Zasha's Capture Ch. 02byRomancebyFaye©
If you are under 18 years of age, this is not for you.
If you are offended by male/male relationships, then do not read this work.
All characters in this story are over 18 years of age.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
This is a copyrighted work of fiction. All right reserved.
I would like to thank my new editor, Anstice. I look forward to working with you on this series. I truly appreciate the time you sacrificed to fix my stray commas and run away pronouns. I hope you continue to help me reign them all in.
I would also like to thank my beta reader SVBLIX for generously donating time to make sure nothing is missed.
To my fans, thank you for being patient with me and continuing to support me. I always appreciate feedback and comments, they are like my paycheck for writing. I hope you enjoy this installment.
Inside the Queen's private dressing room, Cora and her handmaidens scurried to and fro all around Zasha. He had been scrubbed clean of all the dirt and blood from yesterday and they were preparing him for the coming marriage ceremony. He watched them as if through a thick pane of glass, distorted and surreal. All around him the world was moving; it seemed he was the only one trapped inside a bubble of nothingness.
The memory of yesterday rolled through his mind.
The Garkian forces had somehow ported themselves past the warding stones and into the middle of the encampment. With surprise on their side, they had easily gained the upper hand over the ranks. The atrocious balls of flame had helped them quite a bit, too. It was still unknown how they had conjured such a massive force in such a short time. Zasha suspected it was one of their cursed goddess's gifts. Truly, how they did it was of no importance, the thing that mattered was what they had accomplished. Most of the more powerful healers were taken. Aside from Zasha, only five had escaped the assault. The enemy had left as soon as they arrived; only they departed with something very precious.
Zasha did not wish to think of what the captives might be enduring.
The loss of the healers was the loss of the lifeblood of the Faer army. The precarious balance no longer existed and without help, Faer would fall. Cora had revealed that they had a way of securing allies; allies she assured him would seal the victory for their people.
Of course, there had been a price.
Yesterday, it seemed that he had been faced with an impossible choice, when actually, there really had been no choice for him at all. It was a sacrifice of either his people for himself, or himself for his people. He chose the latter.
Aside from the moment of pure anguish he felt as he thought of his beloved, once the decision was made he had felt nothing. It was opposite of his twin, Cora, who had cried for hours last night. For him, there was no overwhelming despair or anger, no weeping or cursing his fate. He was numb. Instead of the despair he should be swimming in, it was as if he were moving in a fog so thick it blocked out his senses. He was devoid of emotion. Empty. He felt as if he were merely observing the happenings around him, not a part of them.
Today was his wedding day. It had been arranged in all haste as soon as Zasha had made the inevitable choice. Instructions had been given by his sister because he did not wish to deal with it. All the arrangements had been placed in her hands.
Zasha sat silently as the finishing touches were put on him for the ceremony. He didn't recognize the person that was looking back at him from the surface of the polished silver. He hadn't been this clean in a very long time. He studied himself for a moment. While all the dirt and blood from the battlefield was gone, he still looked startlingly different from what he remembered. His eyes had a sunken appearance, and while his face retained its softness, he looked older, a result of the stress of being near the battlefield. His hair, the one item of vanity he had refused to rid himself of, was a bit longer.
On Cora's instruction, his head was bare, if one could call it that. For the ceremony, his head would be unadorned. His sister had insisted his hair would be more beautiful than any crown or circlet. Sensing the need she had to prepare him, he had allowed her to do what she wished.
His head was indeed lacking a crown of any sort, but his locks had been painstakingly arranged with a network of tiny braids. They started individually, evenly spaced on his forehead. From there, they connected and divided over and over, thanks to the nimble fingers of Cora's handmaidens. They formed a net that kept his hair away from his face, the braids weaving together and separating again to create a delicate tapestry. A single golden thread was wound into each braid, catching the light as he moved. These also wove in and out of the delicate coiffure. The tiny braids molded together at the base of his skull, forming a single complex braid made up of all the braids woven together.
Zasha wondered how in the world he was going to get it down.
As he sat, allowing himself to be readied, his mind wandered to that fateful day so long ago. The day he had met, and been torn from his heart's desire. He knew he had no choice if he wanted his people to survive, but he could not shake the weight in his heart at his betrayal. Long ago he had made a promise that he intended to keep, no matter what. But it seemed that fate was testing the limits of his endurance. For many cycles he had waited, slowly losing hope, wondering if he had been mistaken to love so blindly. Wondering if he had been used like a fool.
After having to leave Gowron, he had returned to the castle with Cora. His hands were still covered in the blood from Gowron's wound. Luckily, he had been able to use his own injury from his fall as a reason for the blood's presence, as he had forgotten to heal it amid the strange events. He had spent the next several days dreading the news that Gowron might be discovered, captured, or worse, killed. When enough time had passed, he had finally calmed, sure that Gowron had managed to escape.
Other than himself, only a handful of soldiers had seen Gowron, and that had been at a distance. Zasha had listened as each had given an account of what they had seen to the King and Queen. None were very accurate. His parents had ordered all to be ready, in case of another situation, but none ever came. Zasha had been filled with relief, but he had also been left ignorant to the reason for Gowron's being on Faer, or where he was from. He did research, but was unable to find any race that resembled Gowron. It didn't help that he was unable to ask the historians without sounding suspicious, since he had never before shown interest in the archives.
He had thought countless time over these past fifty three cycles that his attachment to Gowron was inexplicable. He knew this in his head, but his heart called out to the one his Goddess had chosen to bind him to. He loved him heedless of any other pull.
He fought the despair that was edging in as he remembered the past. He preferred to stay inside the fog that was protecting him. He could not afford to fall apart at this point. There was no other choice left to him; either he could bind allies by marriage, or he could watch his people slaughtered.
His happiness was a small price to pay for the survival of his people.
He knew Cora would have stepped into his place in a moment if she could, but she was bound to another already. It seemed even his niece and nephew had offered to take his place, but had been refused because neither was next in line for the throne. That place was Zasha's. That was the reason he was put in the position to marry a total stranger.
When he had asked Cora why the past offers for alliance had never been discussed with him, she said she had refused the offers due to Zasha's own words in the past. The offers for alliance had been going on for ten cycles, each one refused by the Faerian Queen. Only at the direst moment had she told him of the offer. She had not wanted Zasha to sacrifice himself. Now, they were left with no choice.
After he had realized that Faer would be taken unless they had outside help, Zasha had told Cora to contact the emissary to accept the offer. He had only spoken to him long enough to tell him that he did indeed accept.
He hadn't even peered into the scrying bowl for more than the moment it took him to speak the words, "I accept."
That had sealed the arrangement.
An arranged marriage. His sister had told him the emissary had been adamant that the marriage be observed according to each of the spouses' traditions. There would be witnesses from both sides, and Cora would be the witness for him.
With each adhering to the ceremony dictated by their race, there was no doubt that the marriage would be binding. It had also been made clear that Zasha would be expected to consummate it. He would be really and truly tied to this person.
He wondered fleetingly just who he would be betraying more, himself, Gowron, the person he would marry, or his Goddess. It did not matter. He would do what he must to ensure the survival of his people.
Cora came behind him and placed her hands on his shoulders, drawing him from his grim reverie. He looked up at the mirror, locking eyes with her reflection. They were full of sadness. Without speaking, the attendants that had been readying Zasha left the room.
"Come. I will help you get dressed myself."
Zasha allowed Cora to draw him to his feet. He faced the wall of polished silver, watching his reflection as she removed his robe and brought out a sumptuous garment. He obediently allowed her to slide it on, moving his arms back to ease the process.
It was the finest clothing he had ever worn in his life, and as the Prince of Faer, that was saying something. It was the barest hint of yellow, made to complement his lilac skin perfectly. All around the edges it was embroidered with golden thread. There were hundreds of tiny golden flowers skirting the hem, which fell to the middle of his calf. The garment was split up the sides to his hip bones. It closed over his chest with catches that were made of pure gold. When they were fastened, the buttons formed tiny delicate flowers that matched the ones embroidered on the edges. The bottoms of the sleeves were decorated with golden lace that fanned out over his hands, obscuring all but his fingertips from view. The matching yellow bottoms were the final touch. They fit loose, flowing fluidly down his legs, leaving only his toes peeking out from where the fabric touched the floor.
His feet would remain bare, according to the traditions of marriage they had been informed of by the emissary.
"You should not have put so much into this, Cora. This could feed an entire village for a cycle."
"The cost of this is nothing compared to what it encases. If you must do this, then you will do it wearing something befitting the Prince you are."
Zasha didn't respond. He looked at the reflection staring back at him. There was no doubt that person was royalty. He was dressed in wedding finery that was even more opulent than what Cora had worn for her own ceremony. He wondered how it had been accomplished so fast.
He felt strangely detached from the person looking back at him from in the wall of polished silver. No doubt this person had value beyond compare. No doubt this person possessed assurance of their abilities. No doubt the person looking back at him was not himself.
He took a deep breath. Today he would be the person he saw looking back at him. He would be the Prince he saw in the reflection. He lifted his chin, squared his shoulders, and ignored the numbness that washed over him. He took one last look at the stranger in the mirror.
"I am ready."
Cora followed him out of the room as they began the trek to the temple to begin the ceremony. Zasha had declined Cora's suggestion for an introduction before the wedding.
It wouldn't matter either way, because Zasha was in no position to refuse and time was of the essence.
He felt Cora's hand on his shoulder and he turned to look at her questioningly. She silently steered him to exit through the main entrance of the palace. He followed her as she motioned for the doors to be opened. Zasha was blinded briefly as the sun poured into the open foyer.
He blinked as his eyes adjusted, watching the light glint off the golden thread woven through his clothes. He finally was able to raise his head to face the sun. When he did, he froze at the sight before him.
The path that lead out of the castle gates was lined with people. As Zasha stood, Cora stepped out in front and to the side of him. She spoke with the authority of the Queen she was, "Zasha, Prince of Faerian, Blessed by Areala, Beloved Brother, I thank you for your sacrifice to your people. Please accept this as evidence of our gratitude."
When she had finished speaking, Cora descended to the bottom of the stairs, where the polished stone met the earth. She knelt and removed the robe that announced her as the Ruler of Faer. It shimmered in the sunlight, its appearance never announcing the years it had been passed down in the royal family. For millennia it had graced the shoulders of Kings and Queens, adorning them with its flowing grace and beauty.
She lay it on the ground, spreading it out to protect Zasha's feet from touching the path.
Zasha watched as every person lining the path mimicked Cora, kneeling and laying a piece of clothing on the ground. Zasha felt a break in the fog that encased him as a tear rolled down his cheek. He understood the significance of Cora's actions, and though the garments of the commoners were nowhere near as fine as hers, they touched him just the same.
He walked with his head held high, his feet never coming into contact with the bare ground all the way to the temple. He walked the path lined with the garments of his people. With each step that his feet were protected from the open ground, he felt the reason for his sacrifice all the more. Unending words of thanks followed him all the way to the steps of the temple. He turned and faced the crowd that gathered in his wake, many of them weeping. He placed his hands over his heart and dipped his head to his chest, the sign of utmost respect, before he turned to enter the doors of the temple. Cora was beside him, once more wearing her cloak. Calls of his name followed him until the doors to the temple closed behind them, their magical seal closing out the sounds.
He took a deep breath and moved inwards, past the entrance of the temple to stand in front of the carved statue of Areala. In one hand she held a healing herb, the flower clasped gently between her thumb and forefinger. Her other hand had been enchanted and it had a swirling orb of light that radiated from her outturned palm. One signified the blessing of herb lore and the other the blessing of healing by divine touch. Zasha studied the statue for a long moment, thinking that while it was remarkably accurate, it did no justice to the true Areala.
He reached out to touch the hand that held the enchanted orb, cold stone met his flesh, causing a small shiver to run up his spine. He knelt, bending his head as he prayed for forgiveness, hoping that his goddess would understand his actions of betrayal. He heard no voice in his head. He felt no weight off his shoulders. He had no divine intervention to save him from his impending fate. For a moment he allowed a sliver of despair to emerge. With it came a few silent tears. He steeled himself once more, wiping the tears from his eyes as he turned to move into the main part of the temple, where the ceremony would take place.
"Does your future union dismay you so?"
The masculine voice brought his head snapping up. He stood, staring wide eyed at the man who had spoken.
He was enormous. Zasha's head barely reached the bottom of his exposed chest. The first thing Zasha took note of were his eyes, there was no discernible pupil or iris. Instead, the whites of his eyes housed a solid black pool that only left a small portion of the white visible. The impression that he was left with was immense depth, as if he were staring into an unending well.
The skin was no less startling. It was the grayish blue of a storm clouded sky, and covered in whorl upon whorl of tattoos. They snaked up his neck, the stark black of the patterns flowing fluidly up the left side of his face, to curve gently around the edge of his eye and down his cheekbone. The markings were all connected, almost as if they were part of his skin instead of ink underneath it. His hair was pulled to one side, tied with a leather thong, and hung over the front of his shoulder. Both his hair and eyes held the same stark black hue as the swirling markings.
His clothing appeared to be of fine material. The design was devoid of any unneeded embellishment. It would have been considered plain if the shirt hadn't been a vivid red.
Zasha disliked the color; it was exactly the shade of fresh blood on white bandages.
Baine's shirt was loose fitting and open to his navel, exposing more black swirls that disappeared into the band of deep mahogany leather breeches.¬ Even his naked feet did not escape the black swirling patterns. A wide leather belt was slung low on his hips, and there were several empty weapon sheaths hanging from it. Weapons were not allowed in the temple. The empty sheaths reminded Zasha that he was marrying into a warrior race.
The man leaned down, placing his hands on his knees for support, as he put himself on the same level as Zasha, looking straight into his eyes. Those black eyes were very disconcerting.
"Such beauty...I did not know. Please, weep not. You will be treasured."
A warm hand reached to wipe the last tear from Zasha's cheek. Far from being comforted, the soft touch put Zasha ill at ease. The numbing fog began to retreat, leaving him feeling very close to losing his composure completely. He gulped in air as the huge man stroked his cheek again, using the back side of his large fingers. The man seemed to mistake Zasha's being overwhelmed for fear, and he removed his hand and stood to full height before stepping back.
Zasha could sense Cora hovering at his shoulder, unsure of what to do. He closed his eyes for a moment, forcing himself to breathe deeply. He was angry that he had shown such weakness. He would stop making a fool of himself and his people. He opened his eyes and looked up, locking eyes with the enormous man before him.
"Forgive me. I was merely overwhelmed for a moment. Allow me to present myself. I am Zasha Oetra Aralane, Prince of Faerian, future King of Faerian. I hope to serve you in our alliance. Hopefully, you are not disappointed."
"Impossible." Zasha watched as the man knelt, carefully taking Zasha's hands in his own. "I am Baine A'tera, and I am greatly pleased to know you will become my King." When he had finished speaking he stood, not releasing Zasha's hands. "Are you prepared?"
"Yes," Zasha answered. "Let us begin the ceremony."
Baine nodded and released Zasha's hands, dwarfed by his own. Zasha gasped when he was scooped up into Baine's arms without any warning. He felt a blush creep up his face as Baine smiled down at him. He felt like a child. Baine turned to the inner sanctum of the temple and his face became serious. Zasha felt awkward, unsure of what to do with his hands. He did not wish to put his arm around Baine's neck, so he folded them across his chest as he was carried to the front of the temple where the altar stood.
He looked forward, spotting the High Priestess as she stood waiting for the advancing pair. There were flowers everywhere, obscuring the polished stone altar from view. He was shocked at the amount; he had never seen so many before.