- Thanks so much for your comments and your patience. I really appreciate it. And I hope you enjoy this new part.
The next night, Inara entered her and Zan’s cottage, taking off her cloak and setting it down on the arm of loveseat. With a snap of her fingers, candles ignited, bathing the living room with a flickering orange glow. She grabbed some wood and set it neatly in the fireplace before snapping her fingers again, using her powers to set the logs on fire. Once that was done, Inara sat on the couch and anxiously waited for Kivar to show up. She’d messaged him earlier and asked him to meet her there. As she looked around, memories of her time her with Zan came flashing through her mind and she couldn’t help but feel like she was betraying Zan by bringing Kivar here. This was their
place. Their own private sanctuary where they could be themselves without fear of judgment or expectation. Kivar had no place here, but what choice did she have? This was the place that was private enough for them to speak without fear of listening ears. After a few moments, Inara stood up and began pacing, feeling more nervous by the second. Finally, she heard three soft knocks on the cabin door and rushed over to open it.
Kivar stepped inside and greeted Inara with a warm smile, letting his eyes scan over her beauty. “Inara, it’s good to see you.”
Inara was about to respond when she noticed Kivar’s General, Nikolai, coming in close behind him and shutting the door. She frowned in confusion. “Why is General Nikolai here?”
“It’s all right,” Kivar assured her as she watched Nikolai warily. “He’s here to help us.”
“It’s true,” Nikolai said. “I was working with King Galen, but now that I realize how dangerous he is, I want to help stop him.” Looking at Inara, he could tell she wasn’t quite convinced and his respect for her grew a little at this. Maybe she’s not as naïve as she appears
, he thought appreciatively. Neither nor Kivar were in this for altruistic reasons, but right now, he needed her to believe him. He took a step forward, giving her a grave look and putting as much sincerity in his voice as he could muster. “The fate of our planets depends on it.”
Inara remained silent as she studied him, trying to decide if he was someone she could trust. She then turned her gaze to Kivar, needing reassurance. He gave her another soft smile as he grasped her left elbow and gentled guided her over to the couch. “I promise he’s telling the truth.”
As they sat down on the dusty old couch, Kivar gestured to Nikolai, who brought over the silver briefcase he was holding and set it down on the table. Kivar unlatched it and opened the top, revealing a brown leather-bound book. Inara studied the book in amazement as Kivar wrapped his fingers around the sides and lifted the book up, pointing in her direction. “Are you ready?”
Her stomach rumbled in nervous anticipation, but she did her best to appear confident as she nodded her head. Slowly, she reached forward and took the book from Kivar, placing it in her lap as she closed her eyes and concentrated. When nothing happened, she got confused and gripped the book tighter in her hands, concentrating harder. But still, nothing happened. She opened her eyes and her brows furrowed. “I don’t see anything.”
Kivar appeared disappointed, but he wasn’t ready to give up. “Are you sure? Try again.”
With a nod, Inara closed her eyes again, desperately trying to trigger a vision. But once again, her efforts were unsuccessful, and she placed the book back in the briefcase in disappointment. “It’s not working.”
“Perhaps you’re lying about having these visions,” Nikolai said, eyeing Inara skeptically.
With that, Inara stood from her seat and glared at the General. “I’m not lying!”
Before Nikolai could reply, Kivar stood and held up his hand towards the man, silencing him. “Leave us for a moment.” Kivar’s tone left no room for argument and without another word, Nikolai opened the cabin door and stepped outside, leaving the two alone.
“I’m not lying. I promise.”
Kivar nodded in understanding. “I believe you.” With a sigh, he sat back down on the couch. “Perhaps something is blocking you. Previously, did you do anything to trigger these visions.”
She shook her head as she returned to her seat. “No. I spend all of my time trying NOT to have them.”
“Maybe that’s it,” he suggested. “Maybe some part of you is still trying to stop yourself. This time just let the visions come. Don’t fight them.”
Inara picked the book up again, staring at it intently. Deep down, she had a feeling that Kivar was right. She’d been fighting these powers for so long, it was just instinctual at this point. This time, when she closed her eyes, she let her mind blank out and her defenses drop. After a minute or two, when nothing happened, Inara started to feel hopeless. But before she could say anything, a rush of energy went through her body, taking her by surprise.
“Inara” Kivar said, concern in his voice as he watched Inara slump back against the couch, her closed eyelids fluttering rapidly. “Inara,” he said again but it was pointless.
Inara could barely hear Kivar as the energy started pulling her consciousness somewhere else. Every impulse inside of her wanted to fight, to turn away from the terrible things she knew she was about to see. But she resisted it, allowing the power to take her where it wanted to. Slowly, she felt herself drifting away. Away from Kivar. Away from the cottage…
Soon Inara found herself standing alone at the edge of an expansive lake, feeling the cold water as it gently lapped at her feet. She was perplexed as she took in her surroundings. This place was so different than anything she’d ever seen before and she was certain that she wasn’t on Antar. The calm water in front of her was blue rather than the violet color of Antarian water and as it continued to wash over Inara’s toes, she noticed that it didn’t feel as thick as the waters of Antar did. The trees surrounding her weren’t as tall as the ones on her home world, but she was amazed by how green they were. This place was so beautiful, but so foreign to her. She’d never seen anything like it before and wondered if it was on any of the five planets. She studied the area a moment longer before her eyes landed on a little cabin on the other side of the lake. Smoke billowed from a little chimney connected to it, indicating that someone was there. Inara made her way towards the cabin, hearing the pebbles and leaves crunch under her bare feet with every step.
As she approached the steps leading up the cabin, she paused, wondering, worrying what she’d find on the other side of that door. But her need to know outweighed her fear, so she straightened her shoulders, took a breath and started climbing the stairs. She was about to know when the door slowly swung open on its own and she passed the threshold.
A fire crackled in the fireplace that was sitting against the wall on the right side of the room, filling the whole house with warmth. Inara took everything in. There were two chairs facing the hearth with tables on either side of them. Weird objects, which Inara suspected were decorations, were all over the house. On the mantle of the fireplace, on the tables. Pictures hung on the wall and she walked closer to inspect them. There were several images of a man and woman smiling and looking lovingly at each other, and Inara assumed they were married. Images of them with others laughing, dancing and having a good time. For some reason, Inara’s eyes kept going back to the woman. She was beautiful. In her early fifties at least with long dark brown hair. She’d never seen this woman before in her life, but for some reason, she seemed familiar to Inara somehow. Finally, she noticed the light emanating from an open doorway on the left corner of the room and walked towards it.
Once inside, Inara spotted the giant bed in the center of the room and gasped when she saw the dark- haired woman from the pictures. She no longer looked like the lively woman from the pictures. Now she looked sickly and gaunt, with bags under her eyes. Her breathing was ragged, and it looked like she was straining to keep her eyes open. It disturbed Inara to see her like that. She didn’t understand why, but she felt grief for this woman.
Just then, the woman’s eyes connected with Inara’s and a small, loving smile spread over her face. Inara’s eyes widened, unsure if the woman could see her. Then the woman opened her mouth to speak, confirming Inara’s question. “Come to me, Inara. I’m waiting.”
So many questions were running through Inara’s mind. Who was this woman? How did she know Inara? And why did Inara feel like she knew her as well? Why was this woman waiting for her? But before she could ask any of those questions, the sensation of being pulled started again, and she knew that the vision was about to end. This time, Inara fought the feeling with everything she had, desperate not to leave, but it was pointless. This feeling was too strong. Soon a white life began to engulf Inara, forcing her to shut her eyes as the vision ended…
When Inara opened her eyes, she was greeted with Kivar’s worried face as he stared down at her, tenderly brushing her hair from her face. He gasped a sigh of relief when Inara finally awoke.
“Are you alright?” He asked, scooting back to allow her room to sit back up on the couch.
She gave him a jerky nod as she sat up, taking deep breaths to try and calm herself down. She looked down at the book that was still sitting in her lap. “It worked.”
Kivar watched Inara as her fingers lightly traced the cover of the book. Immediately, concern was replaced with excitement. “What did you see?”
“A woman,” she replied, still studying the book. “Dark hair. Early fifties. She spoke to me.”
“What did she say?”
Finally, her fingers stopped moving and she gave Kivar a confused look. “That she was waiting for me.”
Excitement turned to frustration as he started firing questions at Inara. “She’s waiting for you? What does that mean? What else did she say?”
Inara’s mouth opened and closed several times, looking like a fish out of water, before she gave up and looked away. “I’m sorry,” she said, feeling disappointed with herself.
With a sigh, Kivar ran his fingers through his hair, trying to get control of his emotions. “It’s not your fault. This just isn’t very helpful.”
Inara slumped back onto the couch, going over the vision. Trying to piece together something that could help them. There had to be something in that vision that could tell—
“Wait!” She blurted out, sitting back up. “The cabin I was at it. It was different than anything I’d ever seen before. I don’t think I was on Antar.”
Kivar frowned as he watched Inara lean over and start rummaging through her cloak. “I don’t really see how that’s going too—”
Just then, Inara pulled out her necklace and flipped the pendant over. On the back was a small painting of a cabin sitting next to what Kivar could only guess was water of some kind. But it was different than the waters on any of the five worlds.
“This is the place I saw,” she said, her finger pointing at the cabin. “This is the place I saw.”
Kivar took the necklace, studying it closely. “You’re right. I don’t think these woods are on Antar. They’re not on any of the five planets.” He turned back to Inara, who was looking at me with delight in her eyes. She was so beautiful when she was happy. “Inara, may I keep this necklace for a little while. I want to have it analyzed.”
Inara smile dimmed a little as she looked down at the necklace in Kivar’s hand. It was strange. As much trouble as that stupid trinket had caused her, she was oddly hesitant to part with it, even if it was only temporary. “You’ll tell me if you find anything.”
Kivar nodded. “Of course.”
After a moment, she nodded her head in agreement before standing up and grabbing her cloak off the arm of the couch. “It’s getting late. I should go home.”
Kivar agreed and placed the book back in the silver briefcase, snapping the latches closed, taking it with him as he followed Inara out of the cabin. He shut the door behind him and looked the left, seeing Nikolai standing by the carriage a few feet away, keeping watch of the woods. Kivar than turned back to Inara as she mounted her stead and prepared to head home. “Inara, may I ask why you wanted to meet here?”
Inara glanced back at the cottage, a smile threatening to spread on her lips as she thought of Zan, but she managed to appear neutral as she shrugged. “I used to come here as a child,” she lied. “It was the most private place I could think of. Goodnight, Kivar.”
He stood there and watched as Inara and her horse galloped off into the night. He then looked down at pendant, touching the pendant with his fingers.
“Did you get anything useful?” Nikolai asked as she walked over to Kivar.
Kivar didn’t look back Nikolai. He just continued to stare at the necklace in his hand. “Perhaps.”
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Zan had just returned to the palace when one of the maids approached him and bowed her head. “The King has requested you in the great hall, your Highness.”
“Thank you,” he replied before making his way in the direction of the great hall. As he entered the large room, he paused when he spotted his parents standing in the center of the room, kneeling their heads together. They looked so intimate and tender and Zan almost felt like a voyeur just standing there watching them. But he couldn’t help but watch them with envy. The devotion between them was inspiring and, as he looked at them, he saw a glimpse of what he hoped his future would be with Inara. The two of them ruling together with love and respect. One day,
he promised himself. One day soon, he was going to make Inara his wife. He turned to leave, wanting to give his parents some privacy. But just as he put his hand on doorknob, his mother’s voice stopped him.
“Zan,” Amara called out as she walked towards her son, lightly kissing him on the cheek and pulling him over to join her and Garok.
Zan smiled sheepishly at being caught. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“Nonsense, darling.” She continued leading him until they both came to a stop in front Garok. “Your father and I just wanted to say how proud we are of you. This past six weeks, you’ve made remarkable progress in your training. We’re so happy.”
“Thank you,” he said. But noticing the looks between his parents, he could sense there was more going on. “Is there something else?” He asked, looking at them both cautiously.
“Well, yes,” Amara admitted. “Your father was telling me about a girl you’ve been courting, and we were wondering when we’re going to meet her.”
“Oh.” That was all he could say as watched the eager expression on his mother’s face.
“It sounds like you’re serious about this girl,” she said, hopeful at the prospect of her son finally settling down.
Despite the discomfort he felt about having this conversation, a warm smile still formed on his lips as an image of Inara came to his mind. “I am.”
“Great. Then it’s settled,” Garok said firmly, giving his son a pointed look. “We’ll meet her in three weeks.”
Zan’s smile faded a little as he stared at his father. “Three weeks?”
Garok cocked a brow. “I believe three weeks is plenty of time. Son, I’m proud of the progress you’ve made, but I meant what I said. It’s time for you to settle down and find a suitable wife.”
The firm look on his father’s face told Zan there was no arguing his way out of this. Finally, he nodded in acceptance and Garok smiled.
“Wonderful,” he said happily. “We can’t wait to meet her.”
Amara immediately pulled Zan into a warm hug. “I’m so happy for you,” she gushed before releasing him and leaving the great hall with her husband.
As Zan watched them leave, he couldn’t help but think his father was right about finding a good wife. And he couldn’t imagine any woman being better for him than Inara. And as much he was enjoying having her all to himself, he couldn’t help but be a little jealous looking at how open other couples could be with each other. He wanted to be able to hold her hand in public, to kiss her, to show the world that she was his and he was hers. The more he thought about this, the more hopeful he felt about his parents finding out about him and Inara. They loved her. He was sure that they’d be thrilled to call her daughter-in-law. And he couldn’t wait to finally make her his wife.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Rath returned to his barracks after a twelve-hour shift feeling exhausted and frustrated. The guard had been there for a month and there were still no signs of terrorist activity anywhere. He’d had a meeting with the commander the other day and could tell by his impatience that it wouldn’t be long before he pulled the unit out of the village. Logically, he understood his commander’s reasoning, but Rath couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible would happen if they removed protection from these people.
With a tired sigh, Rath collapsed down on his cot, savoring the feeling of the pillow on the back of his head. He was just about to drift off to sleep when footsteps approached, and he opened his eyes to see his friend Zayne standing there.
“Long night?” Zayne asked as he sat down on the cot adjacent to Rath’s.
Rath resumed closing his eyes. “The longest.”
Zayne leaned back against the wall behind his cot, resting his hands on his chest. “Hopefully we’ll be out of this place soon. I need some action.” He then snuck a look at his friend. “Speaking of action, who’s the sexy blond you’ve been hanging out with lately?”
The mention of Coraline made Rath open his eyes, but he wouldn’t look at Zayne. “A friend.”
a friend?” He asked, looking skeptical. Zayne wasn’t blind. He saw how much time Rath had been spending with the pretty blonde in the last couple of weeks. And only a fool could miss the way they looked at each other.
Rath took a deep breath, trying to contain his annoyance as he turned to look at his annoyingly nosey friend. “Yes. Just
“That’s good. Because it would be extremely unwise to cheat on Princess Vilandra.”
With that, Rath sat up in his cot and gave Zayne a serious look. “Let me make this clear. I have never, no do I ever intend to be unfaithful to my wife. And you better not spread rumors around. Got it?”
“Got it,” Zayne said with a chuckle, holding his hands up in mock surrender. “No need to get so defensive.
Rath laid back down on his pillow, feeling frustrated by his friend’s accusation. What bothered him more, though, was the fact that the accusation wasn’t wrong. Not entirely anyway. No, he and Coraline hadn’t been intimate together and he had no plans of letting it get that far either, but their friendship wasn’t harmless, and he knew it. He’d been spending his evenings he wasn’t working at the tavern with Coraline, talking and drinking. On the surface, it seemed innocent, but every time they were together, he could feel the attraction brewing between them. Palpable and overwhelming. And that left him with a feeling of guilt. The right thing to do would be to end their friendship since he knew that he had no intention of pursuing the attraction between them. But the selfish part of him wanted to enjoy this a little longer. To allow himself the fulfillment of feeling wanted and desired before he had to return to a wife who looked at him with nothing but spite. He wasn’t proud of it, but the selfish part of him was winning.
Just then, the doors to the barracks burst open and a soldier, Kanin, strode inside, a grim expression etched all over his face. “Get dressed now,” he ordered. “the commander wants us all outside in five.”
Rath and Zayne immediately stood up from their cots, exchanging worried looks before turning back to Kanin. “What’s going on?” Rath asked.
“A girl was taken.”