Updated: Sep 22, 2021
October 31, 20XX
Sapphire groaned. She woke to her head pounding against her skull. She struggled to sit up. Warm arms aided in propping her back against soft pillows. Opening her eyes, she saw two black-marbled bedposts with a sheer white canopy billowing in the air. And then she saw him. She despised Volento’s beautiful delicate features. Even if there was concern etched in silver eyes, he was an immortal. He was the enemy, standing in the way of getting out of Soulezan.
“Here, drink this,” Volento’s commanding voice was foggy as her head spun, blurring both her vision and hearing. A white teacup appeared before her with light steam streaming from pale rose-colored tea.
Taking the cup, she inhaled its charming scent. Smelling peppermint and honey, she deducted the tea was safe to drink and took a sip. Volento wouldn’t poison her. It would taint her blood, and blood was valuable to an immortal.
Spice peppermint and sweet honey flooded her taste buds, opening her senses and returning her equilibrium. Finishing the drink, she placed the empty cup on the red comforter she was tucked under and slumped deeper into the warmth of her pillows.
She watched him studying her and hated him even more.
“I’m glad you are better. I wondered if your fever would ever break. Luckily, all sickness has left your body, and you’ve recovered nicely. Your headache will clear up. Fortunately, Vasuan is a better healer than I am.” Volento said, sitting on the edge of the bed near her.
Sapphire exhaled, “And you’ve both won, and I’ve lost my freedom again.”
Volento cupped her hand on the comforter. Sapphire felt the familiar heat rising from his sizeable rough hand.
His silver eyes were steady as he met her eyes, “What makes you think you’ve lost your freedom?” he asked, moving closer to her.
No malice oozed from his aura as Volento stroked his thumb atop her hand, igniting little sizzles to her skin. Instead, he appeared worried for her wellbeing. Perhaps he had some goal. Volento was indeed a strange immortal or very good at hiding his intentions. In her years of living in Soulezan, she had rarely seen one of his kind care for a human. In their world, humans were weak, mere food and toys. What did he want?
“Spare me, demon, another cage, another master. I am no freer than a caged nightingale, and I won’t sing for your pleasure.”
Volento chuckled, “But you are free, my little fireball. Free to roam the mansion grounds, command my servants, and do as you please while here. One day you will sing on your own accord for me.”
Ignoring his innuendo, she sternly asked, “Am I free to return to earth to my human life?”
Having lost her fighting spirit, Sapphire allowed Volento to stroke her hair. He twirled her curls around his long slim fingers.
“You would be in constant danger on earth. Sapphire, you could never live a normal life. You’ve been exposed to creatures humans consider supernatural and nonexistent. Those creatures will be drawn to you and will disrupt your life. It would be cruel to send you to a world you could never fully participate. I believe you’d be happiest here in this world.” He reasoned.
Sapphire felt hot tears falling on her hand. She wiped her eyes, not wanting the immortal to see her weakness.
So close, she had planned everything to make her return to earth, but now she was trapped by two descendants of the royal clan Angel. Her lack of knowledge of his family's history made her heart beat faster. The potentiality of being in a far worse predicament than with Rodas made the tears flow.
“I’ve never known happiness in Soulezan, only death, sorrow, and numbness. Why would there be any difference under your protection? Am I not human? Our place in this world varies by power, all of which you possess. Let me go.” Her voice cracked.
Volento wiped her tears away with his warm knuckles. He kissed her forehead. “I’m sorry, I cannot. For starters, I am nothing like Rodas. I would never harm you, nor would Vasuan.”
Tearing out of his arms, Sapphire jerked back into the center of the bed. She paid little attention to her exposed breast. Soulezan would do that to a human.
Balling her fist, she met those peculiar silver eyes and challenged, “You refuse me freedom. That is harm enough.”
Volento reached for her and let his hand fall limp at his side. He ruffled his midnight hair, and Sapphire despised how beautiful he looked in his frustration.
His face was a mix of feminine and masculine intricacy. Long black arched eyebrows above eyes that were like the moon with thick eyelashes. His defined cheekbones were clenched, and his thin lips slightly pouted. Sapphire would not fall for the enemy's pheromones.
Stepping back, he leaned against the bedpost. His head hung low but his eyes were steady watching her. “You must trust Vasuan and me. We intend to protect you, Sapphire. Your happiness will be our uttermost responsibility as our blood bond promise.”
Sapphire’s shoulders dropped. She studied Volento. His silver eyes beamed an honesty she had never seen in Rodas’s cruel ones.
Volento was offering her a binding promise of protection through the exchange of blood, an offering seldom extended to humans. He was offering her a ground of empowerment. Why?
“At what price?” She challenged. There was always a price to pay nothing was genuinely free. Volento and Vasuan wanted her for a reason.
“Who said there was a price?” Volento chuckled.
“Don’t play me. There is always a catch.”
“So jaded at such a young age.” He ran his hands through his hair, brushing the long black strands back, exposing his stunning face. He crossed his legs, leaning against the bedpost.
Sapphire looked away, “Typical, you want me as your mistress for my powers. I rather take my chances on earth. I suppose you’ve already confiscated Jordan’s dagger and crown?”
Sapphire frown at the bemusing smile planted across Volento’s handsome face. She watched his long muscular legs uncross and gracefully move to open the first drawer of the pearl enameled dresser.
“I put them here for you.” He said, pulling both the sheathed sword and crown from the drawer and closing it.
He returned to Sapphire's side and smoothed her frizzy hair, and placed the crown on her head and the sword at her side.
“You don’t understand the significance of Jordan’s items or the danger it puts you in.”
Sapphire half-heartedly removed the crown before she placed it over the hilt of Jordan. “I refuse to be imposed by your will or Jordan’s. My will shall not be discarded for another’s.”
Volento snorted a puff of smoke, “That’s your problem. You haven’t listened but insistently made assumptions. I do not want control over you. I want what’s best for you and your future. Your will is your own.”
“Forgive me for not trusting your word or your blood. I’ve witnessed your conniving kind go through extremities to establish power. I wish to return to the world where my kind is in control.”
“You’re half-human, Sapphire,” Volento whispered.
Stunned, she turned to him, “What did you say?”
The sorrowful dim in his silver eyes silenced Sapphire from her challenge. He continued, “You are most certainly half-human. You smell predominately human, so it can easily be overlooked, but there is a very enticing aroma beneath it.”
“No, you are mistaken. My parents were human. I watched Rodas kill them when I was a little girl. He killed them to get to me.” Sapphire said, hating herself for the tears that formed in her eyes—angrily wiping the tears that fell, she paused to control her breaking emotions.
Sapphire felt vulnerable, unlike her composed and well-guarded self. She wanted to open up to an immortal that could kill her as quickly as snapping a twig. Perhaps madness had settled, and she was admitting defeat, so she began wanting to tell him, before . . .
“It always seems to rain right as my life changes. It poured the night my parents died. They were human that I am sure of.” Sapphire cringed as she felt Volento climb into bed, wrapping his arms around her as he pulled her into his lap. She didn’t care that she was naked. After years of having Rodas expose her before crowds of immortals for their pleasure and amusement, Sapphire learned to be confident in her nakedness.
Volento cozy arms felt protective wrapped tightly around her back, shielding her. He nuzzled her head with the side of his face. She accepted his reassurance as memories long forgotten resurfaced and threatened to break her grip on sanity.
“Mother always read to me before bedtime, father usually joined us, but that particular night he was on the phone.” Her voice cracked as the memories began to flood.
Curled in her mother’s arms, Sapphire listened to the story of the Princess and the Frog. She giggled as her mother croaked, tailoring her voice from the narrative to the frog prince.
“Just one kiss, and I’ll be a real prince.” Her mother read.
“Kiss the frog, princess!” Sapphire said, squealing in excitement.
As her mother read, a loud crash like shattering glass sounded through the house, followed by an extraordinary red glow interrupting her mother’s reading. Her father’s excruciating cry ranged throughout the living room before a nerve-wracking silence prevailed. Trying to leave the bed to check on her father, her mother quickly rushed her up and shoved Sapphire into the closet.
Her mother smiled with panic in her brown eyes, “Stay here, sweetie, don’t come out until I’ve come for you.”
“What’s wrong with daddy, mama?” Sapphire’s tiny hands clutched her mother’s pink bathrobe, not ready to let go.
Her mother reassuringly smiled, “Everything is going to be alright. Just keep quiet.” Her mother closed the closet door unintentionally, leaving a tiny crack for Sapphire to partake in her shattered innocence.
Before her mother could leave the room, Rodas and a group of immortal knights blasted the bedroom door open, knocking her mother to the ground. Blood flowed down her mother’s face as she tried to stand but failed. Then, faster than Sapphire's eyes could see, Rodas lifted her mother from the ground by her neck.
“Where is the girl?”
“Go… to… hell.” Her mother said, struggling in his hold. She spat blood in Rodas’s face.
Angered, Rodas shoved his hand through her chest, ripping out her heart.
Bringing her knees to her chest, Sapphire buried her head in her arms as she tried to fight the memory of Rodas eating her mother’s still-beating heart. Volento stroked her bareback in comfort. His touch was gentle, and she felt he had merged with her mind as the memory continued.
Flinging her mother’s dead body close to the closet, Rodas turned towards his knights.
“Search the house. The girl has to be here.” At Rodas’s command, the immortal knights dispersed in search of her.
The memory was overwhelming. Sapphire rocked herself as she remembered her mother’s limp body falling near her feet in the closet she hid in. Volento turned her in his arms. He cradled her like a small child kissing her forehead soothing her shaking frame as he rocked her.
Dark brown eyes that lit up whenever her mother smiled were glazed over in pain as they looked at her in death, forever haunting Sapphire.
Sapphire tried to touch her mother’s limp hand, but Rodas yanked her from her hiding place and dragged her out of her room, her little feet kicking wildly at him. The last memory she had was of her father, dead on the living room floor with his throat severed.
Sapphire wasn’t aware she was hyperventilating until Volento kissed her forehead.
"Calm down, fireball, I won't allow anyone to harm you," Volento stroked her back kindly, but as Sapphire observed Volento, he was furious. Smoke fumed from his nostrils, and his eyes were frightening, raging with bloodlust and chilling coldness.
He feigned a smile, “I could kill Rodas again, and it still wouldn’t be enough. If only we remained active in Soulezan, we would have found you sooner. We are not all like Rodas. ”
Sapphire relaxed as Volento planted a kiss on her forehead. She moaned in pleasure, and regretted her need to pull him closer. She fought her urge to cling to Volento protective arms as Rodas’s face haunted her mind.
Rodas was a monster just like all immortals were, and no matter what Volento and Vasuan said, they were just like him. Sapphire resolved that she could not trust an immortal, even one offering a blood bond promise.
Shoving Volento away, she left the bed, not caring that she was naked. Volento clasped her wrist and tried to pull her into his arms, but she wouldn’t let him.
“I’m nothing like Rodas, Sapphire. I could never harm you as he did.”
“Then release me.” She met his silver eyes. He held onto her gaze for a moment before looking away.
Volento dropped her hand and rubbed his neck. “I can’t do that, Sapphire. Please come back to bed. It’s cold, and we have some unsavory guest.”
She wondered what guests Volento spoke of, but it mattered not Sapphire decided she was leaving.
“No. Where are my clothes? I’ll find my way to home if you won't help me.” Not giving him a chance to answer, she grabbed the crown and dagger of Jordan and walked out of the bedroom.
She entered an empty hallway with red cobblestone walls and black marble flooring. The hallway, lit by torches hanging from the mouths of identical black iron dragon sconces, was still dim. An immortal or vampire could see the hallway vividly, but there were still shadows lurking in Sapphire's mortal sight.
Grabbing a torch, Sapphire walked down the hallway until she came upon a large spiral staircase of white marble stairs and pure gold railings carved like a gigantic serpent.
The lavish rail had shiny gold scales that seemed to move as if the snake was breathing. She gripped the rail, and the scales ruffled, continuously moving under her touch. Sapphire looked over the banister and saw the scales shimmer, spiraling gold lights as the shimmering scales moved along the staircase.
Phoenix was enflamed around her neck, tickling her skin.
Where are we going with no clothes, paper of Hominx, or lully?
“A way from wherever this place is.” She replied.
I watched Volento and Vasuan tend to you throughout the night. I don’t think you are in any danger with them around. Perhaps it's best you stay until you’ve planned a proper escape.
Sapphire shook her head. With the weight of the crown and dagger in her left hand and the torch in her right, she continued down the peculiar staircase that twisted and turned what seemed forever.
“I want nothing to do with those immortals. I just want my freedom.” She whispered.
But what if your freedom is with them?
“Phoenix, am I half-human like Volento claims.” She paused to sit on the stairs. “I mean, my parents were human, right?”
A full-fledged human could not possess me, nor could a pure human hold items from a dragon lord long assumed dead.
“Then what am I, Phoenix?” She placed the crown and scabbard at her side and looked down at Phoenix. Moving the torch closer, she could see a reflective mist of black, silver, and red swirling within the stone as it glowed.
That I do not know, you have traces of dragon blood, perhaps because you had a blood exchange with Jordan’s dagger. You also have a hint of celestial, immortal, and of course, human blood within you. It’s too complicated to determine.
“If a human can’t possess you, why did my mother have you?” Sapphire asked.
The woman you believed was your mother wasn’t human. She was a witch.
“Then I too am a witch then?”
No, you misunderstood. Your blood doesn’t match hers or that of the man you called your father.
Sapphire feet faltered and she caught her fall, “But they were my parents, right?”
They loved you like their daughter, but we're not your real parents. I don’t know how you got entangled with a witch and wizard, but your journey has been strange.
Sapphire dropped the torch it clatter down the marvel steps. Her world collapsed at Phoenix’s admission, and she could not feel the ground below her feet. Her face grew hot as tears clouded her vision. Sapphire was even further from freedom from Soulezan, and now she didn’t even know who her parents were.
She ran her hands through her hair tangling her curls. Sapphire was alone. Her parents, now strangers, were the last people that might have known her true identity.
Phoenix glowed around her neck, feeling her pain.
Dear Sapphire, it is not so bad. Your parents, wherever they might be, gave you life. Cherish that.
Sapphire’s heart grew dark as she wished she had never encountered Phoenix, Jordan’s relics, Volento or Vasuan. If she hadn’t, Sapphire believed she could have gone on living with the belief that Rodas had killed her birth parents and that she was an ordinary human trapped in Soulezan.
Sapphire balled her fist, determined to return to the human realm. If not, Soulezan would continue to disrupt her life.
Sniffing, she wiped her tears away. She gathered the items of Jordan, grabbed the lit torch, and began walking down the stairs. Her curly white hair fell forward as she traveled down the winding stairs.
“Perhaps if you tell me of your journey, I could trace who I am, Phoenix,” hope rose in voice.
I don’t think so, for I have traveled many worlds for many millenniums. Before I was involved in your life, I was in the possession of a mermaid name Ellen. After her, someone entrapped me in a spell of darkness. I slept for centuries until a witch roused me, your adopted mother.
“So am I half-human, half-mermaid?”
You would have perished long ago living in this world with Rodas. You wouldn’t have been able to survive very long without being close to saltwater.
“Then who was the witch, I mean, my mother?” Sapphire didn’t feel comfortable calling her adoptive mother anything less than mother. Even if she were upset, she would honor the witch that treated her like a daughter.
I believe her name, Mary, was a pseudonym. Her power was too great for me to determine which witch tribe was her clan. But I know for sure that she wasn’t human and had no relations to you.
Taking the last step, she touched the end of the gold railings, amazed by the giant dragonheads at both sides of the staircase.
The massive head's scales felt hot. Its scales gleamed with its thin sheets of gold as it rippled. Both dragons enormous gold fangs bared with long serpent tongues hanging from their gapped mouths. She patted the dragonhead rail. Its head shook, and its mouth closed, leaving only its gold tongue poking out, reminding Sapphire of a python.
Strange things happened in Soulezan. Sapphire wouldn’t be surprised if the dragon railing could move about and even fly.
“Then what am I?”
That I do not know, but perhaps these immortals might help you to discover your identity. I think it safest to remain here with them.
“They aren’t your average immortals. If it wasn’t for Vasuan’s remark about Rodas’s human blood, I might have assumed they were vampires.” Sapphire said.
Their blood is strange like yours, but they are pureblood immortals, with no human trace to mark them as vampires. A rare form of blood that courses through their veins is ancient, sinister, and extremely powerful, but I can’t decipher its origin.
“And yet you want me to remain with them? What if that unknown part later proves dangerous to me? What then?” Sapphire said. She followed the marble flooring searching for an exit. As she explored, Sapphire found a massive window with colorful glass. They were in an enormous castle as she saw the building reflected on the water moat below.
Perhaps, she could swim across? But then she thought of the weird creatures walking about Soulezan. Sapphire didn't want to discover the deadly swimmers below. There had to be a bridge to cross. One challenge at a time, first she had to find the exit.
I somehow doubt that either would pose a threat to you. On the contrary, something in my powers tells me they are allies.
Sapphire ignored Phoenix and followed the red cobblestone floor, searching for an exit. The hair on her skin rose with goosebumps, and her body became chilled. Sapphire halted. She felt five, no, six powerful immortals were near. One aura felt familiar. She recognized it as Vasuan. She tiptoed as she heard voices coming from behind an elegant black and gold door.
Nearing the doorway, Sapphire peeked through the crack to see Vasuan seated at the head of a large shiny black oval table with five immortal council members surrounding. Sapphire immediately recognized the five members as Madam Joy, Lord Septimus, Lord Clarence, Lord Baltazar, and Lord Othieno. From previous encounters, while attending meetings with Rodas, she knew that these five weren’t the top council members but were still worth respect for their roles.
They were seated in a dining hall with dark stone walls with dragon scones as lights and a fireplace behind Vasuan. Shadows prevailed in the room, but Sapphire noted the dinning hall was royally decorated with rich effects from centuries she knew nothing about. There were gold frame paintings of immortals Sapphire didn’t know. One picture caught her attention. It was of a beautiful immortal woman with white hair like Vasuan and silver eyes like Volento. She smiled quaintly seated on a red throne. Sapphire speculated the woman had some relations to Volento and Vasuan.
“Sapphire rightfully belongs with us, Vasuan.” Madam Joy said, raising the hairs on Sapphire's neck. If the immortal council wanted her, she was as good as dead.
Of the five, Madam Joy and Lord Septimus were the most powerful, noted for their ironclad attitudes and cruelty. Sapphire heard rumors from humans serving under Madam Joy that she was fond of using serrated whips and claws as punishment for those who disobeyed her. Sapphire had never seen Madam Joy administer punishment, but Sapphire had seen the deformed faces of her slaves to know not to test her.
With her own eyes, she had witnessed Lord Septimus partake in his known obsession for ripping veins from his victim’s flesh one by one. The poor human had died horribly because he had forgotten to add sugar to Lord Septimus’s coffee.
Lord Othieno, Lord Baltazar, and Lord Clarence had their cruel quirks, but they were nothing compared to those two creatures.
Crouching close to the door, Sapphire listened as their discussion became heated with Vasuan.
“You must understand we must keep the balance of Soulezan, and with Sapphire under a royal house’s command, it might prove unfavorable power.” Lord Septimus stroked his beard. " A vampire even managed to gain power, that's proof enough."
Vasuan appeared unhurried as he lounged in the very throne the beautiful woman in the portrait sat in, his long legs casually kicked up on the table.
Flipping his white hair back, he flippantly said, “Sapphire is under the protection of the house of Angel. Your claim is meaningless.”
Madam Joy wore a skintight royal purple leather dress with spike silver rods protruding from her shoulder pads. She flipped her blond hair back and flashed an attractive smile at Vasuan. “And what do you plan on doing with her?” Madam Joy said, folding her gaudily ringed boney fingers.
Vasuan, weary and annoyed with the council members, crossed his legs and leaned back against his throne. In no hurry to answer Madam Joy’s question, he lifted his crystal goblet of blood, swirled the blood, and took a leisure sip.
Irked with the unnecessary silence provoked by Vasuan’s casual behavior, Lord Clarence spoke angrily. “You must understand, Master Vasuan, the girl belonged to Rodas. At the event of his final death, we have a claim to her.” Lord Clarence, fashioned in his aristocratic black suit, tried to reason. Sapphire rolled her eyes as he licked his small lips, clearly savoring the idea of having her. His only goal was to claim her for her blood.
Lord Clarence was greedier and more lethal than Rodas. So it was no wonder Madam Joy was his mate. Both council members were equally vicious in their gruesome brutality. Sapphire had heard the two had gone on a murdering rampage together, killing their entire human staff and basking in their blood as they made love in the gore.
Madam Joy lightly caressed Lord Clarence’s flushed cheek.
“Master Vasuan, we are only trying to keep the balance of power in our society. We will compensate you and your brother for her loss, but the human girl must leave with us.” Madam Joy said as she flashed her overly bogus smile.
Lord Othieno flicked the ash from his cigar, “Rodas might have had a claim to her, rest his soulless self, but eventually we would have taken Sapphire from him. She is too powerful to be controlled by a single immortal. For the prosperity of Soulezan as a whole, she must be commanded by us.”
Lord Othieno smoked his cigar and exhaled. “We have moved from the days of having a monarchy, and from the chaos, we the immortal council arose, and democracy established. With Sapphire under a single master, she could return us to a monarchy.” He finished blowing smoke in Vasuan’s direction.
Vasuan flashed fang as he smiled, “And what will you do if I say no.” Sapphire saw a fire burning in Vasuan reddish gold eyes, in apparent bloodlust.
“Why are you so settled on this human maggot.” Lord Septimus interjected. “Perhaps, you are fond of the human? Once we set our eyes on something, it’s as good as ours, you may have royal blood, but you hold no real power, House of Angel.” Lord Septimus mockingly chuckled.
The council intended to claim her at all cost, even if that meant murdering another immortal. Sapphire feared for Vasuan’s life. He could be put to death any second for his defiance.
Vasuan sat calmly on his gothic throne with his fingers locked over his crossed legs. He looked like a king seated on his throne chair, unaffected by the silent threat.
He finally responded with a chuckle, “And you must understand that Volento and I have blood claim over her. She shot a piscol at Volento and me, nearly mortally wounding us. You must know that if you take her from us, you would be breaking the Blood Law we hold over her.”
Sapphire clasped her hand over her mouth. She had forgotten about the Blood Law. By right, Vasuan and Volento had claim over her because she had spilled their immortal blood by the wounds she inflicted on them from the piscol. No other immortal could extract her from them. She was legally theirs until they killed or released her. She shivered and fell to her knees as she finally realized her hopeless situation. Regardless of how much she wanted her freedom, her life now belonged to Vasuan and Volento.
“Normally, we would acknowledge your Blood Law but considering you sent Rodas to his final death. We have the right to elicit punishment for the crime of murdering a master vampire. Depending on your decision, such punishment could result in the loss of your lives. In either event, we would still take Sapphire from you.” Lord Baltazar kept his cold grey eyes on Vasuan, slamming his steel cane on the floor.
The other council members silently cheered Lord Baltazar for his authority with shared smiles. Still, Vasuan casually finished the rest of the blood in his goblet, unfazed by the council members’ threat lingering in the air. Calmly he refilled his glass with blood from a crystal pitcher, added whiskey, and quickly down his drink.
“As your immortal council, we override your claim of Sapphire and demand that you relinquish her to us immediately. Do so, and we will overlook the crime of killing Master Rodas.” Madam Joy sternly said, finishing with her themed sham smile.
Vasuan standing from his chair threw the empty crystal goblet into the fire in the stone fireplace.
“Excuse my bluntness, dear council members, but I could give a flying immortal’s ass about your demands. As royal immortals, Volento and I aren’t inclined to follow the pompous rules of a council established in the century of chaos. If we have to, we will send you all and any creature you employ to your death if you dare attempt to take Sapphire from us. Consider this your only warning.” Vasuan’s normal hazel eyes glowed a burning scarlet before he breathed a ghastly ball of fire down the center of the oval table.
The five council members jumped to their feet, dodging Vasuan’s deadly fire.
“Impossible! What creature are you that dare pose as a royal immortal and breathe fire.” Lord Septimus said.
“I am an immortal one of royal blood under the house of Angel…I’m just a little Devil, so to speak.” Vasuan grinned revealing his fangs.