Wrath of the Goddess Ch. 02bynicolefox12370©
Astra kept her dark eyes down as she spotted Marco trudging in her direction. She had hidden away from her family after defying Lelani's order to stay away from Lachlan. Her father and brothers didn't know that Lelani had grown cruel over the last few weeks. They would demand that she return to her father's temple, and abandon her duties to Lelani. Marco's wide mouth twisted in annoyance, a gleam in his blue eyes, his boney arms laden with Buro's dusty armor. Marco leaned against a hard stone wall as his eyes searched Astra's.
"Sometimes, Astra, it's tiring to be Buro's whipping boy. It's hard to be the younger brother. Sometimes, Astra."
Guilt poured in Astra's veins; she could be a better sister. Maybe, she shouldn't ignore Buro, but what could she do? She couldn't handle her own love life. Lachlan was little more than a beautiful dream that she dare dream on dark lonely nights.
"Forgive me, Marco," Astra reasoned as she rested a hand on Marco's arm. The cloth felt rough under her tired hands. "Sometimes, I forget that Buro punishes you for everything. I will try to be nice to Buro."
"It's not you. It's everything."
Astra noticed a worried gleam float quickly out of Marco's blue eyes. "Whatever do you mean?"
"Nothing, I'm off to scrub, polish, and organize Buro's armor."
"Come to dinner, Marco?"
"We can't . Father arranged a meal with Lachlan."
I hoped Marco didn't see fear in my eyes. "Why is Father meeting with the king?"
Marco arched an eyebrow. "Well, I don't know. Do you know of any reason?"
Astra watched her brother's face as she pondered her thoughts. She resisted an impulsive urge to stomp to her father's temple and question him about Lachlan. Astra shook her head to clear her mind. Cobwebs, her brain filled with cobwebs. How could she ever make demands of her father? Astra was pleased that she still had her head after yelling at her father three times. She was his only daughter. He claimed that he adored her. She dare not test his pertinence. Her hand brushed a soft curl from her moist brow. If Astra was completely honest with herself, deep in her heart, she wanted to see Lachlan; to stare deeply in his sapphire blue eyes. But, it could never be except in her dreams.
Sadly, Astra's feet carried her towards Lady Lelani's chamber. She wasted much too much time dreaming of her forbidden love for King Lachlan. It could never be.
Astra and Marco stood in the kitchen of their father's temple, eating apples as they waited for his arrival.
"He loves you."
Astra's heat skipped a beat. How did he know about them? Lelani would have her head.
"How do you know?"
"I'm his guardian. I know everything. You're good for him."
"He loves to charge into battle, but is it good for him?"
Laughing, Marco shook his dark head. His thoughts drifted to Lady Lelani. Beautiful, dangerous, deadly, dark Lelani. One day, Marco knew, realized, he would face Lelani over Lachlan. She twisted Lachlan's destiny in her cool, delicate hands. A powerful evil dwelled in Lelani. Nothing like he had ever seen or ever wanted to face. It was funny; his brothers treated him like a fool yet, he had more power than his brother. He hid it to keep the peace. His father, and his numerous sons , all desperate for his approval.
"Marco, where are you?" Astra stood in front of Marco. Her dark brows knitted together, confusion reigned in her eyes.
"Sitting at your table?"
"That's not what I said."
"I love Lachlan."
"I have never uttered those words."
"Would make my life better, if you did."
"It would ruin all of our lives."
Astra plopped next to Marco, her old chair rumbled from her weight. "Don't encourage me to dream, Marco. Just let it rest."
"He saved Paulo. He would do anything for you."
Marco sipped his cider. "Just wish upon a star."
"What would you wish?"
"A day without chores."
Marco stood like a statue next to Astra as they waited for Father to call them to the table. Anton strolled into the dining hall with Lelani. Astra frowned when she spotted their arms intertwined. Lachlan walked into the room after them. Lachlan's blue eyes memorized Astra's movement as she glided around a wide dining table. Darkness echoed in Lelani's green eyes as she watched Lachlan's movements. Marco clenched his jaw; he remembered carefree days of laughter with Lachlan, Astra, and Lelani until James betrayed Lelani's love. Lachlan's brother stole everything from Lelani, and turned his back on her. Green sparkling eyes dominated with hope, not hate. Did he create Lelani?
Smiling, Astra raced into Anton's waiting arms. Anton might push his sons, but he adored his daughter. Astra was the daughter of a princess who died in childbirth. Many said that he loved Astra so deeply because her mother died, and she never annoyed him.
Anton smiled at his sons as he led his great joy to a table.
"My beautiful one, eat with your father."
Marco noticed too late, an amber gleam in Lelani's eyes. A solitary candle's flames leapt in Astra's direction, catching a dangling turquoise sleeve. Lelani smirked at Astra's desperate attempt to beat flames from her burning dress. Lachlan threw water at Astra to douse bright red flames consuming her body. Anton sat looking in disgust as Astra's painful screams bounced around a cold chamber.
Marco uttered a few words under his breath. Dark grey smoke rose from Astra's tattered dress. Lachlan stood silently over Astra. His large hands stroking her face; uttering soft words to soothe her pain as Astra laid whimpering in pain. Lelani cried in despair, "My poor Astra!" Buro held his father back as he screamed in agony.
"Marco, get Gerard," Lachlan screamed as agony ripped apart his heart. Lelani bit her lips to keep from laughing.
Marco pressed a cool cloth along Astra's forehead. Her lips trembled in pain. He held her deeply burned hand as tears ran rapidly down his brown face. "This is my fault. We should have removed you from her care."
Marco turned his head to watch Gerard as he tossed books around his chamber. Dust flew in the air as the elderly physician attempted to find a remedy to save Astra's life.
His white head shook in defeat. "Nothing can save her except magic."
Marco swallowed nervously. "Magic? Father would never permit it for personal gains."
"Yes, Anton will kill you."
Gerard' face twisted in disgust. "Anton, the king of hypocrisy."
Opening a portal, Marco viewed Lachlan sitting solitary at his oblong wooden table. Unshed tears glimmering like a pond. Quietly, he stepped into the room.
"I'm sorry, Lachlan. We can't save her."
Lachlan's white hands griped the sides of his table. His chest heaved in pain as he remembered the feel of Astra's curls along his face. Her gentle voice rang in his ears. The feel of her fingers along his chin. His pink lips quivered.
"Is Lelani with her?"
Tears flew from Lachlan's eyes as he shook his head in shock. "Why not?"
"I don't know," Marco lied. "Shock."
Marco placed a palm on Lachlan shoulder. "Go to her."
Astra's burnt hair hung around her face. Lachlan listened to her shallow breathing as he held her hand tightly. His tears poured on her face. He turned his worn eyes from the despair in his chamber. Elyan rocked as he cried silently. Marco stood watching Lachlan and Astra.
"I love you, Astra. I will never love another. I will not have a queen."
Lachlan brushed his lips across Astra's cheek. He whispered words of love in her ear. Lachlan swallowed a cry when Astra's chest rose for the final time. Her lifeless cold hand slipped from Lachlan's grasp.
"Lachlan, get up!"
Lachlan laid in his soft sheet, wishing for the need to awaken. He saw Astra everywhere; his eyes longed for a flicker of purple material. Yet, she never came. Instead, Astra haunted his dreams. Astra, his queen, was lost to him forever.
Marco pulled Lachlan from his bed; dumping his muscular frame on a gleaming wooden floor. "Get dressed. I leave to Avon today with Astra's body."
Marco convinced Paulo and Lachlan to bury Astra in Ealdor. Anton refused to leave his bed. His mother would place flowers on her grave; Helena would tend to her spirit. Lachlan denied Marco's request, at first, but he could not bear to live near Astra's decaying body. Paulo sat in a daze as Marco made preparations to leave.
Marco slowly guided his cart from the city. He waved to Lachlan and Gerard as he departed from their view.
Marco's mule kicked dirty along the dusty road. A hot sun beamed on his brow as his eyes scanned the perimeter. A smile curved his face as he spotted his brothers, Paulo and Buro, standing on the side of the road.
Marco stopped his mule. Buro and Paulo pulled the small coffin from the bed of the wagon. Elyan popped the lid. Her chest rose in relief as he saw Astra's chest rising and falling in a deep sleep.
'"We have to wake her."
Marco poured a pink liquid from a small glass vial into Astra's still mouth. The men smiled as her eyelids slowly twitched , struggling to open from a deep sleep. Her soft brown skin healed and clear.
"Marco, what happened?'
Marco cupped Astra's chin. "We must go."
Buro lifted Astra from her coffin. "Eat, you have a long journey."