Chapter 1: Exiled to Freedom
There was a fierce wildness to her beauty, something in the eyes that would catch you like a kite and fling you end over end into the clouds, only to rip tear the heart asunder and dash it back to the unyielding earth.
I found myself in a perpetual state of tension between exhilaration and desolation, never knowing which was next, or for how long it would last once manifest; I only knew that when she summoned, I must go; that was as constant as the tide.
That we would wind up killing each other one day was as certain as sunrise.
For now, I was on his way, sweaty in the desert sun, trying not to fall asleep; to keep my mind occupied, I gave sway to the memory that kept nudging me like a horse’s nose.
“I don’t understand,” she said.
The sweet scent of the garden flowers now seemed to him like a cloying fog, and I fought the urge to gag.
“You don’t need to understand; you need to let me go. Take off the spell, Nira, and I’ll be on my way.”
“And if I don’t?”
“I’ll find a way to leave anyway.”
She smiled, still not understanding. “What are you going to do, kill me?”
I neither moved nor replied, and in the protracted silence, it finally took hold.
“You would!” She stood up. “You will!”
“We had our time, Nira. Now, I would be free. You can’t hold me hostage. If you don’t break the spell, I’ll find a way, but if killing you is the only way to make that happen, I’ll do that too, if I must.”
She started to cry.
“You can’t have my freedom.”
“You can’t be with someone—”
“You bound me to you, Nira! This whole thing is a farce!”
Her hands were covering her face; when she took them away, her mascara was smeared. The fire in her eyes told me I was closer to dying than ever before.
Her voice rasping with hurt pride, her rage seethed through gritted teeth: “I release you from my service. You’ll be paid, and your passage from the land secured. But as penalty, you shall be branded with an ‘O’, now that you’ve forsworn your oath.
“Your return from exile, in any form, to this land, now carries a death sentence.”
“I expected no less.”
“You have until sunset.”
“Thank you, Nira.”
Her eyes flashed again, her voice stronger with venom this time. “Do not speak my name again, you oath breaking, traitorous bastard of a dog.”
I nodded, and turned on my heel, knowing before I felt something hit my back, making me stumble; I heard the crystal goblet that struck me shatter on the floor as I walked a gauntlet of hostile stares, pushes, shoves, spit, and slaps from her servants and councilors, who also went out of their way to trip me.
Nira watching, said nothing. Did nothing.
I was bleeding and bruised, my face filthy, my cheeks stinging. The pain of the spell breaking left me too weak to fight back. The guards lifted me like a sack of grain, and took me to the torturer for branding. I remember the smell of smoking steel, and starting to scream. When I woke up, I was outside the city gate.
Sunset was imminent, and despite the pain in my cheek, I ran, even after the dirty sweat on my face burned it more.
I made it out alive, only to be called back when she needed me, unable to resist, though she used no magic. At least none that I could tell. Conditioned to serving her, it didn’t matter how far I roamed.
She said I would die if I returned.
She never said how long it would take.
Chapter 1: Exiled to Freedom