An angel fair, with shining wings

A voice of splendor when she sings

Is trapped, alone beneath the earth

Imprisoned for her heavenly worth

Her captors, to torment her soul

Whisper lies and mock her goal

Her light, which should shine bright as day

In darkness starts to fade away

Her strength dies with each passing hour

And so, much like a wilting flower

She crumples in her darkened cell

Succumbing to the demon’s spell

But one dark fiend harbored inside

Pity for the tears she cried

He watched her, as she lay in chains

And wished that he could ease her pain

And so he plotted day and night

And hatched a plan to end her plight

His life he risked to free the girl

And shining wings at last unfurled

She beat them once, then twice, but found

Her feet stayed planted on the ground

Deprived of light, she could not fly

“Alas,” she thought, “My time is nigh.”

For troops from hell were swarming in

To drag her to her cell again

But they laid not even a hand

Upon the maid from heaven-land

For taking her into his arms

The fiend bore her away from harm

Demons pursued, and so they fled

The fiend’s great wings above them spread

The damsel’s trust was not yet earned

And for that honor the fiend yearned

He told her he was on her side

“I don’t believe you,” she replied

But, through reason she was shown

She would not make it far alone

And so the fiend she chose to trust

Until her plan she could adjust

And as they fought, side by side

Defending her became his pride

While they warred in freedom’s name

Her view of him began to change

So by the time they reached the sun

A strange friendship had begun

They reached the gates of heaven’s light

Which will admit no child of night

Unwilling to desert her friend

The angel chose not to go in

On earth the pair now choose to stay

Monsters they’ve been known to slay

The friendship forged beneath the earth

Now indeed has proved its worth

Not demons or the hounds of hell

Can force these friends to bid farewell

This friendship built with iron strength

Will last through all eternity’s length

 

Copyright 2014 Arthwaya Valora

Advertisements

I sucked air into my lungs, breathing in the smell of sweat. My fists stung from the repeated impact against the punching bag. I could feel the skin beginning to peal off my knuckles from the force of the punches I was throwing, but I didn’t care. I focused on each movement of my muscles, keeping my heart rate and breathing controlled as I focused on the punching bag in front of me.

Speed. My father was drilling Shiva for speed again. He’d been focusing on speed for the last few days, and I’d been excelling at it. Speed was built into every fiber of my body. I was good at this. But of course, no one noticed.

I glanced over at Shiva, who was struggling to maintain the grueling pace our father had set for him. Shiva was fast, but he wasn’t fast enough. Not fast enough to make our father happy. He wasn’t as fast as me.

“I’ll bet even your sister could do better than that!” Father exclaimed.

I turned to face him, wondering if he’d seen how flawlessly I’d kept up with his commands, but he wasn’t looking at me. He was glaring at Shiva, and Shiva was looking dejectedly at his toes.

There was a long silence. I could feel my heart beating in my chest. Maybe this was my chance.

“You’re right,” I said. Father and Shiva both looked up at the sound of my voice. They turned to face me, as if seeing me for the first time.

“What?” Father asked, frowning. “Did you say something?”

“I said you’re right,” I repeated. “I can do better than him.”

Father laughed. “Go bake a pie, Rajani,” he said.

“No, I mean it. I’ll prove it,” I said, feeling anger churning in my stomach. If he would just give me a chance, he would see.

“Alright, we’re watching,” Father said, crossing his arms and looking at me with a strange expression on his face, like amusement mixed with boredom.

I turned to face the punching bag. I narrowed my eyes and focused on it, breathing deeply to calm myself. I was strong. I was fast. I could do this, and I would show them all.

I glanced at my father, waiting for his commands. He began to bark out orders, slowly at first, then increasing his pace until I was punching, kicking, and slashing at the bag so fast I almost forgot to breathe. There was no time to think about each action, it was just instinct, just reacting to the sound of my fathers voice urging me to move faster.

Then he stopped, and the room fell silent. I threw all my strength into the last punch, slamming my fist into the bag. I felt the shock of the impact travel up my arm. I would be sore tomorrow. Something wet was on my hands, and looking down I saw that my knuckles were bleeding. I looked at the punching bag and saw several red streaks where my blood had been smeared across its surface.

Finally I turned to face my father. He was still looking at me with that bored yet mildly amused expression. My chest rose and fell rapidly as I tried to catch my breath. Sweat was dripping into my eyes, stinging them. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, measuring time. Ten heartbeats. Twenty heartbeats. Thirty heartbeats, and still my father hadn’t moved or spoken.

Finally his lips parted and my cat ears perked up as I waited to hear his words. He would be proud of me now. He would see my potential, he had to! He would praise me for doing such a good job and apologize for not recognizing my skill sooner. I straightened my shoulders, ready to bask in his approval.

“Not bad,” he said, “for a girl.” Then he turned and walked out of the training room without a backward glance. My shoulders sagged and I stared at the door where he had gone. That was all? Hadn’t I done well enough? I had done better than Shiva! I let out a hiss and slammed my fist into the punching bag again. It hurt, but not as much as my father’s empty words.

Turning away from the bloodied bag I stalked out of the room, my tail thrashing angrily behind me. I found a bandage and wrapped up my knuckles, then began prowling around the hallways of the huge mansion.

Why did my father pay so much more attention to Shiva than he did to me? In my mind Shiva was a freak – more animal than human. When I looked at those red eyes I saw a beast, not a person, and I knew my father felt the same. I’d heard him say so.

So why couldn’t he see that he didn’t have to put up with his defective son? Why couldn’t he see that the child he wanted was right here? I may be a girl, but I would show him that I could be as good as any son. Maybe better.

I rounded a corner and came across Shiva, who was nursing a scrape on his knee that he must have received during the training session.

“Why do you even try?” I asked him bitterly. He looked up at me, confused. “You know you’ll never be good enough. You’re just a freak, and father will never love you. No one will ever love you.”

Shiva glared at me with his red eyes. “At least I’m not a girl. I’m the son he wants,” he said.

“You’re not the son he wants, you’re a cheep substitute that he puts up with because he doesn’t have a better one,” I said. “He’ll never be happy with you because you’re not strong like Chand.” Chand was our older half brother. He was the perfect son in almost every way, except that he was a half-breed. His father had been a bird-different from Japan. Our family had worked hard to keep the panther line pure, so the existence of a half-panther was a shame to us. Father would never accept Chand, but Shiva still had to live up to his strength, courage, and intelligence if he wanted father to accept him. He couldn’t let himself be outdone by a half-breed.

Shiva’s lip quivered a bit. “Oh, did I hurt your feelings? Why don’t you go run to mama?” I taunted.

He snarled and tried to punch me, but I ducked under his arm and brought the heel of my hand up to connect with his chin. The impact felt very satisfying.

Shiva yelped and staggered back, spitting blood. “Look at that! You just lost to a girl!” I laughed. “Too bad father wasn’t here to see it.” With that I turned and marched away, anger still churning inside me.

To Be Continued…

< Chapter One

Copyright 2014 Arthwaya Valora & Alvara101

 

I was eight years old, standing in the training room where my father worked on his combat skills. My twin brother Shiva was standing in front of a punching bag, his forehead creased in concentration as he tried to obey our father’s orders. I copied his position, my muscles twitching in anticipation as I faced my imaginary opponent.

“Left, left, right, kick, slash,” father barked out a sequence of commands, increasing the pace as he continued. Every day before dinner Pardus would take Shiva to the training room and drill him. Because I had nothing better to do, I was allowed to tag along. I wanted to learn to fight too, but father never took the time to teach me, so I had to learn from observing Shiva’s lessons. I’d once asked my father if he would instruct me, but he said he didn’t have the time to waste. He’d always underestimated me because I was female, but I was determined to show him I was just as good as my brothers.

The smell of sweat began to fill the room as the drill continued. Shiva’s bare chest glistened, and my long hair clung to my sweaty face. Sunlight streamed through the windows, heating the room until it felt like we were in a sauna.

“Faster!” Father barked, and I quickened my pace, trying to keep up with his rapid-fire commands. My foot slipped and I stumbled, grabbing hold of the punching bag to keep from losing my balance.

“No, no, no,” Father scolded. I looked up and saw that he was glaring down at Shiva, his hands on his hips. My brother must have missed one of the commands, unable to keep up with the pace.

“Try it again, and pay more attention this time,” he ordered, and began barking out commands once more. I gave my full attention to the punching bag in front of me, feeling the satisfying jolt of each impact. My breath grew ragged and I was sure I was going to miss a step; I couldn’t keep up with this pace much longer. Sweat dripped down my forehead and into my eyes, stinging painfully. Finally the orders stopped and I stood panting and staring in wonder at the punching bag. I’d kept up! I wasn’t sure how I’d done it, but I’d kept up! I was about to let out a shout of joy and run to my father in excitement, but then his harsh voice sobered me.

“That still isn’t good enough. Keep practicing, the next time we train you’d better be able to keep up.” Shiva nodded and looked dejectedly at the punching bag that had managed to conquer him again. His muscles were trembling from exhaustion and he swung another halfhearted punch at the bag as father turned away.

“Father!” I exclaimed, wanting to attract his attention. I wanted to tell him that I’d kept up with his demanded speed. I wanted him to be proud of me. But he didn’t even glance my way as he passed, heading to dinner.

“Shiva!” I cried, turning to my brother. I was excited and wanted to tell someone about my success, and he was the only one still here. “I kept up!” I boasted.

“Don’t tell tales,” he scolded, smacking the punching back and watching it swing lazily.

“I’m not telling tales! I really did keep up!” I exclaimed, my voice rising in frustration.

“If I couldn’t keep up than you sure couldn’t either,” he informed me.

“That’s not so! I’m as good as you, maybe better!” I declared.

“Prove it then,” he challenged.

“I will, just you watch! You and father both, I’ll show you I’m as good as any boy!” I yelled at him, then turned and ran from the room, upset that everyone seemed to think I was useless. I’d show them, I’d show them all, and I’d make father proud. I’d make him love me.

< Prologue ~ Chapter Two >

Copyright 2014 Arthwaya Valora & Alvara101

It was a bitter December night. Frost crept up the glass on the windows of the old Minnesota mansion and snow swirled outside, while the wind rattled the windowpanes like it was determined to find a way into this ancient refuge. Every light in the house was on, and people rushed around frantically. Somewhere upstairs a woman was screaming in agony. A boy ran through the door into the parlor where a man was seated before the dying fire, reading a newspaper.

“Mother’s calling for you. She’s in a lot of pain,” the youth said, his brow creased with worry.

“I’m busy,” the man said gruffly, not bothering to look up from his paper.

“But…” the boy began, but was cut off by a sharp rebuke.

“Shoo!” the man snapped, releasing the paper long enough to wave a hand dismissively at the boy, who turned and exited the room reluctantly.

A few minutes later the man folded his newspaper and made his way to the bedroom where the exhausted woman was lying. The smell of blood hung in the air and he wrinkled his nose in disgust as he approached her bedside. Her dark eyes looked nervously up at him as she pulled aside the blankets to show the face of the tiny child at her side.

“Boy or girl?” he asked harshly.

“She’s a girl. Her name is Rajani,” the woman said.

“A girl?” he bellowed. “You gave me a girl? You gave a son to the last man, but you curse me with a daughter?”

She winced at his words, then let out a cry of pain as her body contorted. “There’s another,” the nurse said, hurrying to the laboring woman’s side.

“If it’s a girl, drown it,” he ordered, turning for the door. “One is bad enough.”

It was hours later when the second child was finally delivered. The exhausted mother clutched her two children close, barely able to keep herself awake as she waited for her husband to return. He kept her waiting for a long time, then finally he appeared.

“Well?” he asked, crossing his arms.

“You have a son,” she said tiredly. “His name is Shiva.”

The man looked down at the baby, still pink and wet from its birth. The tiny eyes opened and peered up at the father, who recoiled at the sight. “What is THAT?”

“His eyes. Aren’t they gorgeous?” the mother said with a tender smile at her son. The baby’s crimson eyes closed again and he nestled closer to her side.

“They’re hideous. You’ve given me a defective child,” he complained. He looked down at the boy with a resigned sigh. “He’ll have to do,” he decided, then turned on his heal and left the room, closing the door loudly behind him.

Chapter One >

Copyright 2014 Arthwaya Valora & Alvara101

 

Twitter: @Arthwaya

DeviantArt: http://arthwaya.deviantart.com/

http://rhettandlinkommunity.com/profile/Arthwaya

Dr. Wesley A. Canton was rummaging through the papers on his desk when the phone rang, startling him and making him drop several paper clips on the floor. He glanced at the caller I.D. and then picked up the phone.

“Harrison, you’re finally returning my calls. What took so long?” he said into the mouthpiece of the phone.

“I’ve been out of town,” Dr. Harrison replied.

“I’ve been talking to Hugo and according to him you’re both giving up on getting Kalinda. Is that true?”

“Yes, it is. We bit off more than we could chew last time. That assassin, Axiss, was there to protect her,” Harrison said.

“But you’re not planning to just give up are you?” Canton prompted. “You’ve got to try again!”

“Hugo and I have decided not to go back. She could make us a fortune, I know, but it isn’t worth risking our lives for.”

“Risking your lives? I hardly think you would be in any danger,” Canton scoffed. “She’s just a girl, after all.”

“As I recall, you were the one who was too cowardly to come with us the first time,” Harrison said defensively. “She’s not ‘just a girl,’ she has some rather frightening friends.”

“Yes, I know. Axiss the assassin. So you met him, did you? Now you can see why I decided not to come along. But if you’ve been watching the news you’ll know that Axiss is dead,” Canton informed his friend. “He was arrested and dealt capital punishment for his crimes. With him out of the way I thought I might come help you, and now you’re telling me that you’re too scared to go back?”

“Axiss may be gone, but he wasn’t our only problem. She has her brother watching out for her, and even she herself can be dangerous when she’s threatened,” Harrison argued.

“Kalinda? Dangerous? She’s a healer, she wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Canton scoffed.

“I thought the same, until she stabbed me in the arm with a knife,” Harrison stated. “I don’t think we should underestimate her.”

“She really stabbed you?” Canton asked. “Wouldn’t have thought she had it in her. But obviously you lived to tell about it, so it couldn’t have been too serious,” he reasoned.

“Maybe not, but my point still stands,” Harrison said. “The money isn’t worth the risk. I think we should let it go.”

“Are you kidding me? The police even took your side, from what Hugo told me. How can you pass up such a golden opportunity?”

“Well I don’t see you rushing in after her,” Harrison snapped.

“Maybe I will, now that the creepy guy is dead!” Canton shot back.

“Trust me Canton, going after that girl on your own is just plain foolish, and don’t expect Hugo and I to help you. If you want her, you’re on your own, but if you know what’s good for you you’ll take my advice and leave her be.”

“Fine, I’ll leave her be,” Canton grumbled. He slammed the phone down without waiting for a reply from Harrison. Deep down he knew he wouldn’t have had the guts to go after her anyway, even if Harrison had asked him too. He sighed and returned to rummaging around on his desk. Maybe someday I’ll get up enough courage to go get her, he thought. But not today. 

< Chapter Forty-Five

Copyright 2014 Arthwaya Valora & Alvara101

It was a few weeks since Axiss had left, and I was sitting in the living room watching the news while May and Marie played with their stuffed animals on the floor. I wasn’t really paying much attention to the television; I was just staring at it while my mind wandered. I was thinking about Axiss, wondering where he was now and if he was ok. I didn’t have to wonder long.

Something on the TV caught my eye and I focused on it, than sat up straight when I realized it was a picture of Axiss. “An escaped serial killer known as Axiss was arrested this morning in New Hampshire and taken to the state prison in Concord,” the news reporter was saying. “Police informed us that the convict has already been dosed with the new Dissimilis drug in order to prevent any future escapes. Citizens can rest easy knowing that this time, Axiss will remain behind bars.”

I grabbed the remote and hit the power button, silencing the reporter as the television screen went dark. “No…” I moaned, resting my head in my hands. “Please, no.”

I was still sitting there when Ylva got home from work. She took one look at me and knew that something was wrong. “Kalinda?” she said, walking over and putting a hand on my shoulder.

“Axiss is in jail,” I informed her. “They’re using that new drug to keep him from escaping again.”

I felt the couch cushion shift beneath me as Ylva sat down. “I’m going to go see him again,” I decided.

“Kalinda…” she started.

“I’m going,” I said firmly, cutting her off. My mind was made up.

“Alright,” she said reluctantly. I could tell she thought it was a bad idea, but she knew she couldn’t talk me out of it. I stood up and pulled out my cell phone, did a few Google searches and then sat down and started making phone calls.

It took a long time before I was finally given an appointment to see Axiss. There were all kinds of hoops to jump through. In the meantime the news reports kept on updating me as Axiss was tried and found guilty for crime after crime. He didn’t even try to defend himself, he simply pleaded guilty. After a few days I stopped watching. The stories were too painful for me, and I already knew what the result would be anyway. Axiss would be in prison for the rest of his life. He wouldn’t be able to escape again while they were using Rakta’s drug on him.

After weeks of phone calls and paperwork my background checks were completed and everything was finally in order for me to visit Axiss. Shiva offered to come with me, but this time I wanted to go alone. I took a bus from Boston to Concord, and spent the whole drive trying to figure out what I wanted to say to him, since this was probably the last time I’d ever get to talk to him, but when I sat down on my side of the bullet proof glass I still didn’t know what I was going to say.

I had a feeling of déjà vu as I looked at Axiss through the glass. He seemed to be moving a bit sluggishly and I guessed it was a side effect of the drug they were giving him. He kept his head lowered, staring at the ground, and for several seconds we were both silent.

“I’d hoped this wouldn’t happen,” I said finally. He didn’t respond, and I swallowed dryly and tried again. “I probably won’t get to see you again, so…” I stopped as Axiss looked up at me, his red eyes meeting mine.

“Capital,” he said. One word. One horrible word. It took a moment for my brain to accept the meaning behind the word. They weren’t just going to imprison him; they were going to kill him.

“NOOO!” I screamed, flying to my feet and sending my chair skidding backwards across the floor. My hands were clenched in fists at my sides. This couldn’t be happening!

“Yes, Kalinda,” Axiss said quietly. My fists opened and I pressed my palms against the glass to steady myself. Tears began to spill from my eyes, blurring my vision.

“They can’t… they can’t do this,” I choked out.

“They can,” Axiss said, “And I deserve it.”

I wanted to deny it, to say that this was wrong and unjust, but I knew it wasn’t true. Axiss did deserve this, but I still didn’t want to see it happen to him.

I wanted to say goodbye. I wanted to tell him how much I cared, how much I would miss him, how glad I was that I’d known him, but I couldn’t speak. My throat had sealed itself shut, but there was one gesture that I knew he would understand. I touched my hand to my heart and then extended it toward his, pressing it against the glass that was in my way. It was the gesture I had used to say thank you all those years ago, before I had healed my voice. Now I used it to communicate how grateful I was for those days we had spent together on the roof. For the time when he had been my friend.

Axiss looked at me for a long moment, then he slowly touched his hand to his heart and pressed it against the glass opposite to mine. I looked at our hands, his dark and mine pale, and my mind went back to the day on the roof when he had called me his friend. “Ami, friend,” he had said, and then he had pressed his hand against mine.

Ami, friend. The words echoed in my mind as I looked at our hands, separated by the glass. The two gestures merged in my mind into one message. Thank you, friend. I raised my eyes to his face. His red eyes met my golden ones and held them for a long moment.

I raised my other hand and kissed it, then pressed it against the glass as well. His expression softened and he gently touched the glass, taking my kiss, then stood staring down at his hand for several seconds before gently touching his cheek.

My vision began to swim and I watched blearily as he pressed both his hands back against the glass, opposite mine. I suddenly hated that glass more than anything, as if it was somehow responsible for keeping us apart. I wanted to feel his hands against mine.

The edges of my vision began to go dark and I felt myself falling. The last thing I saw was my hands slipping away from Axiss’ as I fell backwards. I was unconscious before I hit the ground.

The rest of the day was a blur for me. I remember waking up with a police officer standing over me, asking me if I was all right. I assured him that I would be fine. I don’t remember the trip home, but I must have taken a bus. When I reached the apartment I went straight to my room and curled up on my bed to cry.

It wasn’t long after that when an evening news story informed us that Axiss had been executed by lethal injection. There had been no question of Axiss’ guilt, and the families of countless victims had been lobbying for justice, resulting in one of the fastest convictions and executions our country had seen in decades. The television played security camera footage of Axiss being led into a small room and strapped onto the gurney, just moments before his death. I turned off the television, unable to watch any more.

I didn’t go back to the roof until months later. The snow had all melted away and the weather was warm and sunny when I stepped out onto the concrete surface. Everything seemed to remind me of Axiss, from the shed where he had lived to the bench where I’d fallen asleep. I circled the roof, gently touching places of significance as the memories came, one after the other. Some of them made me smile; others brought tears to my eyes.

Finally I made my way to the little shed and pushed the door open. Axiss’ coat was still lying on the floor where I’d put it the day that he left. Slowly I knelt down and picked it up. It still smelled like him, and I buried my face in the leather, closing my eyes to hold back my tears.

The sun was going down when I picked up the jacket and exited the shed. I climbed down the fire escape and crawled through my bedroom window. Kneeling down on the floor I pulled a box out from under my bed and removed the useless junk that was stored there. Neatly folding the leather trench coat I placed it in the box, then reached under my mattress and pulled out my diary, letting it fall open in my hands. It opened to the entry from the night of the masquerade ball.

He was so close tonight, I read. For a moment I thought he would do it, I thought he would try to change. That thought was the most wonderful thing ever. That moment of hope when I saw beyond his past and saw what he could become…

I turned the page, flipping through the diary. In some places my writing was large and sloppy, showing the emotional state I’d written them in. The last several pages were wrinkled and smudged from tears falling as I wrote. I slowly closed the diary and laid it on top of Axiss’ coat in the box. I carefully slid the box back under my bed and stood up. This chapter of my life, the part about Axiss, was over, but the memories couldn’t be tucked away as easily as the diary. I would always remember those crimson eyes, the leathery wings, and the rare sound of Axiss’ laughter. I would never forget the feeling of his arms around me, or the wind blowing through my hair as we flew. I would always remember the days when Axiss was my friend.

 THE END

< Chapter Forty-Four ~ Epilogue >

Copyright 2014 Arthwaya Valora & Alvara101