The Last Tritan Ch. 05byWaterBurn©
"I'm never going to forgive you for this, Asher." My voice wavered slightly as I fought to contain my tears. The captain glanced at me in the mirror and sighed, straightening his jacket.
"Eat something," he said, and handed me a tray of fruit. The vibrant colours, and tantalizing smells did nothing to whet my appetite. I picked at the food, pretending to eat.
With the morning's drama over, I was free to feel my own emotions for a change, and I was desperately trying to handle the unfamiliar pressure. What the captain had done to me was contemptible, and I could feel my heart breaking for my stolen innocence. There was only one thing that could make this worse.
"Am I going to get pregnant?" I kept my eyes locked on the fabric of my dress, unable to cope with him having yet another victory over me.
"We're incompatible," he replied quietly. I nodded, thankful for the small mercy, but was past the point of caring why. "Eat." He tilted my face to the light, and I flinched away from his touch, eyes watering.
"Get your hands off me," I said, yet there was no real heat left in my voice. The captain halted in front of me, but I didn't bother looking up to read his facial expressions.
"Mila," he began, but a soft knock at the door interrupted him.
"Is she ready sir?"
"Not quite, Alicia. Come in and have a seat while Mila finishes her breakfast." Could this day possibly get any worse? While not as bad as Beau or the captain himself, Alicia was far from my favorite person in this strange new world. She sat gracefully at his desk, eyeing me warily.
"Why wasn't I informed of Mila's virginity?' The captain demanded in an icy tone, and I found myself enjoying his ire directed at someone else for a change - especially someone as vile as Alicia.
"Mila's a virgin, sir?" She asked, portraying the picture of innocence. My personal feelings aside, I was surprised this dedicated pleasure slave had the gall to lie to the captain. A ghost of a smile began to form on my lips, the humiliation of the last few days forgotten for the moment. Anyone who wasn't completely on 'Team Asher', was a possible ally. Even if she was trying to get out of a punishment.
"You've never been a convincing liar, my dear," he said after a moment, his posture reminiscent of a hungry predator. I popped another strawberry into my mouth, focused on the moment at hand, and watched the unfolding drama.
The captain smiled, a gesture belittling the barely contained anger simmering beneath the surface. "There are better ways to get my attention, Alicia."
She shivered when he turned, her body moving toward him subtly as if the action were out of her control. "I'm sorry sir. If I'd known the Priestess was a virgin, I would have -"
"Stop talking," he barked, running his hand through his dark hair. "Take Mila to the baths. I'll deal with you after my meeting." He stalked out the door without a backward glance, leaving us alone in an uncomfortable silence.
I pushed away the tray of food - largely untouched - and stood on unsteady feet. I ached in places I hadn't known about, hating the sticky mess coating my thighs. I was anxious to get to the baths and wash away the evidence of the captain's claiming me.
"Are you ready?" Alicia asked, the first to break the silence. Her tone was not altogether unkind, but I was far from wanting any sort of friendship with this poor twisted soul. I brushed past her, exiting the captain's bedroom unrestrained for the first time. Alicia scrambled to keep up with me squeaking in fright when both Gabe and Marco fell into step behind us.
"Give a girl some warning before you creep up on her, you great oaf," Alicia said, defensively wrapping a delicate hand around her throat.
"I like that you don't know when I'm coming, beautiful," Marco said, rubbing her shoulders.
"That's what the girls say about you." She brushed him off, and Gabe snorted, laughter breaking through his tough soldier exterior.
"How about you, wildcat, anything cruel to say to poor old Marco this morning?" He asked, easily matching my hurried stride. He grinned when I said nothing. "Ahh, that's better. You see Alicia? The wild cat here knows how to show a little respect."
"Nah, sorry mate. She's just learned to filter out your voice, that's all," Gabe said, looking down the busy street, unclipping his weapon as he scanned the area. Alicia laughed and touched his arm, lingering a moment too long. The sensual contact reminded me of my morning with the captain, and I found myself trying to stem the flow of hot tears. I pushed past Gabe, who was still checking the streets, and ran straight toward the doors of the bathhouse.
His shout of caution fell on deaf ears as I flung open the doors, barely resisting the urge to sprint to the warm water. I couldn't be the captain's obedient bed warmer, happily searching out sex the way Alicia seemed to do. I panicked at the thought, my heart threatening to punch its way through my ribs - I needed to get free of these people or die trying.
Stripping unceremoniously and flinging my dress away from me, I sunk into the hot water in one sleek movement. I took a deep breath, and dunked my head under the surface, trying to drown my panic before it crawled under my skin and took root. The heat soothed me, and the tension slowly left my body, allowing me to resurface with a better grip on my emotions.
Gentle fingers started rubbing my scalp - I yelped, lunging toward the other side of the pool, fists raised for a fight. Alicia, who was staring at me with wide eyes, had disrobed and slipped into the bath while I'd been distracted. She bit her lip as I glared at her, twisting her hands in the bubbles.
"I am quite capable of bathing myself, thank you," I hissed, my lip curling in disgust.
"Yes Priestess," she said to my surprise, and retreated to the edge of the pool. I stared after her, baffled by these people and their strange customs. Evidently there was some sort of hierarchy among the slaves, and being a Priestess put me somewhere near the top.
I filed the information away, betting it would be useful in the future, and continued my cleansing. Squirting a liberal amount of the fruity pink shampoo into my palm, I gritted my teeth and rubbed it between my legs, plunging two fingers into my depths. I winced when the soap came into contact with my delicate skin. I was tender from the captain's cruel use of my body, though he had somehow managed to use my gifts against me, and taken away the pain of losing my virginity. No amount of scrubbing, or Priestess-style healing, could undo the emotional damage he'd caused me.
Trying to focus on the task at hand, I dunked my head under again, running my fingers through my hair in the process. Sasha was waiting, and I was eager to learn everything I could from her. I owed Asher a debt.
Invigorated with thoughts of vengeance, I decided shampooing my hair three times in two days was overkill, and exited the bath with little grace. I splashed water everywhere, and rung the remaining moisture from my hair with my hands.
"Animal," Alicia muttered under her breath. I turned slowly stifling the urge to cover my nudity, and caught her eye. I smiled when she blanched, silently reminding her just who I was.
"Your robe, Priestess?" Came the timid voice of Rabbit. I spun, making her stumble and drop the black wrap I'd been wearing. She scrambled to pick it up, clutching it to her chest, eyes wide. I snatched it from her hands, trying to wrap it around myself, and failing miserably.
"May I help you Mila?" Sasha asked in a soft voice, her presence calming me instantly. I nodded, and felt her gentle touch coax my dress into cooperation.
"Thank you," I said gratefully, straightening the flowing material.
"Shall we?" She asked, and led me from the stifling heat of the bath house into the streets of occupied Elora. We travelled in silence, on our way to General Tilcot's sprawling manse as we were again flanked by Gabe and Marco.
Without the captain's distracting presence, I was able to take in the beautiful Eloran architecture, and wondered at the wealth of the previous owners. My parents had been heavily involved with Tritan politics and we had lived accordingly. But this building – with its perfectly manicures lawns, yawning front entrance, and gorgeous statues decorating a sparkling fountain – screamed of excessive wealth. I hadn't realized the Eloran economy was healthy enough to support its wealthier citizens this way - before the Caledonian plague rolled through, that is.
The interior was richly appointed with oil paintings of the highest quality, the furniture placed purely for its aesthetic appeal rather than comfort. However the gently sloping master staircase snared the attention of anyone who entered, declaring the owners lived a life of privileged decadence others could only hope to glimpse. My senses reeled, and I ached to return to my treetop apartment.
All of my observations were made as Sasha rushed us through the front hall, not stopping to admire any of the objects that had so captured my attention. We climbed the stairs, and an uneasy shiver raced through my blood. The captain had recently cornered me on the top floor of the bath house, and though I was already well and truly caught, it still felt like I was making the same mistake twice
"Ladies," Gabe said and pushed open a door, bowing as Sasha and I brushed past him. I couldn't help snorting in derision. Chivalry toward a sex slave was insulting - a painful reminder of the way things should have been and weren't.
"Thank you for the escort, gentlemen," Sasha said, standing with her hand on the door.
"We've been given direct orders not to leave Mila's side, miss." Marco holstered his weapon and leaning comfortably against a plush cream colored couch. "The captain's got important meetings all day, otherwise he'd be here himself."
"Sir, are you insinuating Mila won't be safe in the general's private sitting room?" The two soldiers went still, probably uncomfortable with the power the general's slave had over them.
"You know that's not what he meant, Sasha," Gabe said, speaking calmly and maintaining eye contact.
"The training of a young Priestess is a sacred thing, and requires a peaceful environment free of distractions. I'll need you gentlemen to leave."
Marco shifted, an uneasy look on his face. "We've got our orders Sasha."
"And I've got mine. From General Harper Tilcot, whom I believe outranks Captain Rawlings. But you're more than welcome to interrupt their meeting to find out. Or stand guard outside the door." I don't know how, but I managed to contain the gleeful cheer bubbling in my chest, and settled for a victorious grin as the soldiers filed out. They sent us another uncomfortable glance before Sasha closed the door in their faces.
"How do I get these accursed manacles off?" I asked the instant we were alone.
"Have a seat," she said, doing so herself and getting comfortable. I remained standing, waiting for her to answer my question. She sighed, and looked at her hands. "You can't take them off Mila, believe me, I've tried." My heart sunk, though I'd been expecting her to say something of the like - it couldn't possibly be so easy. "A Priestesses' gifts are limited to the manipulation of organic things, which the chains are not."
"Can they take them off?" I asked, refusing to believe there wasn't a way out. She shook her head, touching her own jewelled manacle with a wistful look on her face. "So I'm bound to Asher indefinitely?"
'Then how do I kill him?"
"You're an Empath Mila. You can't kill him without killing yourself."
"Maybe that isn't such a bad thing," I replied, grinding my teeth.
"I don't think killing yourself is the answer."
"Then give me another solution Priestess, because I can't live with being his slave, and I won't let him use me to kill anyone. Frankly I don't know how you've done it for so long."
"Hold on, let's just relax for a second," she said, raising her hands to stop me from arguing further. "I think you need to know a little more about being a Priestess before we start talking life and death."
"Like what?" I snapped, feeling edgy and uncomfortable.
"Have you always been this angry, this confrontational?" Her voice was gentle, and I could see no judgment in her sparkling blue eyes, no desire for retaliation against my angst - only a peaceful serenity. Taking her lead, I took a deep breath, and considered her question.
Hadn't I spent the majority of my adult life living in harmony with nature, unable to kill to save myself? Why then was I belligerently attacking the only person I'd met who was trying to help me?
I felt like I was losing myself. "What's happening to me?"
"It's your empathetic nature Mila. Have you been doing and saying things you'd otherwise never have considered? Aside from the drastic change in your living circumstances, of course," she added with a smile. I nodded, thinking of my recent affinity for swearing, of my interactions with Beau, of my inexplicably passionate reaction to the captain. "How long have you known you possessed Priestess gifts?" She asked, switching tracks. I thought for a moment, trying to remember a time I hadn't been able to feel the world around me.
"My whole life."
She nodded, seemingly unsurprised. "And your parents? How long did they know?"
"We've always known," I said slowly, looking away to hide the pain of losing them too young. "Where are you going with this?"
"I'm trying to figure out why your parents didn't bring you in for training."
"My father wanted me to pursue an education. He said my intelligence would be wasted in a life of servitude."
"And who was your father to make such a decision?" She asked, and for the first time I could sense a glimmer of anger from the Head Priestess.
"Senator Tanovic," I replied, bracing myself to defend his honor.
She sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "Mila, we had a temple for a reason, just like there was a reason the Priestesses were forbidden from entering into politics. For your father to flout Tritan law," she paused, noticing my angry frown, and pursed her lips. "We Priestesses were born with power our fellow citizens couldn't learn or understand, and to keep the peace, we dedicated our lives to healing and the pursuit of knowledge. The rule of our nation was left to those with remarkable intelligence, those who could lead Tritan forward by speaking with the voice of their fellow citizens. It was left to those who had to earn a place in the senate, not those born into power. That way could only lead to corruption."
"My father wasn't corrupt," I said quietly, not wanting to continue this conversation.
"Of course he wasn't, I'm sorry Mila. I'm only trying to explain why a Priestess in politics was taboo. Look at what it did to the Caledonians. All of their ruling class are Elites."
"And they defeated Tritan inside of a week," I replied sadly.
She nodded, looking out the window absently. "A conversation for another day, I think," she said, not making eye contact. I understood her pain. "Training Priestesses is the most important thing the nation of Tritan ever did." She paused, crossing her arms. "And you're a prime example why a Priestess should never go without training."
"Being an Empath is dangerous -"
"So you've said," I said without thinking and blushed, immediately bashful.
"I'm amazed you're still alive, what with a war going on around you," she continued, ignoring my rude interruption. "Have you ever seen someone die?"
I thought back to the battle the night before - the captain had certainly injured a few of the rebels, but their shield had done its job. "I don't think so," I replied cautiously.
"No, I guess you being naturally able to defend yourself against the power of death is too much to hope for. No matter, most Empaths don't see their twenties, yet here you are, surviving through a war. It's incredible."
"None of this matters unless I can use it to kill an Elite," I insisted, uncomfortable with the compliment, even if it did feel rather backhanded.
"Have you heard nothing I've just said?"
"I don't care if I die Sasha!" I cried, clenching my fists and feeling my nails bite into the skin of my palms. "Asher has to pay for what he did to me."
"What did he do, sweet girl?" She placed a calming hand on my shoulder, her eyes filled with sympathy.
"He," I stopped to clear the tight feeling from my throat, and found I couldn't continue.
"Oh honey," she said, and wrapped me in her arms, the gesture reminding me of my mother. "Shh darling. It's OK to cry." She stroked my hair gently, and it was as if her words had given me permission to grieve - for my stolen innocence, for my parents, for Tritan and everything we'd lost. I choked on sorrow as it poured out of me, clinging to Sasha as if she were my only salvation in this sea of corruption.
I rambled about my time in the forest, about my parents and their hopes and dreams for my future, my words so broken by tears it sounded as if I were speaking another language. Through it all Sasha held me, running her hands through my hair with the patience of a mother for a beloved child.
"Why is this happening to me? Why now?"
"Your empathy?" She asked, and I nodded, hiccupping through my tears. "How much of your time did you spend with other human beings while you were living in the forest?"
"Very little," I admitted, trying to get my breathing under control. I felt, rather than saw her smile - I was finding it incredibly hard to make eye contact with her, such was my shame of this show of emotion. "So I'm only noticing now because," I interrupted myself with a spasmodic breath. "Because I'm being forced to spend time with people for the first time in five years?"
She kissed the top of my head - the action suiting her so perfectly I didn't cringe or try to pull away. "You're a survivor Mila. You'll get through this." I wiped my nose on the handkerchief she offered me, and glanced at her face, intent on thanking her for the support.
An involuntary sound of distress escaped my lips when I realized her face was covered in tears, as if she had been suffering along side me. "Why are you crying?"
"You're a powerful Empath, Mila." She smiled and shrugged. "I can't help it, you're projecting your grief onto me."
"Oh God," I moaned, nearly overcome by a second round of panicked sobbing. "I'm sorry Sasha, I didn't mean to."
She laughed, wiping her face. "Nonsense Mila, a few tears never hurt anyone. And I'm finding it rather therapeutic to cry with a fellow Priestess." She dabbed at my wet face, her touch soothing my wild impulse to flee from the intimate contact.
"I tried to project my feelings onto Asher this morning, before he," I trailed off, unable to say it aloud.
"You intentionally tried to manipulate the captain's emotions?"
"Yes, but it didn't work."
"Manipulating the emotions of others is something I've always taught the Priestesses not to do. It's wrong, ethically speaking."
"But this is war."
"Extenuating circumstances aside, you need to learn to control your gifts before you can start trying to influence others."
"I'm not doing anything that will help him kill, Sasha. I absolutely refuse."
"You're no good to anyone dead."
"And the alternative is what? Learn to protect myself, but in the meantime, let him use me to wipe out the rebels. Shall I subtly will him to care over time? I don't think so."
"And how do you think Asher will find out it's safe to use your power again? Do you think I'll be the one to tell him?"
My eyes widened, as her meaning dawned on me. "Won't he be able to feel the difference?"