Arid Seas – Chapter Two
by Dreams in Pink
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“Where is she?” the Queen demanded, frantically searching the overturned cargo and scattered provisions for any sign of her silver haired daughter. The Black Cloud had taken a good amount of their precious treasures; gold, gems, silk, and other offerings they had planned to present to the King and Queen of Earth. Queen Selenity was not a naïve woman, and knowing the dangerous of the desserts on Earth, had anticipated such an altercation. In preparation she had her craftsman build cargo holds with false bottoms, hiding the most expensive and priceless artefacts inside. What she did not anticipate, and could never prepare for was the disappearance of the Princess. The Queen’s mind reeled with thousands of possibilities, her stomach churning with worry and guilt. She should have never brought Serenity with her. She should not have left her alone in the carriage, without even a guard. She should have told her to hide.
“Your highness, I hate to say it, but –”
“Then don’t say it,” she snapped, her advisor bowing apologetically sadness evident in his sapphire eyes. Selenity sighed, allowing her thoughts to process. “Artemis, find out if anyone saw her. Send a search team out. Make sure everyone clearly understands that this is a sensitive situation. No one back home needs to know.” The man nodded. “Not even your wife,” the Queen added, “Luna has enough to take care of with us gone.” The lean man turned on his heel, “and Artemis,” Selenity called after him.
“I know My Queen, I’ll send out nothing but our best,” he reassured her with a nod. The Queen managed a grateful smile before tears slipped from her eyes.
Serenity rode her borrowed horse through the sandy seas, its hooves kicking up a whirlwind of dust as she chased after the stalwart assailant. The sun gleamed off the dragons of hair that swirled behind her, and she clenched her jaw in sheer determination. Hearing the horse’s neigh, the thief looked behind him and chuckled at the sight – never in his life had been chased down for theft by a woman.
He continued to ride on, as the girl pushed her horse to gallop faster. Serenity could see the glimmering necklace swaying dangerously from his pocket, and urged her horse closer. ‘If only I could knock it out…’ she thought, chewing her lip as she concentrated on the trinket. She edged her horse alongside the man’s, trying in vain to get as close to the necklace as possible. Seeing her proximity the man steered his horse away, yet the girl persisted. The necklace slid further from his pocket, Serenity refusing to take her eyes away. ‘Just a little more…’ she encouraged herself, once again moving her horse to the bandit’s side. Growing irritated, the man jerked his steed to the right, jostling the necklace just enough to free it from captivity. The jewellery fell swiftly to the ground, becoming buried in the sand.
Serenity cheered internally, pulling back on the reins forcing her ride to come to an abrupt halt. She sprinted to where she thought the necklace had fallen, and dropped to her knees to search through the gritty land. Her actions did not go unnoticed. The man checked his pocket for the stolen treasure, soon realising it was gone. If this girl was willing to go to such extremes for the locket, it had to be something of value. Having a strong animosity towards losing, the man began sifting through the desert grain.
“It’s mine!” Serenity hissed, digging frantically, the ends of her pigtails lined with sand.
“Finders keepers,” the man taunted, increasing his speed. Enraged, Serenity grabbed a handful of sand, hurling it in his direction. The bandit roared in surprise, his hands rubbing at his assaulted eyes. His face burned, and his eyes stung. He spat, emptying his mouth of sandy grains. As he put his hand down to steady himself, he felt metal under his palm. His fingers slowly curled around the object. He stood up wiping the grit from his face, his lean form towering over the slight girl. He held out his arm, allowing the locket to drop from his hand, the chain wrapped around his fingers.
“That’s what happens when you play dirty,” he stated triumphantly. Serenity could feel tears of frustration welling in her eyes; the most important jewel in her entire kingdom had been lost by its princess. Fuming and embarrassed, the girl released throaty growl, standing to her feet and sprinting towards his retreating form. She jumped on his back, her arms wrapped tightly around his neck.
“Give it back,” she screamed, as the man grabbed her arms trying to free himself from her grasp. He easily succeeded, sending the princess to the ground. He towered over her, blocking the sun and casting shadows on her face. There was something incredibly interesting about this girl. Her determination alone was a quality he rarely encountered.
“You’ll have to try better than that,” he winked, offering a hand to help her up. She glared at him with abhorrence, refusing his hand and struggling to her feet. Serenity took a moment to catch her breath, before charging into the man again, fingers clawing at his face.
“Give it back!” She yelled, beads of sweat lining her brow. He laughed at her efforts, easily dodging her infuriated attacks. “Give it to me!” She demanded again, hurtling herself forward and knocking him to the ground. She straddled his waist, her tiny hands hitting his chest and pulling at his hair.
“Is that all you know how to say?” He asked, grinning wildly as he fended her off.
“Give it to me,” she cried again, her voice growing hoarse. Her nails ripped into the flesh on his cheek, causing blood to trickle down his skin. Angered, he spun her over, his lean body pressing her into the sand. The girl continued to thrash, as he clamped his legs over hers and forcefully held her arms above her head. Tears began to spill from her heat swollen eyes, and she squeezed them shut expecting the worst. She soon felt the pressure lifted as her legs and arms were freed. Propping herself up on her elbows, she watched in bewilderment as he grabbed a canteen from his horse’s pack.
“Drink this,” he ordered, tossing her a silver container. She stared at it with disdain. “You’ll get dehydrated if you don’t have something to drink,” the man explained, watching the emotions play across her face. Her throat was parched, and while she wanted to reach out and grab it, she was unsure if she could trust him – who knew what was really inside.ffff “Don’t be so stubborn,” he sighed, rolling his eyes as he ran a hand through his windblown hair. Reluctantly Serenity reached for the canteen, suspiciously sniffing the contents. “It’s water,” he stated simply, answering her unasked question. “It’s not poisoned.” The princess lifted the container to her lips, looking at him with apprehension as she allowed the cool liquid to run through her body. She grew greedy, taking longer and bigger gulps in an attempt to quench her undeniable thirst. The man shook his head, watching as the water dripped down her chin, “Don’t be wasteful,” he chided, extending his hand to ask for the canteen’s return. Serenity blushed, hanging her head as she placed it into his outstretched palm.
“Thank you,” she whispered. He shrugged and finished what little water she had left. The couple remained in silence, both welcoming the temporary truce. Serenity idly inspected pieces of her once shining hair, which was now tattered with the desert’s warmth and coarse sands. Her nails had become ragged and rough, and her skin felt tight from being washed in the sun.
The bandit perched on his haunches, squinting in the sun. With his curiosity piqued, he watched every action the girl made. He had never seen anything like her; ivory skin and silver hair. Her crystal eyes spoke nothing but fury, yet something about her made him feel at ease. He half considered returning her necklace, but the potential value of the piece plus the love of the chase stopped him from doing so.
Deciding that she had wasted enough time, Serenity clamoured to her feet, ready to retrieve the locket. She could see him watching her with a ridiculous smirk on his face, which only served to aggravate the princess. She forced her footing through the deep sand, finally coming to stand directly in front of the bandit who stood as she approached. She craned her neck to see his face, and glared at him defiantly.
“Give me the necklace,” she demanded, holding out her palm, nostrils flaring as tried in vain to control her breathing. He did not answer, and instead cocked his head slightly to the side. “Please,” her voice cracked.
He remained silent. Gathering another bout of courage, Serenity tried to grab the necklace from his hand. He pulled it swiftly out of her grasp, shaking his head.
“I need it,” her voice was barely above a whisper. The sun pounded down from the sky, and she felt the heat creep under her skin. She could feel her heart beating rapidly, and did everything in her power to contain her posture. “It’s not yours. Now give it to me,” she said strongly, licking her cracking lips.
“It’s mine now,” the man replied, holding the locket up for inspection. It was definitely beautiful, with its intricate designs and delicate gold casing, but there had to be more to it than just that. It was special, he could feel it.
“No,” Serenity shook her head vehemently – this was not happening. She could feel her body growing heavy under the sweat and sun, but she refused to relent.
“Hey,” he started, seeing her face pale. She stumbled forward, her knees giving way. Serenity felt nauseous as the pounding in her head enveloped her entire body.
“Please,” she begged again, suddenly finding it hard to breathe. The man caught her as she fell, gently lying her down in the sand. He pressed his ear against her chest, checking for her beating heart. With the assumption that she had fainted from heat exhaustion, he carefully picked her up, and carried her over to his horse. As the leader of the Black Cloud he had a strict rule – no death unless absolutely necessary, and he knew leaving her there would be sentencing her to just that. He tucked the necklace back in his pocket, and took off towards the horizon, leaving Serenity’s chestnut steed alone in the sand.
“Your majesty?” Artemis knocked softly on the carriage door. It had taken three men to pry the dagger from the lock, but they had managed to repair it for the most part.
“Any sign of her?” she asked, her ocean eyes raising with hope.
“One of the servants saw her ride off on a horse,” he started, “they said that she seemed to be following someone,” he explained.
“Following someone?” the Queen repeated, confused. This was Serenity’s first journey to Earth, she had no acquaintances.
“I don’t know what to make of it either,” he confessed, running a hand through his snowy hair. Artemis knew that the Queen was a strong woman. She had dealt with a lot of adversary in her life, and had always overcome it. However, losing her only daughter would be something he knew she would never be able to get past. Silently he vowed to do everything in his power to find the missing princess – and he had an idea. “What now, my Queen?” he asked, trying to decide how to breach the subject.
“Our men are tired and hungry,” Selenity said, knowing how difficult it could be to balance being a leader and mother, but she needed to think of her people. “The only thing we can do is continue our journey to the palace and hope that the King will offer his help,” her stomach churned at the thought of leaving the place her daughter was last seen. Every inch of the desert looked the same, and she was unsure she would ever be able to find their exact location again. Artemis could see the struggle on her face.
“There is one more thing we could do,” his voice was quiet, and once look from the Queen told him that she knew exactly what he was thinking.
“Summon them,” she ordered. Artemis bowed, and left the Queen to her thoughts. An eerie calm swept over her, and she took in a deep breath. They would be here soon; the four finest warriors in the solar system, and they would bring her little girl home.
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