tagSci-Fi & FantasyUncertain Future Ch. 03

Uncertain Future Ch. 03

byEmPossa©

Cold.

It was the only thing Lara could feel when she woke up, then the horrific memory of last night rushed back to her. She gasped and almost made a yelp, but managed to cover her mouth quickly when she realized she was still lying on the stone floor outside Tarok's bedroom, and still naked. The exhaustion and sobbing had put her to sleep. Her throat hurt and was dry as sand, but at least she could breathe normally.

It took Lara a whole minute just to get up on her feet. Her body ached and her limbs were as rigid as ice—the result of sleeping on the stone floor in the cold. Her wobbling feet was especially battered as if she had run through an entire forest barefooted instead of a short hallway. At last, Lara stood up and put on her servant dress, which was a battle of its own since she was shaking uncontrollably from the cold.

Her mind raced to figure out what to do next. One thing for sure, she had to get out of here. Day was approaching, and Tarok could leave his bedroom at any moment. She paced the corridors slowly, struggling to stay focus as each step sent a shock of pain from her feet through her body. It felt like she was walking on a bed of nails. What should she do now? Who could help her?

Erika! That's it. She could think of some ways to fix this situation. Lara quickened her pace.

--***--

"I heard you the first ten times. There's no need to wake the whole place up." Erika opened the door, annoyed from being rudely awoken by the repeated door banging. "Lara? What are you doing here? It's still too earl—" Lara didn't let the old woman finished. Erika stared dumbfounded at the young girl as she barged into the room and closed the door behind her.

"I'm so sorry. But I need your help. Please, please, or he'll kill me."

"Calm down. What happened? Who's he?"

"It's Tarok." Lara dropped to her knees and grabbed Erika's waist. "Please, please help me."

"Calm down, Lara. What's got into you? I can't help if you keep blabbering like that. Get up, get up. Sit down there and tell me what happened." She pointed to her bed. "Wait a minute. What's WRONG with your throat?" exclaimed the old woman when she saw Lara's neck.

"Is...is it that bad?"

"Your throat was all bruised and blackened. Did someone choke you? Who did this?"

"Tarok. Who else," said Lara, covering her face with her hands.

"Tarok? This made no sense. Why...How? What did you do to him?"

"What did I do? What did I DO? The monster almost strangled me to death!" Lara yelled indignantly. "I am the one to blame?"

"Lower your voice, girl. Sit down. Look, Tarok never harms his slave on a whim. It is completely unlike him to decide to strangle anyone for no reason. He's not a sadistic beast who beats people for fun. Trust me, I know him longer than you. You must have done something wrong for this to happen. Now, get a hold of yourself and tell me what happened."

While Lara rubbed her hurt neck, Erika walked to the fireplace and fetched Lara a cup of hot herbal tea, which, for Lara's dry throat, helped tremendously. Erika grabbed her blanket and put it over the shaking girl, which helped too. Lara recounted last night events to the old woman, leaving out as much detail of the sex as possible. The story was already awkward enough.

"So...you accidentally kissed him," Erika said after a moment of silent. Lara had finished her story and was twirling her tea cup.

"What was his response?" asked Erika.

"You saw it. Here is his response." Lara pointed to her neck.

"Yes, yes, I'm sorry. But what about right after the kiss?"

Lara reminisced for a moment. "He seemed to enjoy it. He looked...pleased. Then he was immediately enraged."

Erika stood up and paced the small room. This piece of information had put her in a pensive mood.

"Interesting. Quite interesting," she mumbled, looking at the floor. "I wondered what he would have done had he was a full-blooded minotaur?"

"Wait, what? Are you saying he's not a full-blooded minotaur?"

Erika looked at Lara. Her face twisted into look of stunned abhorrence at what she just said, but it faded quickly as her stern demeanor returned.

"I shouldn't have said that. Forget it."

"What do you mean he's not a full-blooded minotaur?" Lara asked again, ignoring the old woman. She was genuinely curious. Suddenly the lingering fear had, at least momentarily, subsided from her mind.

"Well, you look like a girl who can keep things to herself," Erika said after carefully studying Lara's face for a moment. "It's not really a secret. Everyone in the camp knows that. But you'd better not mention it in front of Tarok or you risk invoking his wrath. Understand?" Lara nodded obediently. "His mother is a human. So he's half-minotaur."

"What? But...how? Human and minotaur can't have children. He told me that."

"That's true, such is the laws of the gods. Also, he's, uhm, been with a lot of girls, none of them ever gets pregnant. But I don't really know how he was born. No one does. For some miracle, he exists. If you want to know more, and are tired of living, ask him yourself. But that's what I heard from the men, the ones that'd been together with Tarok for a long time. I wasn't prying though, drunkards tell tales, you know. I didn't believe it at first, I thought it was just the booze speaking. But overtime I have observed many peculiarities about Tarok. He's not like those creatures that live on the mountains you heard from the tales, don't you think?"

"What so strange about him?" asked Lara. She already had some ideas, but she wanted to know the old woman's perspective.

"You seriously don't notice? You don't find it strange that he speaks the human tongue perfectly? He's also too intelligent for dumb brute minotaurs. He doesn't smell like a dead rat in a pigsty all the time. He lives among humans, unlike minotaurs, who always keep to themselves and never leave their tribes, except for fighting. And your last night with him. You said he enjoyed it? If what I have heard about those mountain bulls are correct, they don't have romantic relationships or marriage or anything like that. For them, there's only pure breeding. The offspring don't even know their fathers. And one particular thing people observe from them is that minotaurs don't kiss. If you kiss a real minotaur, he would be as you would if someone, say, scratches your ear: very confused."

Lara listened attentively to Erika's speech. Her story had put an entire new perspective on Tarok for Lara. He was half-minotaur. How was that possible? What would it entail?

"But you said the kiss pleased him, and also enraged him enough to strangle you," Erika continued. "I can't divine a reason for that. I just don't know what to make of this." The old woman studied Lara's neck while she talked. After she had finished speaking, Erika stood up, walked towards her bed and crouched down. Lara saw the old woman pulled a mid-size wooden trunk out from under the bed. She rummaged through what looked like her own clothes and finally took out a white scarf.

"Here, wrap this around your neck. If the other girls see your bruises, they might be disturbed."

Lara put on the scarf. Even though it was a plain white piece of fabric, it looked nice around her neck with two ends dangling in front of her chest. She smiled at Erika gratefully.

"It's nothing. Now, it's very important that you keep this a secret, understand? I will try to find a way to help you. But his mood is unpredictable right now. You better stay out of his sight until I know what to do."

At that moment a creak from the door alerted both women. Lara turned her head towards the door and saw a giant figure standing by the door frame. She jumped out of the bed and pressed her back against the wall as panic consumed her.

"Tarok, what are you doing here?" asked Erika. She had stood up between Lara and Tarok. She was surprised too, yet managed to affect a calm voice.

Tarok's eyes widened in recognition as he saw Lara in the room, then they quickly narrowed. "I intend to hear your report on the recent raids. But I see you have a visitor," he said flatly. He eyed Lara, who was still glued to the wall. "Actually, can you check on the scout party and learn what they did yesterday?" He spoke before Erika can answer.

"Can't you do that yourself? Besides, it was still early, I don't think the men would appreciate being woken up. If you still want that report, I need a moment to, um, add some numbers. If you come back later—"

"I insist, Erika." Despite his mild words, his tone signified the end of the conversation. "And don't worry about your guest, I just want to talk to her."

"Tarok..."

"The scout, Erika, now." He commanded.

She stared at him for a few seconds before turning back to Lara. "I'm sorry," she whispered. Lara could saw that Erika was genuinely remorseful. Lara could only looked down in defeat. Her hope had been shattered, even Tarok's second in command couldn't sway him.

With a sigh, Erika walked out of the room. "She's a good girl, Tarok. I hope you can see that. She doesn't deserve...whatever you're about to do." Erika left one final remark before leaving. With the door closed, Lara was alone in the room with Tarok.

Tarok made the first move. He strode towards Lara with an intimidating determination. Part of her mind was screaming for her to run away, but she knew it was futile and only served to anger him more. So she just stood at her spot, waited for her doom.

Tarok grabbed her by the waist, and in one swift motion, picked her up and rudely placed her on top of the table, so their faces were on the same level. Tarok gripped her shoulder with his right hand, while his left lifted her chin, forcing her to look at him. His blue eyes weren't the thunderous storm that she saw last night, but Lara could still see his subdued fury underneath.

"You're quite a smart girl. Come running here for help," he growled in a quiet but in a deep, portentous voice. "You really think that could work? After what you've done?"

"Please, master. I'm sorry."

"WHY did you kiss me last night?" he growled.

"I didn't mean to do it. It was an accident. I...I was scared. I didn't know it would happen. Please, master."

"Are you a witch? Are you trying to hex me?" Tarok pressed on.

"Wha...me? A witch? No, master. I'm...I'm not a witch, I have never even seen a witch. I'm merely a priestess of Verea. Please, I told you yesterday."

"You're LYING." He barked at her. Lara could felt his grip tightening. But she noticed something in his voice. It was...uncertainty?

"No, please, master. I swear, I'm telling the truth. I wouldn't lie to you. I swear."

Tarok breathed heavily. His lips twitched and his gaze drifted away from her face. He was looking at somewhere distant and unknowable to Lara.

"If you're not a witch, then—why? Why does it feel so..." he muttered to himself. What is he talking about? Then Lara remembered about his reaction—his expression of utmost pleasure.

"Did you feel...something?" she asked tentatively.

"What? What did you say?"

"When I...when the kiss happened, did you feel something?" Lara repeated. Despite the intensity of his questioning, she forced herself to look straight at him.

"Yes, I did." He gritted his teeth. "It felt good. Intensely good. Like I never felt before. Why? Are you admitting that you used witchcraft on me?"

"No, no. It's not a spell. Not at all. I swear. Feeling good is normal, for humans, when they kissed. It's not unusual, master."

"But I'm not a human. I'm a minotaur. Why do I feel it?"

Lara would have been as puzzled as he was, had Erika not told her about Tarok's parentage. Suddenly, she saw a way out of this predicament. It was a risky plan. But, right now, it was the only plan she could think of.

"Master," she said slowly. "I know...I know you're half-human. Maybe that's why you feel the kiss."

She could immediately saw the impact of her words on him. Tarok's eyes widened in shock, his grasp on her loosen and his jaw dropped slightly. But he quickly regained control of himself and leaned even closer to Lara. She could feel his hot breath blowing on her neck. She twitched.

"How did you know that? Doesn't matter. I'm not human, understand? I'm a minotaur, the creature that you humans fear and hate. I'm the thing you call a monster, the thing that you tell children to scare them. I'm the heartless, cruel beast that plunder and kill indiscriminately. Understand?"

"I don't think you're a monster, master," Lara said. She chose her next words very carefully. "Two nights ago, when I was lying on the floor crying, you didn't violate me. You took pity on me. I could see that in your eyes, right at that moment. And your eyes, they are human too. You have a part of humanity inside of you, and that part of humanity knows compassion and pity. You're not a monster, master." A ball of guilt swelled in her stomach: she did call him a monster earlier. But Erika's tale about Tarok's past had change what she thought about him.

Tarok didn't answer her right away. He swallowed, and spoke slowly, "You're brave, very brave to speak to me like that. But you don't know me. I don't want to be a human. Humans are weak. Pathetic. Like you. I could easily snap you in half without breaking a sweat."

He frantically pushed Lara on her back, pinning her against the table, his right hand pressed on her chest. "It's not pity that night that I showed. It was weakness. Just weakness from me," trembled Tarok. His voice cracked as he conspicuously shielded himself from Lara's revelation. He was lying, and both of them knew it.

"You're too much trouble to keep around. I need to get rid of you. A virgin could sell right away. That's it. There's a foreigner nearby, I can send you to him right now. I don't even care how many coins you'll fetch." The mention of foreigner frightened Lara, and she wriggled in his hold in protest.

"No, master. Please no, don't sell me to them. Please-ahhh," yelped Lara in pain when Tarok grabbed her knee to stop her from wriggling. He saw her agonizing face, then he looked at his hand that was holding her knee. He hadn't held her tight enough to elicit such a painful cry. Tarok saw for the first time the bruises and cut on her feet. Slowly, Tarok pulled Lara's dress up, tracing the bruises up to her bare knee.

"Master, please." Lara said as she grabbed his right arm with both of her hands. "Please don't do it. I beg of you, please."

He looked at her hesitantly. His resolve to cast her away was fading fast. He seemed uncertain of what to do now.

Lara guided his right hand away from her chest, which he allowed her to do, to her throat. "Master, all I ever wanted is to be married and has a happy family. If you sell me to foreigners, I can never have that. I'll die in their hands." She swallowed hard, tears swelling on her eyes. "If I can't have my simple wish, then please, just kill me. I'll accept my punishment. But please, please keep me whole for Verea. Don't let them tear me apart." Having said her plea, Lara allayed every fiber in her being and waited.

No answer came from Tarok. At that moment, he noticed the scarf on her neck. His shaky fingers tugged it, and the scarf felt down, revealing Lara's blemished skin beneath. Her neck suffered the most from yesterday, with patches of purple and black in the shape of his hand marring her usual pale and smooth skin.

For seconds, none of them said anything. The room thickened with an eerie silence. He kept staring at her throat until finally, he looked at her in the eyes. When Tarok pushed Lara to the table, he had leaned in to threaten her. Now, their faces were so close to each other, Lara could study each muscle in his face. The muscles were no longer tense and stiff like before. Anger had drained from his bestial face, his breathing have slowed to normal. She noticed he took a deep breath.

Tarok planted his left hand on the table and moved his face to the side of her head. She felt his muzzle brushed against her ear. Then he inhaled deeply again.

Lara didn't know what to do as he filled his lung with her scent. His right hand softly caressed her neck and crept gently to her shoulder. Lara shuddered involuntarily as she sensed his fingers on her soft skin, his thumb brushed her neck lightly. The sensation was different from yesterday, because his hand touched her with a novel passion. She couldn't believe a brute like him could have such delicate touch.

A tingling feeling flowed to Lara's brain every time he breathed, as gushes of sultry wind from his nose enveloped her ear. She shivered when he leaned in closer and their bodies rubbed each other; for the first time, she experienced the heat emanating from his core. Her mind quickly overflooded with the new incredible sensation, and Lara mindlessly let out a quivering whimper "ahh".

As suddenly as it came, the pleasant feeling disappeared. Tarok jumped away from her, leaving Lara alone on the table, her mouth covered by both her hands. She couldn't believe she had just moaned with so conspicuous a pleasure in front of him. A few steps away from Lara, Tarok stood on his feet, looking just as surprised as her. The extraordinary flash of passion from him, combined with her vocal receipt of it, had left both Tarok and Lara speechless. Their eyes remained lock on each other for one second more before Tarok turned to the door and walked hurriedly out of the room.

--***--

Lying on her hay bed in the servant bedchamber, Lara tried to take a nap. It was afternoon, and she was free for the rest of the day. All the bookkeeping had been done, all the loots logged down, all the coins counted. Done. Finish! As a reward for her work, Lara was allowed the rest of the day off. However, sleep didn't come, not to a troubled mind like her. She kept thinking of yesterday encounter with Tarok.

Since his abrupt leaving, she hadn't seen him again, which was a big relief for her. She didn't want to see the minotaur.

At least not now.

Not that she wanted to spend another night with him. By Verea, no. And the thought of running into him still filled her with fright. However, she was curious of what was going on in his mind during that moment when they were alone in Erika's room. She was so intrigued. A little part inside her wanted to ask Tarok about it, but the other larger part wanted her to stay alive.

After Tarok had left, Erika came back almost immediately. Lara refused to tell her what had happened, except that his anger had subsided, and she wanted to get back to work. She had promised to tell the old woman everything later. Lara felt bad for keeping things from Erika, but she needed some time to collect her thoughts. Erika, after a glance of concern, acquiesced. They returned to work shortly after.

Anyway, her plan had worked. When Lara was trapped under him, she pleaded to his human side, trying to find some empathy behind those blue eyes. And she succeeded, or at least able to quell Tarok's anger for the moment. When she thought about Tarok, Lara realized she didn't hate him as much as she assumed she would. She had believed he was an evil and cruel beast, but was he really like that? After their encounter, she wasn't so sure anymore. She had stare into the eyes of the beast, and saw no evil and cruelty, but rather fear. She wondered why.

Lara let out a long sigh and got up, she wasn't going to get any shut-eye. Heading up to the watchtower for fresh air would seem like a good idea now. Usually, there was at least one man who stood guard there, but he was nowhere to be seen today; he'd probably slacked off to play cards with the other soldiers.

It was thankfully lukewarm this afternoon, a welcoming respite from the unpleasant coldness of the past few days. Furthermore, there was no chance of bumping into Tarok. He went out with a few men earlier today after the morning scout party had returned. According to Erika, Tarok was particularly agitated after hearing the scout's report and set off immediately, although she wasn't sure why.

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