Ashera: Chapter 25
“M’lady,” A guard said. “M’lady?”
“Leave me alone,” Ashera said. Thick, itchy gloves had been placed upon her hands and her abdomen had been tightly bandaged. She knew what came next, and she was not looking forward to it.
“M’lady, the Alpha requires you,” the guard said.
“Tell him to suck it.”
Ashera sighed and stood up gingerly, careful not to put too much pressure on her wound. She made her way to the door, where the guards grabbed her upper arms. “There’s really no fighting you guys off, is there?”
“Just a precaution, m’lady,” the guard said. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said. “Take me to the Alpha.”
They led her through the tower-up twisting staircases and dark corridors-until they came to a large door made of dark wood. “The Alpha resides here,” the guard said. “We shall wait outside.”
Ashera nodded. The guards wouldn’t be too difficult to dispose of if things went wrong. She took a moment, steeling herself, and walked through the doors.
The Alpha was sitting at a large desk in the corner, quill in hand. He didn’t look up as she approached, but paused a moment and said, “Hello Ashera.”
“Where’s the Orb?”
“It’s here, but that’s not what I’m concerned about,” the Alpha said. “I hope you’ve been treated well in your time here so far.”
“Your guards have been very kind.”
He sighed, turning to face her now. “Why must you be so hostile? We used to be so close.”
“‘Used to’ being the key word,” Ashera said. “It’s been years. You’ve changed; I’ve probably changed too.”
“So what? We can work, we always have!”
“Look at yourself,” Ashera took a step towards him. “Look at your eyes; look at the magic that glows there. You’ve changed so much.”
The Alpha scowled. “There wasn’t magic in you when we became friends either.” He walked to a large window at the back of his room, looking out over the forest. He sighed. “If the magic in my eyes makes you forget all that we’ve been through together, you’ve changed more than I.”
“It’s not just the magic and you know it,” she said. “I don’t even know how much of Bear is left inside of you.”
His eyes burned with fury as he faced her. “How dare you say such things? Have you forgotten all you know of me?”
“Have you forgotten all you know of yourself?” Ashera asked. “You have killed and tortured and pillaged for nothing but your own gain. You murdered Runs Like Wind! You murdered Kaleedki!”
“They got in the way-”
“Of what?” Ashera asked, getting frustrated now. “Tell me, what could be so important to you that you would end your family’s lives?”
The Alpha’s eyes darkened, and for a second, Ashera was afraid that he would strike her. Seething, he said, “You have forgotten. Your new-found taste of heroism has made you blind.”
“Heroism? Do you think I’m doing this to be well-known?”
“You always complained how you didn’t have a title.”
“I’ve grown up!”
“Seems like it.”
“I’m not trying to get a title; I was trying to save you and Saria!” That seemed to shut him up for a moment, so she continued, “For a long time, I thought that you were dead. Then I found out that you were the one causing all of this. But I still had hope that I could bring you back…” She sighed, glancing at his red eyes. “I’m starting to think that you might be too far gone.”
The Alpha frowned. “How can I prove to you that I’m not?”
“That depends,” she said. “How much of Bear is left in you?”
“Figure it out.” Ashera straightened, walking towards the door. She looked over her shoulder and said, “And then we’ll talk.”
The guards brought her back to a cell, separated from the others. They stationed themselves outside of it, and Ashera swore under her breath. Getting out of here would be harder than she’d thought.
So, instead of trying to escape, she thought back on her conversation with the Alpha. In reality, she had meant much of what she had said to him. The only thing she was lying about was the last part. He was not too far gone to bring back with the Orb of Reality; it could do anything. But, she also had no intention of talking to him. She would escape as soon as possible, grab the Orb, and use it once they were safely away from the tower.
But, first, they had to find Saria. Ashera knew that the Alpha was keeping her here, somewhere under his control. She also knew that she herself was being kept separate from the other prisoners. Hopefully Fox or Ryan had found Saria already.
Although it had been bandaged and mostly healed, the wound that Rickshaw had left on her abdomen still twinged with pain, so Ashera brought her hand to her chest. She let her magic flow through her veins as usual, but frowned because the warmth didn’t spread through her. She tried it again, but her body stayed cool, her wound still singing. She tried to conjure the ball of light in her palm, and watched as it gathered and immediately dissipated. She let out a cry of frustration.
“Is something the matter, m’lady?” a guard asked.
“My magic isn’t working.”
“Again, just a precaution m’lady.”
“What? What did you do?”
“Those gloves prevent you from creating any sort of magical essence,” she answered. Ashera tried then to tug the gloves off of her wrists, but they felt as if they had been molded to her skin like stone. “You cannot take them off, m’lady.”
“Yeah I figured that out.”
“My apologies m-”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Ashera said. She layed on the cot placed at the corner of the cell, wincing as her torso made contact. She frowned at the weakness she felt. She had had her magic for such a long time that it seemed odd to not feel its presence.
She lay there, bored, and as always, her thoughts turned to Bear. He wasn’t completely gone yet; when she looked into the Alpha’s eyes-clouded as they were with darkness-she could still see the familiar spark of her old friend. He still cared about her, and he was still inside there, fighting. Ashera hoped that his fighting would give her the time to save him.
That night, when sleep took Ashera, she dreamt of a world that seemed familiar. The trees and the elves walking around her smiled at her kindly, and it felt like home. She knew that in some strange way, this was less of a dream but more a memory. A long-lost memory of something that had never occured.
She walked through the crowds and huts, feeling that sense of innocent joy that she hadn’t felt in such a long time. Strength of Bear was with her and, hand in hand, they walked to a beautiful, lily-filled pond.
“Promise me you’ll never leave me,” she said.
“I promise,” he replied, squeezing her hands. “Even when I am gone in body and strength, I will forever be present in your heart. My spirit will protect you, and it always will.”
“And when you die?”
Bear smiled softly, the moonlight reflecting off of his face. The darkness had not yet touched him, and he looked as innocent and kind as he did even before he got his title. “Then I’ll need you to remember…”
The dream faded, and when Ashera awoke the next morning, she found her heart heavy with a sense of sorrow, for she had not heard whatever it was that Strength of Bear wanted for her to remember.
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