Despite her father’s blatant disregard for her feelings, Carmen loved Rega with all she was. Even though such feelings were not considered logical, Carmen knew with every fiber of her being that Rega was the love of her life.
Carmen’s head began to swim under the effects of the perception alternator. The too-sweet aftertaste washed through her mouth again, like the aftershock of an earthquake, bringing with it the essence of apple leaves and jasmine that controlled her wayward thoughts. For a moment, Carmen was stuck between the past and the present. She could feel herself leaning all of her weight against the kitchen counter. The effects of the tea began before Carmen had emptied her cup. Now, instead of simply feeling the effects weighing lightly against her, she was beginning to see them as well.
The world around her seemed to darken to simulate the visual sense of night, while the weight of her exhaustion bore down on her body. In a fleeting second, Carmen cursed herself for needing sleep to process the events of the day. It was only when preparing to sleep that she ever felt as weak as a mortal. She hadn’t realized it, but she looked just as weak to the eyes of the one she loved. Rega was at Carmen’s side in the same second that Carmen slumped against the counter top.
“Let’s get you to your chambers,” Rega muttered as she wrapped an arm around Carmen’s waist for additional support. Placing a steadying hand on Carmen’s shoulder, Rega gently lifted her into a standing position. She kept a soft grip to support most of Carmen’s weight as they moved. Carmen was astounded by how protected she felt in Rega’s arms.
Bracing herself against Rega comfortably, the pair made their way through the palace. While they passed through the throne room, Carmen gagged at the memories from the early hours. Once in the safety of the long hall that led to her father’s office, Carmen tried to support herself. Her attempt failed, causing her to stumble over her own feet and nearly taking them both down to the ground. The stairs at the end of the hall, just before Votoro’s office, were difficult.
Two flights of stairs, and twenty feet later, they were standing in front of the dark oak of Carmen’s bedroom door. “Thank you,” Carmen managed to whisper through the heavy slur of grogginess.
They stood in silence for a moment as Carmen comfortably leaned her head against Rega’s shoulder. Most of the Kingdom had gotten their share of sleep the night before, so they would not be sleeping for several days. Carmen, however, had things that could only be logically worked through in an unconscious state. Reluctantly, she attempted to free herself from the grasp of the beauty who supported her. She feared the attention. Carmen laughed as Rega’s grip tightened around her waist.
“I think I can make it to my bed,” Carmen offered as a reassurance, but her words failed as they slurred through the fatigue. Rega refused to let Carmen go, glaring at the Princess slightly as she forced them toward the door.
Carmen leaned further into Rega’s hold, causing the woman to stop in her tracks. In a quick motion, Carmen turned her head to give Rega a quick, chaste kiss on the cheek. The act caught Rega off guard, Carmen had never shown such affection in an open area before. So, Rega loosened her grip on Carmen’s waist. The moment of stunned silence and immobility was exactly what Carmen needed.
Freeing herself from the arms of the love of her life, Carmen sloshed to her bedroom door. She threw the door open under a heave of her effort. Because Carmen loved Rega so much, she could not allow the beauty to be punished for simply trying to help her get to bed. One of Votoro’s greatest rules was that none were to enter royal chambers while the occupant was preparing for sleep unless of royal descent themselves.
Rega, though having lived in the palace her whole life, was not of royal blood, therefore she would be ruthlessly punished for merely attempting to assist Carmen. They both knew this, but Rega still refused to follow that particular rule. Carmen would not let her be punished again on account of her own moment of weakness.
Carmen walked as quickly as her heavy legs would carry her through her bedroom door. She took a brief second to glance over her shoulder with a gentle smile. The shock in Rega’s eyes stuck in Carmen’s mind, but she would not let the image stop her. She took the moment of safety to whisper forbidden words before she closed her door, “I love you, Rega.” Once silence came, Carmen was alone in the sanctuary of her room.
Though she had lived in the palace since the day of her birth, Carmen still found herself feeling ill at ease when she gazed at the clear, polished emerald of the exterior of the structure. Though the walls that lined the inside of the palace were clouded for privacy, the walls that led to the exterior were as clear as a summers day sky. Carmen could see the glow of the city through the wall of her room, and the crisp aurora through the window carved into the six inch thick jewel wall. The natural glisten of royal-emerald-green of the walls seemed like transparent black through the haze of the visual perception change.
Carmen pushed off the door of her bedroom, moving sluggishly under her exhaustion as she felt her way toward her bed. Her lids drooped as sleep was so close, but still she looked unseeing over the contours of her room. Subconsciously she noticed a few books askew on the dark, polished oak of the wall length and height bookshelves that lined the wall next to her bedroom door. The thought did not remain long in her mind. She was now too tired to pay any attention to the nagging feelings that ran through her mind. The events of the day needed processing on a deep level, and in order for the processing to be complete, Carmen needed sleep.
The large king sized bed seemed less inviting as Carmen crawled into it. The plush, cloud fluffed mattress folded around her, seeming unnatural even though it had been her mattress since she was old enough to sleep in a regular bed. The feather down comforter folded around her like a natural cocoon, but Carmen still had to squirm beneath it to find a comfortable position. After a few moments of situating, she dropped her head upon the pillow. Resting on her left side, she found comfort in only the pillow. The dent in it fit her head perfectly. The pillow lulled her into her deep, processing sleep.
Carmen slept deeply for a few hours as her mind worked through the events of the day, searching for hidden meanings and threats that may not have been spoken. In that time, a dark figure loomed over her bed, shadowed with malicious intent. Her body felt the mattress give way as someone joined her on the bed. Still trapped in the deep sleep, her body registered the movement that brought the being closer to her. With no ability to open her eyes, she forced her other senses to rationalize what was going on. She heard the fabric of her feather down comforter flutter through the air as a thick brooding musk made its way to her nose, the combination caused her eyes to fly open in response. All around her was still as dark as midnight from the effects of the Immortalis evening tea, so she realized she had not gotten the necessary amount of sleep.
Piercing emerald hues scanned the room though Carmen soon realized she was unable to move. She found nothing in her line of sight. Rough hands gripped tightly around her right shoulder and knee. In the moment of contact, Carmen knew exactly who had invaded her personal sanctuary. There was a forceful tug from the hands that gripped her, rolling her onto her back. Laying flush against the mattress, Carmen was left staring up at the silken canopy over her bed as a man clambered atop her body. Her gaze narrowed at the man as she attempted to force herself into a seated position.
The weight, increased from the evening tea as well as the man on top of her, made sitting up very difficult. Moving to support herself on her elbows, she pushed herself up. Her attempt was quickly and roughly halted as a large arm slammed against her chest, shoving her back down onto the bed. Carmen landed with a huff as her arms gave way under the force of his attack.
Callused, rough hands gripped Carmen’s shoulders to hold her in place as she tried to struggle beneath him. “I DEMAND YOU GET OFF OF ME!” she shouted at Nickolas.
All he did was laugh, a sound that was filled with vicious intent. Slowly he shifted, moving one hand to her chest to keep her pinned on the bed as he took Carmen’s left wrist in his now free hand. It was in that moment that Carmen knew exactly what he planned to do.
Her eyes grew wide as she fought against him, mild horror filling her hues as he brought her wrist to his lips. Nickolas inhaled deeply, his grin twisting into one laced with carnivorous hunger. “You smell delicious,” he purred, his accompanying laugh dripped with his hatred. Carmen struggled against him, the weight caused by the tea seeming to lift as she did.
“I will have your head on a diamond platter, you bastard,” she hissed toward him.
His laugh echoed through the silence of the room. “Not likely, princess,” he sneered the title. “After tonight, you will be bound to me. Whatever happens to me, will happen to you.”
His words rang nearly true in Carmen’s ears. He planned on preforming the binding ceremony, a ritual that was banned many millennia ago due to its harsh reality of forcefully taking the virtue of a virgin. Carmen vowed in that moment not to let him succeed, while already knowing he could not.
With torturous slowness, Nickolas let his teeth graze the skin of her wrist. Carmen could feel his appetite and desire through the heat of his breath. Though his breath was warm, his action sent shivers through her body. He took one last look at the panic in her eyes, a grin twisting once more. It was then that the forewarned revenge had come. As he sunk his teeth into the tender flesh of Carmen’s wrist. She screamed out a piercing growl that showed anger rather than pain.
The act was so intrusive that Carmen thrashed beneath Nickolas in an attempt to get away. He drank deep from her veins, and as he did so, Carmen’s sight returned to normal. She could feel her strength returning. Pulling against his hold was a futile attempt, she found she was still not strong enough to get free. That was…until her vision began to blur, the black of midnight melting away to grow dark red with her anger. Her body stilled beneath Nickolas.
In the moment of brutality, the time Carmen had feared had arrived. From deep within herself, she felt the burn of a cold flame. The pure heart of her was pushed, unseen by the physical world, from her body to watch as an observer from high above. Time slowed as she watched the scene unfold. The body that once was Carmen’s, bucked beneath Nickolas, pulling a groan from his throat while hurling him from the bed. The sound of tearing flesh echoed in her ears, but she could find no wound on Nickolas. Through the window, Carmen could see a crowd forming outside the palace. The unseen heart of Carmen glanced toward the door only to find many eyes of familiar faces staring with obvious shock into her room.
Movement caught Carmen’s eye, forcing her to turn back to the altercation with Nickolas. Her body glided off the bed in one graceful movement, which was very unlike her. Black flames, like curls of smoke, rolled off her form as it moved to stand in front of Nickolas. Her arm reached for him, blood dripping onto his terror struck, upturned face from the hole in her wrist where he had bitten her.
The gleam visible in her physical eyes was bone chilling, even to the disembodied pure heart of Carmen. In the beat of a Sanguenium heart, now that the physical form was free, Carmen was pulled back into her body to remain only an observer as her form moved of the will of someone else. Through her eyes, she scanned the room. Her sight landed on the doorway where she found the petrified faces of her loved ones. Rega and Elanya, as well as the majority of the palace staff, were watching, horrified at the unfolding events. “Run!” she tried to warn the observers, but her voice did not escape the blackness of her in-body prison.
Focus shifted to Nickolas once again. Her hand grasped Nickolas around the throat. From how weak she had been only moments before, Carmen was surprised at the ease of lifting him off the ground, feet dangling six inches above the floor. Looking at the prisoner, she felt a dark delight creep across the lips of her physical form. “You are such a fool,” whispered a voice that was not hers. All who listened seemed to know that the words did not belong to their Princess.
“If you…kill…me…” Nickolas choked through the grip the body held on his throat.
“What?” the strange voice purred in mockery. “I’ll die?” Her question was followed with a giggle that none understood. “Oh honey, you are so naive. There is one thing that you do not seem to comprehend.” With a jerk of the arm, the darkness sent Nickolas flying across the room. His body blurred passed the faces watching from the doorway before it sunk two inches into the thick jewel wall of Carmen’s bedroom. “I cannot be bound to you. I have no virtue for you to take. The purity of this body was taken well before you were born.”
“Carmen,” a pained, worry-filled, familiar voice pulled at Carmen’s pure heart.
The strange, dark voice laughed at Nickolas’ disbelief. “Your feeble attempt to bind yourself to me was thwarted by one whose ego rivals even your own. Yours would not be the first attempt on binding this form,” the darkness mocked again before all amusement disappeared. The tone darkened, foretelling the only truth Carmen had ever known. “Only one shall have the form that holds two within.” The statement from the unnatural and unfamiliar voice confirmed the fears of Elanya, Votoro, and Carmen in less than one heartbeat.
Nickolas’ reply was breathless yet still held his cocky arrogance as he picked himself up from the ground. “That is why your father sent me.” The gleam in his eyes was that of pure evil and utter hatred, darkening his hues several shades to their pitch black. “He sent me to do what he failed to accomplish. To bind you so that your power will be mine and his to control. He did not tell me what was needed was lost due to his actions.”
The words echoed through her mind, forcing the pure heart of Carmen to retreat further into the darkness. She could not bear the reality that had been forced to forget. “You cannot bind the power of The Pure,” the voice stated as Carmen pushed all the information from her memory. She had never wanted to know this. She never wanted any of this to be truth. At the silence that followed the statement, Carmen was forced to return to control of her form.
Anger flooded through Carmen as she was returned to control. Stolen memories of her father's violation flooded her mind. She stalked toward Nickolas, taking him by the throat once again. “You have woken something that should have lay dormant,” she scolded, nearly screaming. “You sensed it in me. You feared it! Yet you still acted so selfishly, and now my life is no longer my own.”
Ignoring the observers who watched from the hall, as well as the whispers from the street below, Carmen focused all her attention on Nickolas. With every ounce of power she could muster, through her strength and that of the darkness now awake and active inside her, she hurled him toward the wall that held the single window to her room.
Nickolas shattered her vanity mirror, going completely through it before his body plummeted into the wall. While he was disoriented, Carmen launched herself at him, thrusting her fist deep within his chest. His ear shattering scream tickled the darkness within Carmen with utter glee. The power behind her punch was stronger than she hand intended, which she regretted. As she reached to grip his heart, Nickolas was forced through the six inches of clear, solid, diamond-hard jewel that stood as her bedroom wall, which left her to watch as he fell the three stories to the ground below.
The crowd below parted with shouts of surprise as crystal shards tumbled to the earth around Nickolas’ broken form. Elanya was by Carmen’s side in less than a second. She was trying desperately to pull her daughter away from the Nickolas-shaped hole in the wall, keeping her from jumping through so that Carmen could finish the job she had started. Carmen wanted nothing more than to rip her attacker to pieces. As Elanya’s hands were joined by those of Rega, Carmen’s sight turned dark, leaving her in silence.
After that, Carmen was thrown into a prison cell to await the decision of the King in regards to her future. Once the palace grounds were clean of jewel shards and a very shattered Nickolas tended to by palace staff, Carmen was brought before her father as well as his royal court. Votoro, in his rage, ordered she be executed. The court cautioned him against that course due to the information offered by the darkness as well as Nickolas, so he changed his punishment to exile.
Carmen was meant to be thrown into the depths of purgatory located in the space of the Eternal Web of Life untouched by realms. However, the power of her darker half threw her into the realm of Itamkey. For centuries she lived out her days walking the lands, and embracing the seas of the world known as Earth.