he inquired as he lowered his eyelids in a smug expression. I could only escape when my captor’s guard was lowered and I most certainly couldn’t try anything while I had his full attention.

At my silence, Satel pulled away a little and shifted his weight to one arm so he could reach into a pocket inside his frock coat. He then pulled out a small knife encased in shiny black leather and dangled it above me. “Do you need a weapon so you can try?”

It took me a moment to recognize it- it was the knife I had left behind in Creskaela so the leatherworker could make a custom sheath for me. This must’ve been the real reason Satel was here to bother me- he wanted to deliver the dagger as he promised. I was only able to free my left arm, but before my fingers could even touch the new leather casing, he flicked his wrist and tossed it out of my reach.

“Oops,” he chimed teasingly before he used his magicks to set the knife over on the table by his über hat. I resumed glaring at him as he busied himself with grabbing my hand and kissing the knuckles.

I tried to ignore that rush of warmth and inquired in a deadpan voice, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Inspecting my hand. I see you still haven’t been using lotions,” he responded after nuzzling into my palm to nip gently at the hardened patches of skin. I wasn’t in the mood to be reminded of that silly arrangement we had.

I pulled out of his grip and placed my hand on the side of his face to push him away, only to have him laugh at my attempts. I was done- no more games, no more flirting. I wanted to get up and kick him out of my room.

“Get off!” I demanded again in a firmer voice as I began to squirm under the blankets.

Suddenly, his controlled features slipped and his eyes widened as I bucked against him once. I could feel him shake for a moment before his body tensed and his face contorted in what at first appeared to be pain. I assumed that I accidentally hurt him in his private area with my move and let myself be a little surprised that they were just as sensitive as human males.

“Stop- don’t do that,” he ordered gruffly as he desperately attempted to compose himself. Since he wasn’t getting off me, I bucked again, thinking that I really was causing him pain. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know that my belly was too soft to actually hurt him- what I was really doing was pushing him to act on his instincts.

“I won’t stop until you get off me,” I threatened after he growled my name warningly.

“You don’t know what you’re doing to me-” He was cut off with a groan when I moved again. I was able to see that his pupils contracted into those tiny vertical slits before he leaned down and almost violently claimed my lips. It happened so abruptly that I ended up staring wide-eyed into his half-lidded eyes and just let him do as he pleased.

He seemed to grow impatient with my lack of response and started nipping at my lower lip with his teeth to entice me to open my mouth. I did so almost hesitantly and felt him invade just as I lowered my jaw slightly. I tasted moaghos on his tongue- which reminded me that I hadn’t cleaned my teeth yet. My breath had to have been bad, but he didn’t seem to care.

I soon started to respond to his aggressive kiss and allowed myself to close my eyes and simply enjoy it. I couldn’t deny that there was a rush of excitement flowing through my body and I was a little curious to see where this was going. Because of my inexperience, I initially had had no clue what brought this on or why. Only seconds ago, Satel was just teasing me and I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that he was really being serious then.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I realized that there was something very hard pressing against my abdomen, but I didn’t pay much attention to it as I busied myself with dueling his tongue. I didn’t think twice when he bent his knees under him so he could straddle my hips. He made sure not to break our kiss by using his hands as leverage as he adjusted himself to hover above me.

I felt a hand smooth over my shoulder while he shifted his weight to the other arm. It wasn’t until I heard the sound of thread popping when I realized that something was wrong. He had dug his fingers under the square neckline of my nightgown was pulling the hemline off my shoulder to expose more skin.

I awkwardly freed my other arm and tried to push him away, but he broke off the kiss long enough to grab my wrists and pin them above my head. He was now pressing his arm down to secure my hands as he continued to rip into my nightgown.

“What are you-” I tried to speak while I had the chance, but he ended up kissing me silent again. He then trailed his tongue down my jaw and planted gentle nips and kisses at my neck.

“S-Satel?” I let out timidly, hoping to get his attention. There was something off about him- something primal, like he had no control of himself.

‘Tia,” he growled against my skin, apparently mistaking my voice as encouragement instead of a plea to talk. His voice was deeper and more sensual- I felt my insides turn into goo at the sound of it.

My body jumped when his hand came to rest on my breast and gave a generous squeeze. The action caused a curious reaction inside me where a warm, tingly path traveled from my breast to the lower pits of my belly. I wasn’t completely sure what was going on- or rather I didn’t understand the nature of it. Even I knew this was quickly turning into an intimate act, but I wasn’t sure what Satel was hoping to accomplish.

I started to struggle as questions shot through my mind. Was he really going to follow through with this and claim my virginity? Or was this still a game that was going horribly wrong? I honestly couldn’t tell and I had no clue how to make him stop. Even worse- I wasn’t sure if I even wanted him to. I was secretly curious about this, despite how frightening it was becoming.

I shivered when he pushed down the lace further to free the mound of flesh he was previously touching. The ends of his bangs tickled my chest as his thin lips drifted lower- I soon felt his heated breath on my bosom.

I was surprised that I let him get this far- I should’ve yelled at him the moment he tore my clothing, but for some reason, I couldn’t. Something was preventing me from speaking out and I wasn’t sure what- perhaps it was because I didn’t know what to do. I never thought I would ever get into a situation like this, let alone how to react to it.

“Satel!” His name escaped me as I felt his teeth sink into the areola of my breast. I was blindsided by the intense pleasure and pain before he started to soothe the new marks with his tongue.

It was then that I couldn’t take it anymore- panic filled me as a twinge of deep-seated fear entered my mind. I knew something wasn’t right- Satel wasn’t himself and I didn’t want things to go any further. At that point, I was ready to say anything in hopes that it would bring him back to his arrogant and playful self.

“S-stop…” My voice was shaky and rather quiet. For once in my life, I was ready to swallow my pride and admit defeat. I never backed down, especially when he was the one pushing me, but I wasn’t ready for this. Though I wasn’t quite sure what ‘this’ was. I was confused as to what I was so scared of- having sex or being with him in particular. “Y-yer scarin’ me.”

It seemed to work- he paused mid-lick, then retracted his tongue. His movements were slow as he carefully pushed himself up to look at me. His normally confident façade was replaced with shock and confusion- as if he wasn’t sure where he was. He then realized that he was pinning me down and released my arms before he sat back, still straddling my lower region. Blushing slightly, I immediately crossed my arms to hide my exposed chest under the torn gown. After a moment, I realized that with him pressed flush against me, I could feel everything.

As he stared down at me with glazed eyes, I became frozen in place. I wasn’t sure if I couldn’t move because I was scared or if I was actually under the influence of falucite magick. We both held still in the awkward silence, unable to form coherent words and too stunned to make the next move. The only thing we could do was breathe heavily as our minds scrambled to figure out what had happened.

When his eyes finally focused and took in my disheveled state, I felt a slight twitch from his …‘excitement’ before he reacted. My eyes darted downward before I could stop them.

“No… I can’t- Damn you, Maetira! ” he muttered harshly, his voice still husky. I glanced back up to his face in time to see a flash of fear in his eyes before he vanished. The weight was gone and I was truly alone again. I finally moved so that I could cover my chest with the blanket, and then let out a shaky breath.

I was both physically and emotionally disoriented- I couldn’t even tell if I wanted to laugh or cry. I kept the blankets firmly over my chest as I sat up and surveyed my surroundings. I noted that Satel left behind his über hat in his haste to leave.

I ended up sitting in bed for a long while before I urged myself to move and check on the damage. My nightgown was ruined- the seams were torn and the neckline sagged to the point where it was showing too much skin to be proper. I hesitantly lifted my breast to make sure I didn’t need medical attention. It was red, but not bleeding. He didn’t break the skin- only left little indentions around the edge of the nipple. They will fade soon enough and I will have no physical reminders of the encounter, but the memory was sure to live on and haunt me for quite some time.

I wasn’t sure what to do or who to talk to about what happened. Satel left too many uncomfortable questions that I feared that only he could answer. I looked over to the über hat that sat innocently on the table- he had to return for that at least, so I knew I would see him again.

But little did I know that from that point on, Satel was serious. He wasn’t going to play around with me anymore.

To the Next Chapter

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