It was hard to understand why anyone would want to live in the desert. Sure the jungle was quite warm in its own right, but the desert was just too much. It was like living in an oven. Constantly on, and baking everyone every single day. It was only went night fell that there was some relief. Surprisingly, it gets quite cold at night.
Unfortunately, it was currently the middle of the day. I sat in the garden, beneath a tree and next to a pond that had what looked like lily pads floating in it. In the garden, there was many herbs, flowers, and vegetables. I saw gardeners pulling weeds and gathering the ripe vegetables. How could they possibly work in this heat? I was sitting in the shade, yet I was sweating like I had been working for hours.
My eyes were closed as I lazily fanned myself with my hand. I had been in Escadana palace for a couple of days now. I was avoiding Jaguar as much as I could, and when I couldn’t, I didn’t speak to him at all. I was never going to forgive him. He had taken me from my home, and carried me off to a far away land where I was suffering greatly from this unbearable heat. Damn this heat!
My ears twitched as I heard footsteps. I cracked my eye open to see who was approaching. A growl escaped from my lips as I saw it was Jaguar. The last person in the world that I wanted to see. He stopped when he heard me growl. The look on his face reminded me of his old self. His fake self. The one that I had thought was my friend.
“Ara,” Jaguar said softly. There was no longer any sign of the arrogance that he showed a couple of days ago. “Ara, I’m sorry. You have to believe me when I say that I didn’t really mean anything that I said. I was just…no. There is no excuse for the way I acted.”
I couldn’t take his apology seriously. For all I knew, he was trying to trick me again. I turned my head, so I was no longer looking at him. I heard him come closer. My tail twitched. I heard him stop when he was right next to me.
“Ara, please look at me.” I refused to look at him. “Ara, please!” The desperation in his voice was thick.
Sighing, I looked at him. I was taken aback when I saw him kneeling on the ground. He was bow, his forehead inches from the ground. The way his arms were positioned, made him look like a toad. It was the type of bow people did when they groveling, or begging for forgiveness. This type of bow was the ultimate humiliation for any royal or noble. They would rather be dead than caught bowing in such a way. Yet Jaguar was doing it right here, where eyes could see him. Yes, the gardeners had noticed this scene. I could hear them whispering to each other.
I closed my eyes, not wanting to see him like that. “I can forgive you for the way you acted, even though to practically humiliated me, however,” I paused, and opened my eyes. He had risen, so now he was just kneeling on the ground. He looked happy, but there was still evidence in guilt in his eyes. “However, I can never forgive you for kidnapping me.”
The deep guilt and sadness that showed on Jaguar’s face made my chest feel tight. I was actually feeling guilty. His face made me want to forgive him. However, I knew I shouldn’t. He had wronged me. Betrayed me. Humiliated me. He did things that could not easily be forgiven.
Jaguar hung his head. “I understand.” His voice held such sadness that it made the guilt grow even more. It was more than I could take.
I stood up, brushing the dirt off of me. “Well, it’s good that you understand.” I walked past him, and was heading back inside the palace. I hear Jaguar get up and started to follow me. I stopped, but didn’t look at him. “Don’t follow me. I would rather be alone. I’m still quite angry at you, so it’s best if you leave me alone for right now.” I started walking again, and was thankful that he listened to me and didn’t continue to follow.
If anything, I just needed to cool my head off. Kind of hard when everyday it was over 100 degrees. I had partially forgiven him, so that kind of put on a somewhat good terms. Well, not really, but better than what were. Jaguar had lost my trust, though there was still a part of me that wanted to trust him. However, it was going to be hard for him to gain that trust back.
Lost in thought, I hadn’t realized that I was lost in the palace. This place was like a maze. Too many turns, and too many hallways. Though, I probably had no right to complain, since my castle was similar. The difference was that I had memorized all of those hallways, twists, and turns. I haven’t been he long enough to familiarize myself with everything.
While trying to retrace my steps, I took a wrong turn and stumbled upon a scene between one of the men I met on my first day here, and a human maid. One thing I noticed was that there were a lot of humans here, especially females. Back in Ferrentaea, there were some humans, but not many. I never really got around to asking them as to how, or why they were brought here to the cat demon world, for I was afraid I might bring up unpleasant memories.
The scene in question didn’t look like a good one. The guy, couldn’t tell which one it was since I couldn’t see his face, was touching and kissing the maid while pushing her up against the wall. He had his arm around her waist, a hand trailing up her leg and up her dress, and he was kissing her neck. She didn’t look like she was enjoying it.
“Please, sir, could you stop? I need to get back to work.” the maid said. She was putting her hands on his arms, and gently trying to push him off of her.
“Why? You enjoyed it last time didn’t you?” he said. He continued with what he was doing, ignoring how much she was protesting
I was not the type of person to just stand and watch this. This was sexual harassment, which was probably going to end up turning into rape. I walked up to the two of them, neither one noticing me as I approached. I grabbed the wrist of the hand that was trailing up her leg, stopping it from going any higher. Both looked at me, the woman looking scared with hope gleaming in her eyes that I was about to save her. The guy, on the other hand, didn’t look to happy. Now that I got a closer look at him, he was the guy with the more angular face and dark brown eyes. Kha, I believe his name was.
“I suggest you stop what you’re doing and let her go. She obviously doesn’t want you to continue, so be and gentleman and respect her wishes.” I said to him.
The man smirked. “Heh. Fine.” He let go of the girl, while continuing to look at me. The woman, who looked thankful, ran as soon as he let go. Once she was out of sight, I let go of his wrist. I turned to leave as well, but Kha grabbed me by my shoulder and slammed me up against the wall. “Since you made me let her go, you’ll just have to take her place.”
Crap. He grabbed my face and kissed me. His tongue diving deep into my mouth. I made protesting sounds as his other hand started to explore. He was putting all of his weight on me, so I was pressed up against the wall and couldn’t move. I gasped when he finally broke the kiss.
“What’s the matter? You don’t look to happy. Was my kiss not to your satisfactory?”
“Let me go.” I tried pushing him away, but he wouldn’t budge.
“Don’t protest. I promise you that I’m better than my half-breed brother of mine.” Half-breed? Who was he talking about? Wait. Did he mean Jaguar? So this jerk was one of his older brothers. Wow, I felt really sorry for him. I had no idea that his brother was such a pig. “I promise I can satisfy a woman of such pedigree.” Kha sounded confident. Like I was just going to give into him.
He started kissing me again. However, I wasn’t like the maid. There was a huge difference between us. For one, she was human. I was not. Two, I had claws. She didn’t. I placed my hand on the side of his face. I dug my claws into him and dragged them down from his temple to his chin. He screamed and let go of me. While he was putting pressure on his wound to try and stop the bleeding, I made a run for it.
I heard him start to run after me. “Come back here.” he yelled.
I continued to run. I had no idea where I was, or where I was going. I turned down many hallways trying to lose him. But no matter how many turns, he seemed to keep up with me quite well. When I turned down one hall, I saw a door that was ajar. I slipped into the room and closed the door. I pressed my ear up against the door. My heart pounded loudly as I heard him stop.
“Where did she go? Damn that bitch. When I get my hands on her.” He sounded pissed. After a few heartbeats, I heard him walk away. I waited for a couple of more heartbeats before I relaxed. I sighed in relief.
“Who’s there?” I jumped and turned around to see who was talking. I saw and old man lying on a bed. He sat up and looked in my direction. He had long black hair, which looked rather messy like it hadn’t been brushed in a while. The fur on his ears was scruffy and starting to turn gray. His eyes looked like a light brown, but were kind of cloudy.
He started coughing violently. I rushed over to him and started to rub his back. I didn’t know what else to do. “Are you okay? Do I need to get someone?” I said to him.
He reached out and took my hand that wasn’t rubbing his back. Getting a closer look at him, he looked tired, old, and fragile. My guess was that what ever illness he had had something to do his current state.
The man squinted as he took a closer look at me. “Nefretari?” I was shocked for a moment because he had called me by my mother’s name. I opened my mouth to correct him, but stopped when I saw tears. “I’ve been seeing you in my dreams almost every night. Now I’m starting to see you in the daytime as well while I’m awake. Are you a mirage created by the heat? A hallucination created by my own guilt? Or are you here in as a spirit coming to seek revenge for what I did?”
Revenge? I had not idea what he was talking about. But his the look on his face was heart wrenching. “No, I’m not here to take my revenge.” Even though I had no idea what was going on, he seemed to be in pain. Whatever he did was eating him up inside. Maybe by pretending to be my mother, I could ease that pain.
He squeezed my hand. “You always had such a forgiving nature, Nefretari. Even though I played a part in your death, you would forgive this old man? I do not deserve your forgiveness.”
I stiffened. My mother’s death? From what I understood, my mother had died from some sort of illness. Who was this guy? And what did he know about my mother’s death that nobody else did?
“Why shouldn’t I forgive you? You seem to very sorry for what you did. How can I not forgive you when you have been suffering since I died?” I was still going to pretend to be my mother. I wanted to get information out of him while acting like I knew what he was talking about.
The old man started coughing again. I rubbed and patted his back. His breathing became labored, and shook when he spoke. “Of course I’m sorry for what I did. I was the one who gave them the alwyak root. Though, I swear I did not know that they were going to use it to poison you. I swear Nefretari. They said that you weren’t feeling well, and that the medicine that is usually made from that root was the medicine needed. I was a fool to believe them.”
Poison? My mother was Poisoned? Many questions ran through my mind at once. However, I had to stay calm. If I bombarded him with questions, he would eventually find out I wasn’t my mother. The major question as to had asked him for the root was the one that I wanted to ask more than anything. I needed to know if it might be someone I knew. Someone who I saw everyday. For who was to say they wouldn’t do the same to me?
“It’s not your fault. You had no idea that was what they were planning. Therefore, my death had nothing to do with you.” It was all I could say to him. I was hoping my words would ease his guilt.
The man shook his head. “No, it is my fault. If I hadn’t given it to them, then you would have never died. Now, the same root I gave to them that they used to poison use you, is poisoning me as well. I know my wife is the one poisoning me. She wants me dead so Rudjek can take the throne. I don’t say anything because this is my punishment for what I did.” Oh my god! This was king Eytan. “My only wish before I die is that I want to see Alexandria one more time.”
Alexandria? Jaguar’s lover? King Eytan’s face seemed to soften. The look that he had was one of a man missing his lover. A rivalry between father and son? Is that why Alexandria was forced to leave?
Before I could say anything else, Eytan’s grip loosened on my hand. His body became limp, and for a moment I thought he was dead. I became cold with fear that the king had died right in front of me, while we both were alone in the room. If I was caught like this, or went to get someone, they might think I had something to do with his death. However, I saw him breathing, which made the fear go away. I gently lowered him, so his head was lying on the headrest.
I quietly left the room. My mind was going at a million miles a minute. I had just found out about two huge scandals that could lead to multiple deaths. Not only that, but I felt sorry for king Eytan. He was suffering from guilt, and also sick because he was being poisoned. By his own wife nonetheless. I felt terribly sorry for him.
I eventually found the room in which I had been staying in. I went inside and walked over to the bed. Sitting down on the bed, I hugged myself. I clenched my teeth as a lump formed in my throat and hot tears blurred my vision.