The water was cold, and dark, but the hands that gripped her ankles and pulled her down were colder. The babes in her womb stirred. Fear. Her babies were scared.
Anger boiled in Alluna’s veins and her body began to glow beneath the inky black sea water. The mermaids’ faces looked at her in alarm. They were not pretty creatures. Their hair swirled around their scaly fish-eyed faces. Full lips pulled back to reveal their needle-like teeth as they dragged her deeper.
“Release me,” Alluna ordered, startling them.
One of them swam up to her face. “How can you speak to us underwater? You should be drowning.”
Alluna gripped the creature’s face and let a surge of power flow from her into the mermaid.
The scales disappeared and her bones shifted beneath her flesh. The mermaid’s eyes rolled in pain and she opened her mouth to scream. Nothing but bubbles flowed from her mouth. She began to thrash against Alluna’s hold until she released herself and swam frantically for the surface.
The other mermaids attacked Alluna, but she struck them all with her power, causing the same distortion to their features. Soon she floated alone in the dark sea.
Alluna kicked her feet and struggled to reach the surface again. Now that her anger was simmering down, she felt the press of the water against her lungs and feared that whatever was keeping her from drowning was quickly fading.
She burst up to the surface with a gasp. Air rushed into her lungs and she coughed up a few mouthfuls of water. Crying and sobbing caught her attention.
“What did you do to us?”
She looked around and saw that all of the mermaids looked like pretty maidens now. No more ugly scaly skin and fish eyes. They stared at their hands and face in horror.
“We can’t breathe underwater anymore.”
“Serves you right, trying to drown me,” Alluna spat. Thunder cracked across the sky, lightning dancing over the water in a surreal display.
“B-but we still have our tails. What are we supposed to do now if we can’t go back to our underwater home?”
Continuous rolling thunder had Alluna gazing up. The reaper swooped down from the roiling black clouds that had draped across the night sky.
“Zaaak,” she cried out, lifting her arms. He’d come back. He’d come to save her.
He swooped lower, reaching down to lift her from the rolling sea.
The mermaids began to hiss and screech. Jumping up to grab at him, trying to pull him down into the water.
“Kill him. Drown him,” they screamed.
“Nooo,” Alluna shrieked as they clung to his legs, pulling him down. He cursed when one of them bit his calf. Luckily, they no longer had sharp teeth and his boots were thick. He kicked them loose and gripped Alluna. They tried to grab her legs to pull them both into the water, but she kicked also.
The reaper pulled her higher into the night sky until they were far away enough that he pulled her up into his arms. He whimpered and they lost a bit of altitude.
“Zak, what’s wrong?” she cried out in alarm.
He looked into her eyes. “I need to land. I’m not used to flying so long."
Alluna remembered he wasn’t really a reaper and frowned. What was he? Why did he have black wings? She kept her questions to herself and allowed him to gather her tighter in his embrace. He headed for the royal ship and landed gently on the deck.
The minute his feet touched the deck, he was surrounded by female guards. They surrounded him with swords.
Zak went to his knees with Alluna wrapped tightly in his arms.
“No,” she pleaded. “Don’t hurt him. He saved me.”
She felt him jerk in her arms and turned to stare at him in worry.
His mouth was open, eyes wide for a few seconds before he crumbled to the deck, unconscious. A metal pin, as long as her finger stuck out from his neck. A poisoned dart.
Alluna screamed. “What have you done to him?”
Her hands began to glow again and she looked up at the queen with a snarl. Queen Lukresh had a long, slender tube in her mouth. She seemed to lean toward Alluna and blow.
Something sharp pricked her neck and her vision swam.
Alluna raised her hand to the side of her neck and felt a pin similar to the one sticking out of Zak’s neck embedded in her skin. Oh, no.
The queen’s smile was the last thing she saw before everything went black.
Zak’s arms ached, his neck and back were afire with tension. He groaned and lifted his head. Pain shot down his arms, making him almost scream. He was tied between two posts, wearing nothing but his Arborian underwear. A thin strip of material covering his manhood tied to a strip of leather around his hips. His hair was unbound and hung over one shoulder. His back was bare. Completely bare. No wings.
He instantly knew the shit had finally hit the turbines.
“Damn,” he sighed, knowing he’d been found out. So much for pretending to be a reaper. If he were lucky, they might recognize him as Zak Wilder, intergalactic rock star, and cut him some slack. Hell, he wouldn’t even mind posing for pictures and signing autographs.
He looked around at the hostile faces surrounding him and gulped. Seth was an asshole for thinking he’d be recognized on this backwards planet. His rock star status meant nothing here.
The masked man approached him. Zak frowned at the pale blue eyes gazing at him from behind the silver mask. Ice-blue eyes.
“You’re in deep shit now, Goliath,” the man growled in a low voice for Zak’s ears only.
“Who the fuck are you?”
The man grinned and Zak gasped.
“No way,” he breathed incredulously. But as the man turned and presented him with his back, Zak stared at the thick blond braid that hung half way down his back. Blond hair, a thousand shades of shimmering gold.
“Fucking Lucien,” Zak snarled.
Lucien spun around. “General Luke Black.”
“Lucien of Angelos. Son of the angel of destruction. The dark prince,” Zak spat.
Lucien stepped up to him in two long strides and gripped his neck in a chokehold.
“Careful, Blondie. Most of the men, including the queen, are crying out for your blood. As general I managed to bargain for a good whipping instead of an execution.”
Zak stared at him, confused. “Why?”
Lucien laughed without humor. “If anyone kills any of you, I think it might tip Devon over. He’d go full demon and start a bloody rampage.”
Zak laughed. “You’re fucking crazy. He might have his blood tainted with Davariel’s demon blood, but it’s you who’s fucking evil. You’re the one trying to release Lucifer.”
Lucien sobered. “Maybe that would be best. All of creation has become foul. To Lucifer we’re an abomination. Maybe he’s right.”
“Maybe I am,” Lucien whispered. “Sorry, but I’m supposed to whip you now. Nothing personal, you know.”
Lucien smiled. “You always were a stuck up bastard. Poor little rich boy daddy never loved.”
Zak sneered. “At least daddy never fucked me.”
Lucien slapped Zak so hard he saw stars before his eyes. His ears were left ringing.
Lucien walked away. “Feel free to scream, Zak. I may just show you a little mercy… maybe.”
Zak spat blood to the ground and glared at Lucien through the white spots that danced before his vision.
Alluna blinked open her eyes to stare up at her father’s scowling face.
“W-what happened?” she said sluggishly.
He caressed her cheek with the tips of his fingers. “An off-worlder tried to abduct you, my child.”
“We need to close this planet off to new comers. It’s getting more and more dangerous to continue to allow the continued influx of aliens upon our beautiful planet.”
Alluna looked passed the king to stare at a dark man dressed in blue.
Her eyes widened when she recognized the man from the mirror. The man who’d let the queen suck his....
She struggled to sit up, cringing a bit when the stranger narrowed his eyes suspiciously at her.
“Who is this?” she asked panicked.
“One of Arboria’s most powerful Master Guardians, my child,” the king answered. “Dresh.”
Zak. Where was Zak? Last thing she remembered, he’d been struck with a poisoned dart.
“Zak. Where is…”
“The man who tried to abduct you was an imposter. He was camouflaged as a reaper and tried to fly off with you. Dresh thinks he may be in league with the mages. They created a distraction while he tried to take you from us.”
Alluna shook her head. “No. Zak saved me from the mermaids. They were trying to drown me.”
King Lumar’s eyes narrowed. “How did you get in the water? The guards said they saw him pluck you from the water before the winds from the storm forced him to land back aboard the ship.”
“We should let her rest, my king,” the queen interrupted.
Alluna turned her head to stare at queen Lukresh. She hadn’t realized she was present. The queen stared at her with cold eyes.
Alluna touched the side of her neck. “Y-you shot me with a poisoned dart.”
The queen’s lips drew up slightly in a wicked grin. “You were hysterical, sweet child. I did what was necessary to keep you safe. Especially after that dragon shifter tried to abduct you.”
“The man who tried to take you away is a golden weredragon.”
“Where is he?” Alluna gripped the king’s arms and stared up pleadingly at him. “Where’s Zak?”
“Easy, my girl. He will harm you no more,” the king said soothingly, but it only served to notch Alluna’s anxiety more.
Outside thunder rolled again, and the branches of the tree they were in scratched against the window as though in warning.
Dresh looked toward the window before turning narrowed eyes to Alluna. “Interesting,” he said in a low voice.
Alluna glared at the man, not liking him at all. He gave her the creeps.
“Please, Father. Please don’t hurt Zak. He saved me.”
“How did you end up in the water, Alluna?” the king demanded in a more stern voice this time.
She bit her lip and looked at the queen. Queen Lukresh stared down her narrow nose at Alluna.
If she told them about Aivy and Uuvy sending her down in the lifeboat, they might get in trouble. The girls weren’t particularly nice, but she didn’t want to tell on them.
Alluna bowed her head. “I heard the singing and wanted to see what the mermaids looked like.”
“You went down into the water by yourself?”
Alluna nodded. She felt guilty for the half-truth, but couldn’t bring herself to tattle on her stepsisters. They didn’t know the mermaids would turn on her because she’d coupled with a man… did they?
“I’m sorry about what happened. Punish me, father. Not Zak. He saved me.”
“She hallucinates from the shock, my king. Dresh, put her to sleep again.”
“No, no, please,” Alluna begged, burrowing into her father’s arms.
“Perhaps if we erased her memories of this horrible night, she’ll feel better in the morning,” Dresh suggested, to Alluna’s horror.
“Splendid idea,” the queen seconded.
“Nooo. No more robbing me of my memories,” Alluna cried out.
“Calm, my child,” the king said rocking her gently in his arms. “No one is going to steal your memories. On the contrary. I want your memories returned. I want to know who left you with child.” He drew away from her, his eyes burning with fury. “And when I learn who it is, he will not live to see another day."
Zak clenched his teeth, his sweat pouring down his face. Another lash ripped into his back. Still he refused to utter a single sound. The warriors had stared in stunned silence at first, but after a while, some of them began to cheer him on after every lash. He might be thought of as a traitor, but they respected the fact that he could take the whipping like a true warrior. Lucien cut him no slack either. He felt the bastard lay each mark methodically down his back in stripes spaced a hairline apart. Lucien had always felt pride in his talent with the whip. The asshole was the one to teach Zak, but Zak had never liked using things that marked the flesh so harshly on his submissives. He wasn’t a sadist, just a dominant bastard.
One hundred lashes later, Zak was cut from the posts. He almost staggered to his knees, but miraculously stayed on his feet. His hair hung over his face, dripping sweat, little crystalline drops that mingled with the spatter of blood that poured off his back. The ground seemed to swirl like water around him and he had to close his eyes or fall face first to the ground. Zak took deep breaths and locked his knees. He refused to go down.
There was nothing but silence around him. Once the wave of dizziness passed, he looked up to see King Lumar walking toward him. The man looked furious.
Zak clenched his fists and stood his ground, valiantly trying to ignore the splotches of light dancing before his eyes. He’d had enough. He’d tell the king the entire truth. To hell with everything.
King Lumar stood before Zak, big broad chest puffed out, shoulders squared, eyes blazing gold through mere slits. His nostrils flared, chest expanding impressively as he drew a deep breath. “The princess says you saved her from the mermaids.”
Zak stared at him and nodded. He opened his mouth and tried to speak, but the world spun and swayed before him. Darkness crowded around his vision. Fuck, he didn’t want to faint.
“What have you to say for yourself, warrior?” the king demanded in his deep voice.
“I… I love her,” was all Zak managed to utter before the ground rushed up at him.
Music filled his ears, his heart, his soul. He’d heard this music before. It had enslaved him, pulled him almost unwilling to the tower. His beast writhed beneath his skin, enraged, the feel of the spell dragging him… to her. Suddenly, he wanted to be bound by the beautiful witch. She sat in a pool of light, light that emanated from her. Zak felt cold—so, so cold. He needed her warmth, needed her love like the air he breathed.
He lifted his hand to her as she played her flute, but found it was bound. He looked at his right hand. It was cuffed and chained to a column. Next to him was Remien, also cuffed and chained, his glittering green eyes staring at Alluna too, mesmerized, unblinking. Seth was next to him, as well as Anniel, Rowie, Remi’s father and his own. They were all chained to columns forming a circle. Horror filled him when he looked up and saw Eriel nailed to a cross suspended upside down from the vaulted ceiling of the dungeon they were in. His wings hung limply to either side of the cross and a stream of blood poured from his body to the center of the circle, upon an altar. To either side of the altar were two mirrors reflecting a surging purple-misted storm instead of the dungeon and altar. There was a dark shadow within the rampaging mist, the shadow of big dark wings, and a hand reaching out to touch the surface of the glass.
A tall dark-skinned woman entered the dungeon with a raven-haired girl. Behind them was Lucien, his eyes glowing brighter than Devon’s. He spread his red wings as he stood behind the altar. The girl was placed upon the altar before him.
Zak screamed for Alluna to move away, to run away, but she only stopped playing her flute and stood to look as Lucien lifted his sword and ran it through the girl.
The girl screamed, arching her back as blood pouring from her chest. Her eyes rolled up while she twitched in the throes of death.
Alluna’s hands began to glow as she lifted them and began to chant in a strange language.
Zak screamed for her to stop. He could see the images of a blond, black-winged angel approaching the glass on the other side of the mirror. Alluna threw her power into the mirror on the right as Lucien struck the mirror to the left. The mirror on the right cracked into little bits, but the one on the left opened like a portal.
Both angels screamed. The sound was piercing, making those tied to the columns shriek as well. The angel on the right was drenched in blood as it tried to pass the glass. Zak saw the creature’s flesh torn to shreds and explode in a spray of blood. The one on the left emerged into the dungeon, his eyes black like a sharks’. It was evil incarnate. Davariel, but not the true Davariel. His other, his evil opposite.
Zak jumped up from the bed with a scream of agony. Fire coursed down his back, making him writhe.
“Easy, Zak,” Seth said gripping his arms.
The pain was excruciating, but it was soon forgotten when he caught sight of Zakreel pacing behind Seth. Eriel and Lucien lounged on a bed beyond the pacing weredragon.
“What the fuck are they doing here?” Zak snarled.
Seth got in his face, and for the first time Zak noticed how panicked Seth looked. His stripes were showing faintly on his skin, and Seth’s stripes only showed when he was enraged or scared shitless.
Seth swallowed loudly. “They’ve disappeared.”
“Who?” Zak frowned.
“Remi and his father. You’ve been out for more than a day between the dart and then the whipping…”
Zak snarled at Lucien. “Why is that fucker here with us?”
Lucien snorted. “I managed to escape from hell, but not before I heard the demons plotting on stealing themselves some little Alpha Angel babies, pure and powerful enough to help them free Lucifer.”
“I thought you wanted him freed,” Zak spat.
Lucien regarded him a moment. “Not at the cost of killing babies.”
“Fucking asshole. And you think that Lucifer is going to spare any baby’s life once he’s set free?”
Lucien stared at him a moment with his weird glowing eyes. As weird as Devon’s. “Of course he won’t. That’s why I want to put a stop to all this.”
“That’s not what you were saying before you whipped me.”
Lucien shook his head. “No, Zak. I said that perhaps we deserved to be wiped out because we’d grown so foul, but I don’t want Lucifer free. I don’t want to see the people I care for hurt, destroyed.” His voice trailed off into a whisper.
Zak snorted. “I don’t believe you. I don’t trust you.”
“Zak,” Seth said drawing his attention back to him. “We’ve got to find Remi and Remuel.”
“Can’t you feel him? Use your power.” Zak insisted. “I don’t give a shit about the Arborian Master Guardians.”
“I did use my power, but I still can’t feel them.”
Zak rubbed his face in frustration. “Greis. Maybe Greis got them. Fuck. They might be off planet.”
Seth scoffed. “No way a Grei could snag Remien. He’s an archangel, Zak.”
Zak shook his head. “Geez, Seth. This is Rem we’re talking about. He’s a screwball.”
“I think I know where they might be.”
They all turned to look at Eriel, who’d spoken.
He hugged himself as if afraid. “That crazy tranny probably got them. He was looking to collect himself a pair of dragons, a reaper, a weretigri, and a werewolf.”
“The abandoned fortress with the tower where we found Alluna?” Seth asked.
Zak frowned. “Tranny?”
Zakreel spoke now. “Aye. The sorcerer that frequents that fortress is male, but dresses as a female. He lured me with a flute, hypnotized me, and locked me down in that dungeon years ago.”
“She—I mean he, seduced me at Haddasha’s. Slipped me a drug in our hotel room, and then I woke up in a tiny cage.” Eriel also said. “She already had Drakken for years. Said she purchased him from a guard in the Edenian Mercurian penitentiary. He’d been blood starved for over three hundred years.”
“Holy shit,” Zak whispered. “That’s Rowie’s father, isn’t it?”
They all nodded.
“Where is he?”
“We have him hidden away,” Eriel said.
“I feed him my own blood every night, but he needs to be taken to Vildminoria, where they can help him better. They have a special hospital there for blood-starved vampires."
Zak nodded, knowing that first hand. It was where Imo had recuperated after.... He glared at Lucien. Lucien had kidnapped Imo and blood starved him. He’d also almost succeeded in killing Seth to offer the weretigri as a virginal sacrifice. The memory of the vampire Liara riding Seth’s loins until he spilled for the very first time inside a female body whispered through Zak’s mind. Seth had never been the same afterwards.
Lucien grinned, and Zak wanted to leap across the room and bash his face in.
“I’ve reformed,” he said with a smile. “The poison in the wings no longer has any power over me.”
Zak didn’t trust him.
“We need to find Remi, Zak. God. Rowie is pregnant. She’ll never recover if something happens to that asshole,” Seth said.
Zak looked at him. It wasn’t because of Rowie that Seth was so desperate to find him. Zak knew Seth loved Remi as much as he did. They couldn’t lose him.
The memory of the dream came back to haunt him. He prayed it wasn’t a premonition of what was about to happen.
He rose from the bed and looked around for clothing.
“What are you doing?” Seth asked.
“I’m going to her.” He winced as he pulled on a pair of woven leather pants.
“And do what?”
Zak’s skin itched and he tamped down the fury that caused him to shift unbidden. Control. He was the master. He was in control. Right.
“I’ll figure it out when I’m in front of her. But I need to see her.” He closed the ties to the pants, sat, and waved his hands in the general direction of the boots tossed on the floor. Both boots glided over the stone floor and slid over his outstretched feet. He scowled up at Seth, daring him to admonish him for using his power. Seth remained quiet, pale blue eyes looking steadily into Zak’s.
Seth nodded. “Fine.”
He stood back and let Zak slip out into the night.
No guards were there to stop him, which seemed very strange to Zak. He’d worry about that later. For now, he clenched his teeth against the excruciating pain on his back and made his way to the royal tree looming ahead in the darkness.
The others followed behind, swords drawn.
King Lumar knew. Dresh had reluctantly made Alluna recall some of her past, and she’d been forced to admit that Zak was the father of her unborn babies. Alluna caressed the small bump of her stomach. She was barely a little more than a month, but already she was showing. She had three daughters in her belly.
According to Dresh, the golden weredragon’s genes were dominant and the babes in her belly were little dragon spawns.
The king had asked if Alluna’s life were in danger giving birth to three dragonesses and Dresh had said he wasn’t sure.
They had left her alone then. An Arborian woman had come to tend to her needs afterwards. When Alluna asked about the dark-haired elfin girl, the woman said no one knew what had happened to her.
Alluna remembered the pretty girl had been pregnant and hoped nothing bad had happened to her. The black wolf was no longer around either, making Alluna feel lonely and abandoned.
She paced the room, wringing her fingers with growing anxiety. The air was heavy with a strange presence. She caught sight of herself in the full-length mirror in the corner of her room and stopped to stare. Something wasn’t right about the image. She looked at her reflection but it felt as though she were looking at something trying to pretend to be her.
Leaves rustling outside her window had her turning, heart pounding. Reaching down to the gold-hilted knife her father had made her wear strapped to her thigh, she stared at the window as it creaked open.
Zak began climbing in, his blond hair spilling about his face in wild disarray.
With a squeal of delight, she ran to him. He’d barely put one huge booted foot on the floor and her arms wrapped around his neck.
Alluna buried her face in his neck and breathed him in. If the golden sun had a scent, it would be just like Zak’s. His scent brought to mind hot sun pouring down upon a breeze swept meadow. Wild, sweet, fresh, and pure. Her hands fisted in his thick waving hair as his arms wrapped around her and carried her farther back into the room.
Alluna’s bottom met the edge of a chest of drawers. His fingers tangled in her hair, pulling her head back with a throaty purr.
“Luna,” he breathed before his mouth found hers.
Sitting upon the chest of drawers put Zak standing between her thighs. Alluna molded herself to his broad chest and ate at his mouth. His tongue swirled in and reacquainted itself with hers. She was whimpering, wiggling, trying to crawl into his skin. It was only when she scraped her nails over his bare back that he stiffened and drew his mouth away with a hiss.
Alluna drew back as well and blinked at her bloodied fingernails. She hadn’t scratched him so hard to draw blood.
“You’re hurt,” she whispered.
He caressed her cheek, sapphire eyes glittering. “It’s nothing.” His eyes searched hers. “You remember me?”
Alluna’s lip quivered. “Yes, Mas—“
He placed a finger over her lips to keep her from calling him 'Master.' “No. You’re not my slave. You’re not even my submissive.”
Dread flowed through her. She swallowed. “Th-then what am I?”
His eyes darkened as his thumb caressed her lower lip. “You’re the woman I love. The mother of my children.”
Alluna shuddered. She barely knew this man, really, yet what they felt for each other had no words.
The babes in her womb stirred against his belly. It made him lurch back, his eyes filled with wonder.
She watched his hair spill forward, like a curtain around them, as he cupped the little swell of her belly in his enormous hands. Again, her belly undulated. He shuddered.
“Oh, God,” he said in a choked voice.
Alluna put her hands over his and they stared at the moving swell. She felt her daughters’ joy. They recognized their father and were trying to get close to his warmth.
Alluna giggled at the strange rolling motion within her. Zak looked up at her, smiling also, but a single tear flowed down his cheek, making her eyes widen.
“There’s something I need to do,” he said, “to make sure…”
He stepped back an inch and she gripped his biceps to keep him from going too far. Already she missed his warmth. She wanted to feel him against her, skin to skin.
Zak closed his eyes, making a few more tears leak out. He held his palms up as if offering her something and began to glow.
Alluna felt his power unfold within him, flow out like a current making the hairs on her body stand on end. His skin shimmered golden and his palms blazed as if holding a tiny sun.
She had to turn her face away from the blinding light. After a few seconds, she was aware the light had faded.
Turning back to Zak, she was surprised to see him holding out her old golden flute in his palms.
“The first time I saw you, you were playing this,” he said softly. “I fought the pull of the music until I saw you.” His fingers closed around the flute, holding it trapped in both fists.
Alluna swallowed and touched the dragon pendant that Mama had placed around her neck. She had been playing the Dragon’s Lure the day Zak had come to her. He’d fallen unwittingly under her spell.
“I know now you didn’t mean to do it. You didn’t mean to cast a spell on me, but I could have fought it. I’m an Alpha Angel. Perhaps not the most powerful of the seven, but one of them regardless.” His eyes grew more intense, and he leaned closer to her. His heat and scent engulfed her. She stared helpless as his tongue wet his lush lips. The muscles of his arms tightened as well as his grip on the flute. He was preparing to break it… and in the same process, break whatever hold she had over him. No more spell… perhaps no more love from Zak.
Now it was her turn to have tears swimming in her eyes. She didn’t want to lose him… ever. What would she do without him? What would become of her, her babies?
“I felt alone, Alluna. I’ve had many, many lovers. I had never been satisfied having sex in any normal way… until I met you. You filled that dark void within me, but I need to know it’s real… not some magic voodoo that’ll disappear like smoke on a windy day.”
His face was solemn as he stared into her eyes.
She jumped with a start when the metal cracked and a hot wind blew across them. Zak closed his eyes with a shudder.
She buried her hands in the thick fall of his golden hair, terrified of what she’d see in his eyes once he opened them.
“No,” she said on a choked sob. “Please. I love you. You can’t abandon me now.”
He swallowed, but kept his eyes closed. “I would never abandon you. You carry my babies inside you.”
Alluna almost reeled back as if slapped. Was he saying he’d only stay with her because of her pregnancy?
“I’ll take you back home. You can have your own room. I’ll make sure you and my daughters want for nothing.”
Tears flowed down her face. It was worse. He wasn’t even keeping her as his lover.
“Look at me, please,” she begged. She needed to see his eyes. Only then would she believe he felt nothing for her… that it had only been the spell that had bound him to her.
He turned away, making her heart break a little more. The pain was more than she could take. She knew all she had to do was sing the Dragon’s Lure and bespell him again… but she didn’t want his love that way. Not forced.
She wiped her eyes and watched as he took a few steps away, head down. His back was a mass of cuts and bruises.
Alluna opened her mouth, unsure of what to say, but the sound of music stopped her. It was the flute and it was playing the Dragon’s Lure. Zak stiffened, and stared at the mirror at the far end of the room.
Alluna’s horrified stare took in the image of her reflection in the mirror. Only it really wasn’t her reflection. The other Alluna sat primly upon the chest of drawers playing the flute as Zak lurched forward toward her. His eyes were wide and vacant.
“No,” Alluna screamed and tried to hop down from her perch to stop him. To her surprise, she found she couldn’t move. “No, Zak, stop! Please.”
He didn’t listen, and continued to walk toward the mirror. Shadows crawled out from beneath the bed, transforming into devils.
The music stopped, making her look back at the mirror. Mama stood beyond the gold gilded frame of what had once been a mirror. It was more of a doorway now with Mama’s dungeon on the other side.
Mama laughed as Zak finally reached her.
“Silly girl. I told you men couldn’t be trusted. He feels nothing but pity for you.”
Alluna watched as Mama’s long black claws stroked lovingly up and down Zak’s bulging biceps.
“Leave him alone. You tricked me into luring him the first time. I won’t let you hurt him.”
Mama snorted. “He wasn’t supposed to go to you, stupid girl. But none of that matters anymore. I already have my Red dragons, and now I have two Golds, two vampires, a wolf, and a weretigri.”
Alluna stared in shock at mama. “W-what do you mean?”
Mama purred as she caressed Zak’s hair. He stood before her unmoving, as if waiting for orders… in a trance.
“Come with me and find out, my child.”
“Please don’t hurt Zak, Mama, please.”
Mama looked him up and down. “He is quite extraordinary. So are the others. Exquisite, beautiful. It’s almost a shame…”
She trailed off, making Alluna uncomfortable. Mama had planned to release the angel of destruction’s evil other. It took a lot of blood sacrifices to be able to achieve such a feat. Alluna was not sure she was strong enough to save Zak and the others she feared Mama had also captured, but she needed to try.
“I’m sorry, mama. You were right after all,” Alluna said in a small voice.
Mama regarded her with narrowed eyes.
“I’m tired of the game. Zak never truly loved me. It was only the spell. I couldn’t stand to see him go to another. I’d rather see him dead, Mama. It would hurt too much otherwise.”
“Really?” Mama said, one brow raised.
Alluna found she could move again, and slipped from the chest of drawers. She took careful steps to the portal where Mama and Zak stood. The devils around the room hissed and laughed, but made no move to approach her.
Alluna walked until she could circle around and look into Zak’s face. He stared with a blank expression over Mama’s head.
Alluna’s heart constricted at that blank look.
“If I can’t have him, then no one will,” she whispered, trying to sound scornful and bitter.
Mama threw her head back and laughed. “Now that’s my girl.” She held her hand out to Alluna. “Come. We must hurry before their master realizes what is happening.”
Alluna frowned as she allowed Mama to engulf her hand. “Their master?”
Mama turned, her eyes wide with something close to fear in them. “Yes, my child. Devon of Angelos is a divine angel, trapped in the tainted body of a mortal. Once his little lambs are slaughtered, the taint in that body will take over and between him and Leiravad, our true master will be released into this realm. We will become Lucifer’s children and aid him in returning back to Heaven.” Mama’s smile was too wide, her eyes alight with madness. “We will arise from mere mortals to gods, my child.”
Zak fought the sucking darkness. Alluna’s light beckoned to him, but her essence felt and tasted different. He recoiled from it and felt himself trapped… like a bug in a web. He couldn’t break free, no matter how hard he tried. Devon. He needed to link to Devon.
He sent his power out, but touched something so powerful and evil it made him recoil.
He caught snatches of conversation around him, Alluna’s voice. She sounded hurt, angry…bitter. She said she’d rather see him dead.
Pain blazed in his chest. He still loved her. He’d been terrified when he broke the flute that the beautiful feeling he felt inside would wither and die, but it had bloomed even more, as if released from a vice-grip. Before, he’d felt a desperation for Alluna. Now, that desperation had turned into a fierce burning fire within him. Love. She was pure, untainted, innocent, giving, beautiful. He loved her. No spell, no charms. Just pure real love. She made him feel whole, alive… hopeful for a chance at true happiness.
“If I can’t have him, then no one will.” No.
He wanted to scream in agony. She could not mean that. Alluna did not talk that way. Something was wrong
He fought harder against the darkness, felt his body lurching forward, obeying the will of another. It angered him, making him furious.
But there was nothing he could do. His mind delved deeper into the darkness, searching. A glow of golden light made him drift closer.
The dragon’s horns spiraled up from his head, which lay upon his clawed forepaws. The scales gleamed like liquid gold. It wasn’t the same dragon he’d seen his father shift into. The beast raised its head and stared down at Zak with burning blue eyes. The eyes were terribly familiar.
Zak swallowed. He was looking into his own eyes.
“Shit,” he hissed.
The creature bared its teeth and snarled, “That is exactly what you are.”
Zak jumped when it spoke. “What the f—“ He stared for a few seconds and finally decided to close his gaping mouth. “D-did you actually talk to me?”
“Get away from me,” the beast said, moving around to stand.
Zak realized the dragon had a collar around his throat with a chain that disappeared into the mists swirling around the ground at their feet.
“Why are you chained?” Zak asked.
“As if you didn’t know,” the dragon answered accusingly.
Zak frowned up at the creature. “I don’t.”
The creature growled angrily and showed teeth. “You’ve chained me up. Control, master. Only you are not my master. I wasn’t made to be mastered by you, stupid.”
Zak took a step back. “You’re nothing but a monster.”
“You?” the dragon scoffed. “You call me a monster?” He lowered his snout until it was even with Zak’s face. “Take a good look, asshole. I am you. You are me. We are one and the same.”
Zak shook his head in disgust. “No. I am not this,” he gestured to the dragon. “I’m not a dragon. I’m a man.”
“I’d tell you to tell that to my daughters, but we won’t live long enough to embrace them.”
“Your daughters,” Zak spat indignantly, anger spearing through him. “Alluna is my woman.”
Again, the dragon moved his snout closer to Zak, spreading his golden wings wide and gloriously. “It was I who decided to take Alluna as a mate. It was I who loved her. Before then you, were only treating her as you would any other submissive.”
“That’s not true,” Zak gasped, feeling a shudder run down his spine.
“It is, and you know it. You told her you owned her, told her you were her master. I was the one who loved her.”
“B-but I love her too.”
“No you don’t. The only way you can ever love her, is to embrace what you are… embrace me.”
Zak watched the dragon’s tail whip back and forth, like a cat that is about to devour a mouse.
“Why? I don’t need you.”
“How can you profess to love someone when you can’t even love yourself?”
Zak scowled up at the creature. The dragon’s blue eyes burned as if it held the very fires of hell.
The dragon flashed a razor-sharp smile. “Afraid?”
Yes. Zak admitted to himself he was afraid—terrified—had been terrified of this creature all his life since he knew this side of himself existed.
“You are a coward and a liar,” the dragon said.
Zak’s blood boiled in his veins. The dragon’s scales glowed brighter, almost blinding.
Zak stood straighter and nodded. “Yes, but no more.”
He rushed the creature, intending to wrap himself around its throat. He would embrace it and see what happened.
But no sooner had he come within reach of its maw, the dragon opened his jaws and gobbled Zak up.
He was being tossed around the beast’s mouth, wet tongue rolling him around, sharp teeth trying to chew him alive. Zak’s bones shattered, his skin shredded, and blood erupted in spurts. His rage consumed him at the beast’s treachery, but he wasn’t dead yet. As he slid down the beast’s throat, he sent out a wave of power that felt like pure fire, burning him from the inside out. His power bloomed larger, filling the beasts belly and body. Zak roared, thrashed and bucked, feeling himself break through the beast’s body, felt the heat of his power melt the scales until they fused with his skin… making them one.
Again, Zak roared. Only this time it was not a human voice that shook the ground beneath him. He swished his tail and beat his wings trying to set himself free from the chain that held him to the floor. His talons ripped at the silver chain, but held fast.
Another enraged bellow brought a few rocks tumbling upon his head.
The sensation of being pelted with rocks had him shaking his head in confusion.
Looking around, he spotted another golden dragon and two Reds looking at him.
He snarled at them.
“Well it’s about fucking time you decided to join us.”
He narrowed his eyes at the Red with the crown of horns. The Red grinned.
Somehow, he felt he should recognize this particular dragon, but the memory eluded him.
“Alpha 7. You were chasing me in Alpha 7 because I think I was kissing your girlfriend and it pissed you off,” the Red told him.
The memory came to surface in bits and pieces. He saw himself trying to strangle a green-eyed man with blood-red hair. He’d wanted to kill the…
“You bastard,” he finally said, remembering some of it.
“You never let your beast out, so it doesn’t recognize anyone. You’re name is Zak. Zachariel Wilder. I’m called Remien Fyre when I’m in human form. We’re called Alpha Angels, which really doesn’t mean anything in particular, except that most humanoids are scared shitless of us.”
“Zak?” He shook his head as he pronounced the strange name, narrowing his eyes at the Red dragon and the others. “I am a dragon. If humanoids fear me it is because they should.” A puff of fire escaped his maw when he spat out the word should
“Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but right now we’re up shit’s creek,” the Red continued.
“What are you talking about?”
This time the golden dragon on the other side of the dungeon spoke. “We are prisoners of a mad sorcerer. He’s going to sacrifice us along with others to bring out a powerful entity from the realm of reflections.”
He frowned at them. “Prisoners? How did you all get caught and made into prisoners?”
“We were tricked,” the Red dragon said pointing at himself and the other Red, who just bobbed his head up and down, wide-eyed.
“Fucking little Red Riding Hood tricked us,” the other Red added.
Zak looked at them in confusion. “Little what?”
“She got Anniel, too. We have to get out of here, Zak. Except every time one of us shifts back into human form, we become tranced and end up chained back in here.”
“We shift into human and just stand staring out into oblivion. The devils come back and poke and prod us until we shift back again.” The gold spoke now. “There doesn’t seem to be any escape.”
“How was I brought here?”
The Red who called himself Remien Fyre looked sullen. “Alluna brought you in. She played the flute until you walked right to the spot you’re standing in now. She kept asking you to talk to her. Asking you if you loved her.”
He stared at the Red, waiting for him to finish, but the Red remained quiet. “Well? Did I talk to her? Did I say anything?”
The Red shook his mighty head of horns. “You stared snarling and growling at her and then you seemed to go into a fit. The devils barely had time to throw the collar over you before you started to shift. It was strange. You looked as if you were fighting with yourself. You writhed and rolled around until we all thought you’d attack us, as well.” The Red snorted. “That was the most violent shift I’ve ever seen. You really need practice.”
Zak snapped his teeth at the irritating Red. The annoying dragon only snickered and leaned back to sit on his haunches like a dog, his tail tapping happily behind him.
He looked around. They were in an underground chamber. The scent of dampness and dirt assailed his nostrils. The chamber was circular and a row of columns formed another circle before them. Squinting his eyes in the gloom, he made out the shapes of other humans bound to the columns. Had he been chained to the columns as well, he could have broken free.
“Who are they?” he asked, pointing his snout in the direction of the other captives.
The red sighed wistfully. “They are our friends.”
Just then, a woman dressed in purple robes strode in with a group of devils trailing behind her. They pulled a cage that contained a dark-haired man within. He hissed and growled at him like a beast.
“Drakken. How did they find him?” The other Gold gasped.
“If you don’t behave, we’ll kill the girl,” the human in purple robes said. The voice was deep, masculine, and Zak realized that this was no woman.
The devils opened the cage, and they ordered the vampire to go to one of the columns.
“Don’t hurt her. Please. Let her go. Do with me as you wish. I’m a Master Guardian… an archangel. I’ve been given a divine sword. You don’t need another vampire for your ritual. Besides, she isn’t fully vampire. She’s pregnant. Female vampires cannot become pregnant. The virus doesn’t allow to body to become pregnant.”
“Shut up, Drakken,” the sorcerer snapped once the vampire was chained to a column. The silver cuffs hissed against his skin and a little smoke billowed up around his hands. “Only one of you needs to die. If it’s so important, then we can allow her to live if you want to give up your life for hers.”
He nodded a few drops of blood rolling down his cheeks from his eyes. “Yes, please. Take me instead. Let her live.”
The sorcerer laughed and turned to signal to the devils. Another human was brought into the dungeon room. Her hands were bound and her obsidian eyes vacant as she docilely followed a blue devil. Black curls fell in a gleam of gloss down her back, and her belly was swollen. The girl was very pregnant.
Next to him, the Red with the crown of horns roared in rage. His body burst into flame as he began to tug and pull at the chain around his throat. His wings flapped and talons ripped at the stones of the floor. He wouldn’t break the chain, but he would most likely break the dungeon apart and release the hook embedded into the ground holding him… if he didn’t burn the entire place around their heads first.
It seemed like a good idea. The others seemed to think the same thing. All four dragons began tearing at the ground around them. He used his wings to try to fly as his now bloodied talons ripped stones from the floor.
Devils jumped on him, nipping at his solid scales. Some went for his throat and a few managed to sink their teeth in.
He roared, and spewed fire, but then remembered the ones the Red had said were their friends and stopped. He didn’t want to roast any friends he might have.
Alluna felt as if she’d walked into hell. Devils screeched and launched themselves at the enraged dragons. Her heart almost stopped. One of the Reds dripped blood and fire. He was more ballistic than the others, and it was no wonder.
Rowie stood amidst the melee of devils, fire, and gore, unblinking. Mama had bespelled her.
The dragons were setting themselves loose and Mama had fled in panic. The devils still tried to stop them. Their intentions to stop meant killing them. Most attacked the Red she thought to be Remien, but some were tearing into Zak’s throat as well.
Alluna ran to Rowie and tried a counter spell to gain the girl’s attention. The only thing she managed was to bring Rowie under her own power.
The ground shook under her feet. She turned her head to see the devils taking Remien Fyre to the ground.
They were killing him, yet he still fought.
“No,” Alluna screamed when she saw Zak go down, too. The other Gold had freed himself and was biting devils off Zak. They also began to swarm over him.
Alluna turned and lifted her hands. Her anger burned like a living thing within her. She gathered it and sent it out, focusing on the devils. Fire engulfed everything before her. When it vanished, she saw Remi lying on the ground in human form, trying to get to his feet.
Alluna ran to him, looking over her shoulder at Zak, who was still in dragon form. He appeared to be fine, just shaking his head and sneezing. It was most likely the cloud of ash left over from the devils.
“Are you okay?” Alluna asked brushing back Remi’s mop of red hair from his face. He looked befuddled but didn’t have any cuts on him. She was sure the devils had shredded him to pieces, but the only marks he had were his tattoos and piercings.
“W-what the fuck happened?” he said in a slurred voice, blinking unfocused eyes at her.
Zak roared behind them, scaring Alluna. She jumped and pressed against Remi, watching Zak’s golden dragon rear up on its hind legs. The two horns spiraling from his head hit the vaulted ceiling, sending a shower of rocks and debris everywhere. The other dragons began sniffing loudly, a low growl rumbling in their chests.
Alluna pressed tighter against Remi in fear. The dragons were so big and their teeth looked so jagged. They could probably swallow her in one gulp.
Remi held her tight. “It’s okay, Luna,” he murmured close to her ear. “They’re just picking up a scent. Hey, what gives?” He directed the last question to the snarling dragon.
Zak gave on last angry roar and reared up. The chain holding him broke.
Alluna watched as the other two dragons ignited in a ball of blue white light. The shape of the dragon began to diminish until Zakreel and Remuel appeared at last.
Zakreel rushed to Alluna and Remi. “We must flee.”
“Flee?” Remi asked, one brow lifting.
“Demons approaching,” Zakreel tossed over his shoulder, rushing back to Zak, who was snarling at Remuel and backing away. Both weredragons tried to calm him, from what Alluna could see.
Wondering if perhaps she could help, she took a step toward them.
Remi tensed and gripped Alluna’s arm. “We gotta go. Help me release the others.”
Alluna followed him because he gave her no choice. He gripped Rowie and dragged them to the middle of the circle of sacrifice. Alluna held onto Rowie as Remi drew a flaming sword from thin air. With a graceful swing, he released Seth.
Seth stumbled forward, once released.
“We need to get everyone out of here,” Remi began
Seth shook his mane of white-blond hair and rubbed his eyes. “Right. I’ll get Annie. You get the vampire.”
Remi turned to Drakken as Seth unsheathed his sword and released Anniel.
Alluna held Rowie tighter. There was something dark and dangerous in that vampire’s expression. Predatory. His eyes were black pools of death, and he did not look friendly. Alluna watched as he sniffed at Remi, blinked, and then hissed, struggling against his restraints. It made Alluna jump and take a step back.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Remi scoffed angrily. “I’m going to release you.”
“You stupid fuck,” the vampire hissed, going crazy. “You fucked my daughter. I’m going to kill you.”
Remien took a step back. “Oops.”
“Oops? Is that all you’ve got to say?” the vampire shrieked, spittle flying from his paper dry lips.
Rowie whimpered in Alluna’s arms and tried to lurch forward. Alluna looked at her, noticing her eyes were no longer vacant. She panted, as if fighting the spell, her eyes wide and scared. They were riveted on Remi.
“Could it be?” Alluna said in a low voice, trying to hold her still. “Your love for your mate is counteracting the spell?”
Rowie whimpered and held her hand out toward Remi.
“I’m sorry you’re mad that I made love to your daughter, but I love her.,” Remi said as he squared his shoulders. “She's my mate and she’s carrying my babies.”
The vampire howled in misery. “No. Not you. Not the son of Remuel. This must be some kind of sick joke.” He went limp in his cuffs and sobbed, letting his tangled black hair cover his face.
“Look, there’s no time for this. Can I release you, or do I have to leave you here for what’s coming now?”
He snapped his head back up, baring long fangs. “I will kill you,” the vampire spat literally, trying to tear through the silver cuffs.
Remi shrugged. “Fine. Have it your way.”
Something heavy ran against Alluna’s back making her squeal in fright. She turned to gape up at Zak. He was once more in his human skin, hot and bare, molding himself to her as his arms circled her waist. “Demons coming. We have to move out of here, like now?”
Remi had come up to them and was directing Rowie to climb onto his back.
Alluna turned with a little mewl to bury herself against the silk of Zak’s flesh. He held her tight and kissed the top of her head.
“Don’t worry about Drakken,” Zakreel said standing before them. “I’ll release him once all of you are far enough. It’s his hunger that has him so out of control, really. Just go before it’s too late.”
The ground shook and a low howl sounded far off. It was not like any animal or beast she’d ever heard. The faint smell of smoke and excrement filled the air.
Alluna felt the press of something so evil it made her skin want to crawl away from her bones. Her legs began to shake, but Zak lifted her in his arms and then began to run.
The dungeon was a maze of tunnels, winding round and round. They’d run past chambers of torture, and corridors with cells holding the bones of long forgotten prisoners—skeletal remains with mouths open in silent screams of agony.
They scrambled up a narrow, winding staircase until they emerged into a grand hall. It would have been the perfect moment for escape, finally, seeing the swaying forms of trees and mountains beyond the broken doorways and missing windows. Unfortunately, every exit was blocked with a flood of devils pouring in from outside.
Alluna screamed, clutching tighter to Zak’s neck. He cursed and turned, heading up the next flight of stairs.
There were more than just devils in the writhing cloud of evil that scrambled toward them. There were other monstrous creatures too; fire trolls, goblins, ghouls, and half-rotted corpses of the warriors that had once guarded this castle.
Zak’s long legs took the steps three at a time, climbing higher into the burned out, crumbling castle. Looking behind them, she saw Remuel. His eyes were no longer human, and his skin was glowing. He was beginning to shift. Behind him was Zakreel clutching the vampire to his chest like a child. Behind Zakreel were the monsters.
Alluna shuddered, clutching Zak tighter and whimpering in terror.
Gold wings jerked out from Zak’s back blocking her view. Alluna stared into his eyes and saw that they were no longer human.
“I won’t lose you, Luna,” his voice growled. “I’ll keep you safe.”
There was bright sunlight at the top of the stairway. Alluna looked back and screamed when she saw the devils crawling over the ceiling, getting even closer.
“We’ll make it, baby. I promise.”
Sunlight blinded her momentarily, and she felt Zak take a tumble. Somehow he kept her from hitting the ground. She just rolled until she felt a hand drag her back up.
“Run, run,” Remi screamed at her. “There’s too many of them.”
He didn’t even give her time to look back, just dragged her forward, his own red dragon’s wings flapping to lend him more speed. Rowie clung to his back between his wings.
She looked back for Zak and saw him and Remuel engaging the monsters with their swords. Zakreel was taking a leap off the edge of the castle with the vampire still clutched in his arms. Drakken was screaming in pain from the sunlight.
Alluna stumbled and went to her knees.
“No. Alluna, run, run. Don’t stop. Don’t let them get you and the babies,” Zak yelled.
His voice sounded animalistic, his face didn’t look normal anymore either. Jagged teeth filled his widening mouth and his skin looked as if it were on fire.
The devils and trolls overwhelmed Zak and Remuel as Remi dragged her up and pulled her along.
Alluna ran, but she glanced back again and saw when the ball of devils and trolls that had engulfed Zak and Remuel overflow right over the edge of the castle wall… taking the two weredragons with them.
The only thing that passed through Alluna’s head was that the devils had tossed Zak to his death.
Time seemed to slow, sound became a distant hum. All Alluna heard was the sound of heartbeats. She felt pain tear through her. Not physical pain, but a rending pain that crushed her heart and soul. Zak, her love. After everything they’ve been through… how could it end this way? How?
She ran. Ran faster than Remi. She didn’t know how, but she did. Her eyes were focused on the end of the stone bridge that linked one part of the castle to another, but the very middle of the bridge was missing. She needed to save her babies. It was the only thing left of her beloved. The gap looked too wide, but if she didn’t try, she and her babies would be dead.
She heard a bestial roar behind her. It almost sounded like her name. Heat slammed against her from behind.
Alluna did not look back. She prayed to her forest guardians to help her, to keep her babies safe from harm. Her feet flew over the broken, blackened stones until they sailed over air. She leapt toward the other side of the bridge. Below, the castle grounds crawled with evil creatures, boiling around the ruins like fetid water. She saw yellow eyes gaping up at her.
Her fingers stretched for the far end of the bridge. It was like flying, but she began to fall.
“Nooo. No, please,” she cried out
Gold talons encircled her, halting her descent abruptly. The air whooshed out of her lungs from the reversal of direction. Her stomach felt as if it had dropped to her feet and she watched wide-eyed as one of her slippers fell to the ground below. The castle became smaller and smaller.
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<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/supernatural/the-witch-and-the-dragon-part-13.aspx">The Witch and the Dragon Part 13</a>