Ch. 4 Zaxel's POV.
Severs appear carrying full trays with an array of food, delivering them to every table. A male server places a foreign dish containing some kind of eggplant pasta, dark vegetables, steamed potatoes, and honey-glazed meat in front of me before refilling my drink. Another server quickly discards a dish in front of Wraith, while an additional plate is set to my left. It isn't until then that I realize a person is sitting on my other side.
I try not to cringe at the elaborate white gold accessories he dons, screaming he's overcompensating. I imagine it's to take the attention away from his gaunt features.
Deciding to be polite, I introduce myself to him. "Salutations. I'm Zaxel VonDante."
"Salutations, Fieren Dour." He offers, lifting his chalice in cheers.
Ah. Dour. He's an Original descendant. A powerful one from what I've gathered, which has earned him a seat at the Eternal's table. I also heard he'll probably be the next Eternal if Raydon doesn't produce an Heir soon.
"I've never been to the Radiant Palace," He declares, looking at me in a thoughtful and curious manner. "What's it like?"
With his pale skin, I doubt he's been anywhere. While eating, I tell him about my Kingdom, about what our annual Autumn Solstice celebration would look like right now if I were there. I share what music we listen to and the dishes we serve. In exchange, he tells me a few things about the Oblivion Court. Mostly how he utilizes the few hours of sunlight they have for hunting furred animals he calls lycamos in their mountains. The topic bores me. After a few drinks in, he urges me to tell him about the fashion on my Court, not so subtly working his way up to learn about our females.
A few times he tried to engage with Wraith, but she ignored him, and I refuse to acknowledge how much that pleased me.
Silence descends until we finish eating and Wraith finally says her first words since arriving, "Is the female from your Court going to live?"
Not only am I shocked to hear her strangely low oboe voice again, which carries a melancholic yet nostalgic intonation, but her question surprises me and I nearly spit up my wine. She's concerned about someone's life?
I swallow my drink. "Honestly, I can't say for sure." A flicker of emotion crosses her face, but before I could discern it, she quickly returns to impervious.
"Is her recovery process ineffectual?" She asks, staring down at her barely touched food.
I scan her empty features, unable to tell if she's jabbing at my Court or if she's sincerely wondering. "We are the illustrious Court of influential healers and divine cosmic wielders. So you can be certain we're using every resource in our possession to aid in her convalescence."
Her silver eyes slightly soften as they meet mine, "I meant no offense. I'm genuinely concerned to know if this is treatable."
Core, her eyes. I don't think I could ever get used to them, or her voice for that matter.
I nod and place my drink on the table. "There's only so much we can do, we've never seen a garole victim before, let alone a survivor. We're going into this blind. All treatments for her are experimental. Whatever that foul demon did to her goes beyond physical health." The topic conjures the memory of Ophelia depleted and suffering. Fury bleeds into my tone. "It wasn't just her life it drained, but her powers as well. Now, all that's left are disfigured remnants of what she once was."
Wraith's gaze was unwavering as she listened. "I'm sorry that happened to her."
Her mournful voice exuded earnestness. It stuns me. Is this the same Wraith I've heard referred to as a ruthless killer? Because she's the first person to express compassion towards Ophelia other than Ophelia's family, my own, Trent, and Natheel. "Thank you."
A shadow of a smile plays on her lips before she averts her focus to the large fire in front of us. Her spirits caress her skin gently, like a lover's touch. She doesn't even react as though immune. It staggers me how they've been misrepresented. I've heard they're dangerous, and I'm not disdaining that. It's just intriguing to me how tenderly they're behaving. Add that to the fact I've never seen anything like them.
"What are they?" She looks at me with a raised brow. "Your shadows." I clarify.
Her eyes drop to where her hand holds her champagne glass. The shadow creatures sense her attention on them and flitter between her fingers and up her arm. "They didn't have a name, so I call them Shades. They're living beings much like you and me, yet they don't hold a physical shape. They don't feed. They don't breathe. They simply... exist."
"They're unnatural is what they are," Fieren mutters dryly.
His comment irks me, and I glance at Wraith, expecting it to have offended her. My throat bobs as I instead catch the fondness in her eyes as she looks at them, completely unstirred by his remark. I had always assumed whatever they had was a symbiotic relationship of some sort. Now I'm realizing what they have is a bond.
One of the Shades extends towards me, reaching out with a curiosity that reflects my own. Smiling, I lift a hand to touch it, and I'm startled by its cold feather-like quality. It's not an uncomfortable feeling, and I begin imagining what it'd be like living with these things attached to me.
After a moment of exploring, it coyly returns to her.
"Do they think you're their master?"
Her forehead creases a bit. "No. I don't own them. They're free to leave if they want to but they insist on staying to protect me."
I inch closer to her, completely enthralled with what I'm learning. No one ever knew they even had a name, and now I'm getting first-hand information about them from the Wraith herself. They're protecting her.
The inquisitive side of me demands more. "They chose you?"
The corner of her lips quirks in a hint of a smile, the first I've seen. "It was a mutual agreement made when I was a child. We promised to help each other survive except I've always seen them as more than just extra strength, and they've seen me as more than just a vessel. We're unbreakable companions."
I straighten. A vessel? So she did make some form of deal with them where they could use her as their host. I knew there was some truth to the rumor. Now I'm even more intrigued. I want to know what that 'mutual agreement' is. What brought them together when she was younger? Can they survive without her?
I'm getting a delicious taste of the things that make the Wraith enigmatic. She must realize it, too, because her smile fades and indifference replaces it.
Oh, I'm not letting you go that easily. I'm starving for more of the secrets she carries. My fascination for irregular things goes beyond passion- I'm obsessed. And she's the incarnation of an anomaly.
I rise from my seat and remove my green coat. Her eyes track every movement and I bite my lip to stifle a cocky smile. "A dance?" I extend a hand to her. She raises a dark brow at it.
"What? Can't move unless it's to kill?" I taunted.
Rather than playful annoyance or irritation, she flinches as though my words had bit her before quickly recomposing herself. I notice the Shades hug her like a blanket.
Well, that didn't go as expected.
She rises from her seat and walks past my outstretched hand towards the dance floor. I stand there balking at her slighting. I'm the Radiant Heir. No female has ever disregarded me as though I were unremarkable. Just who is this female? And why does that arouse me?
Before I turn to follow her, I catch sight of the Umbra Eternal watching me with stern disconcerting eyes. Odd. He distrusts me to dance with his assassin, yet he'll allow her to leave with me to my Court?
A thought jostles me. Being the Umbra Eternal's personal spy and assassin would make her the most likely person to know about his dirty secrets. How didn't I think of that sooner? I bet hiding beneath her hardened exterior holds valuable insight into this Court's inner dynamics that'd prove most beneficial to me. This propels me into motion, and I spin with shameless determination toward the open floor.
Tonight, little Wraith, your mysteries will be mine.
I prowl behind her at a sedate pace as she approaches the giant bonfire.
She casts a challenging glance back at me, making her braid drape over her shoulder, then maunders along the flames as she moves to the opposite side. My gaze locks on her naked back as she walks, transfixed on the section between her shoulder blades, delighted to find it bare.
I don't blink. My attention never wavers as I keep her in my sights, like a predator stalking their target. I'm sure she's not used to being the prey- as the one who usually lurks in the shadows. She has no idea what I have in store for her tonight while she sleeps unguarded, where her dreams will be accessible for me to delve into.
Her silvery eyes meet mine from across the intense orange inferno. When the song changes to one with a heavy beat, Play With Fire, she begins to sway, moving her hips along with the rhythm like a snake hypnotizing its unsuspecting victim.
Chattering from every table ceases as they watch her dumbfounded, like they can't believe they're witnessing the ruthless Wraith do anything but kill.
I honestly can't believe it either, and just like them, I can't look away. There's something dangerous yet exquisitely enrapturing about the way her eyes beckon me, persuading me to come closer before she sinks her teeth into me.
Blood rushes to my cock at the thought of her fangs in my flesh.
As if reading my mind to tease me, her tongue darts out to wet her red lips. All thoughts vanish as the primitive parts in me assume command, unleashed by my ravening impulses.
She gropes her body as she continues to dance by herself rhythmically to the music. I focus on her hand as it glides over her breast, slowly climbing until finally closing her metal-covered fingers around her throat. Her entire left leg is exposed all the way to her hip, giving me a delicious view of her slender thigh. The Shades move too, mimicking the motions of the flames as though she were the fire.
Core. My feral urge to have her is demanding.
Shaking off my lust-filled daze, I internally reprimand myself. I cannot forget that she's the enemy and get burned by her tempting allure.
The moment I reach her, I pull her hand from her throat forcefully causing her to stumble into my chest.
Upon our contact, sparks storm through every nerve fiber in my body. Oxygen is no longer a vital thing as breathing her in becomes more essential than air. My muscles tense, lust infuses with my blood, and my fangs drip with venom. The sudden inclination to sink my teeth into her soft inviting neck becomes irresistibly compelling.
Mercifully, the stares and whispers of everyone around us clears my head and immediately sobers me. What in Core's name was that?
Feeling self-conscious, I straighten and simulate detachment. "Careful or your fearsome reputation will be tarnished by your clumsiness," I said sourly, ruffled by my susceptibility to Wraith's allure.
She looks up at me with flushed skin of surprise and embarrassment before clenching her teeth and glaring at me. I'm astonished by her size. Even in her heels she's barely up to my chin. How's someone as powerful as her so small?
My free hand slides around her thin waist, trapping her in my hold. Fuck. Her tight little body is doing things to me.
I smirk as I hear her heart accelerate, discovering that my touch affects her too. Oh, it will. I just have to be careful when I tether to her, she's powerful so she might sense it.
A cold draft skates over my hand and I look to discover the Shades have crawled towards our joining, curling around our wrists. Are they... shackling us together? Instead of being revolted by the idea, I want to laugh. Judging by Wraith's lethal glare at them, I doubt she's telling them to do this. I wonder if they've done this with anyone else? The thought brings forth a jealous possessiveness that has no business consorting with Wraith. Despite that sensible assertion, my hands tighten around her, gripping her so she can't leave. She gives a low, throaty growl of annoyance, looking towards the flames as if they could save her.
No little Wraith, nothing can save you now.
She avoids meeting my gaze as I guide our movements. I grit my teeth in irritation. This is a first for me. Females are usually demanding my attention, yet here I am working for hers.
"So how does one become the Wraith of Shadows?" I ask, knowing it'll get a reaction from her.
Her eyes snap to mine with venom. "Ask again and I'll show you." She answers sweetly.
I chuckle at her threat. "Touchy."
"How does one become the Radiant Golden Boy?" She returns with an acerbic edge in her tone.
I grin roguishly at the nickname. If she thought I'd take it as an insult, she was wrong. "By pleasing a lot of females." I purr, following it up with a wink.
She blushes and tries to pull away. "You're intolerable."
"Not so fast." I tighten my grip on her to the point she hisses in pain. "We just got started." I pull her completely flush against me and she makes a small noise in protest.
Suddenly I'm met with an intoxicating scent of night jasmine and honey. Core, why does she have to smell so good too? More than ever, I wish it wasn't Wraith I was dancing with. It's been a while since I've fucked and there's no way I'd get involved with her.
"You could at least give me some space." She rasps, trying to come across as frustrated, but her breathlessness gives away her nerves.
I dip my chin so my mouth is just above her ear. "You're working with me now, Wraith. Get used to being in my company."
I feel her shiver as my lip brushes the shell of her ear. My forehead creases. She responds to my touch so easily, too easily, for someone said to be hardened and emotionless.
"Well, my company will not be easy to get used to." She says, "You'll soon come to realize I prefer to work alone."
"Same here, Wraith. But like it or not, we're stuck together. Cooperate and I'll tell your Eternal what a good girl you were."
She stiffens. Her long metallic nails dig into me. The Shades also tighten, becoming almost constrictive, no longer soft and feather-like.
Oh, that set her off.
She doesn't respond, and I admit it leaves me disappointed. Her fiery comebacks enliven me. I note her reaction. Who knows when it might come in handy.
The song ends and once again she tries to step away. Still, my hold remains firm. "I'm not done yet." I've yet to find an opening to tether to her without her noticing.
Her eyes glide up to mine in annoyance and my breath punches out of me. With our proximity, I can make out specs of gold sprinkled throughout her silver eyes I didn't notice before. "What is it that you want, Golden Boy? If it's a bed warmer tonight, keep looking, I have no interest in being your evening's entertainment despite being your 'evening's entertainment.'"
I have to refrain from gawking at her. Is that why the Umbra Eternal instructed her to accompany me? I wanted to ruin him before. Now, I want to obliterate him. How dare he try to manipulate me with sex. And just where does Wraith get the nerve to refuse me? She seems to believe she's above me. I'm guessing she doesn't know a lot about the rules of social courting because rejecting a powerful male so brazenly only encourages them to try harder since we do not like to feel impotent, especially by someone like the Wraith. But I hold that instinct back.
The irritation I have from her galling dismissal brings forth an inclination to remind her of her place and regain control over the situation. I scoff with disinterest. "Don't flatter yourself. I'd never stoop low enough to fuck the Wraith. There are other females from your Court of Horrors I would rut before considering a toothpick like you."
She doesn't cower or flinch or react to my words as a normal person would. Her composure remains unwavering. It's annoyingly impressive. For a second I truly believe that she might be as cold and heartless as people say she is. But then I remember the Shades. They mold against her, creating a barrier between us, guarding her against whatever they think causes her pain or distress.
I smile wickedly and she swallows. Got you.
"Then what do you want?" She repeats firmly.
"I want to know about your Court," I state as though it were obvious.
Her eyes narrow on me distrustfully. "It's clear you've already formed an opinion since you just called us the Court of Horrors. Despite our Divinity symbolizing ruin and chaos, we Primordials have the ability to be just as peaceful as any of the other Courts."
I sort a laugh. "Peace? What do you know of peace, Wraith?"
A flash of pain enters her eyes. The Shades curl around her throat so tightly I wonder if she can breathe.
Why'd those words affect her so much? She can kill ruthlessly, but if someone mentions it she gets upset? Where's the fairness in that?
"You know nothing about me." She hisses, fighting my hold once again.
Knowing I was about to lose her, I quickly dropped her into a dip and she gasps. Her shock made it easy to push my tether into the hand that I still held.
A devilish grin unfurls as I hold her there, suspended in the air, causing her to cling to me. "Soon, Wraith, I'll know more about you than you'd wish to share. Every. Single. Secret." I threaten. "Until we catch the garole responsible for the deaths of my people, you're stuck with me. Your Shades won't protect you in the Radiant Palace; there are no shadows to blend into. You'll be exposed to me just like your victims were to you. And I promise that if you show even the slightest bit of hostility towards my people I'll give you the same mercy you've given others."
She spears me with a dark look and smiles villainously in response, the smile I'd expect to see on the Wraith of Shadows. If it weren't for the Shades recoiling in agony, I never would've noticed it was crafted to hide her distress.
"I'd like to see you try."
About the Creator
I never believed the sky is the limit, therefore my passions are expansive. My interest in writing stemmed from poetry but my heart lead me to Sci-Fi Fantasy. Consequently, my stories are plot-driven with splashes of evocative elements.
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