The Ruby Insignia
Loss of Power
The year 6345 OI (Odunti Ikpe)
She always smelled of roses. It was her signature scent. It lingered around her like embers that trailed her. Some days, her scent would fade into something mixed with honey. Other days it would resemble something seductive, intoxicating.
Today, her fragrance was new. He hadn’t noticed it till now. Her embers were cloaked with a heavy floral perfume, and underneath it was the scent of fresh blood. Her blood.
He stood over her, enveloping her in His shadow. The blood was raw and untamed. She couldn’t hide it from Him; she didn’t try. Perhaps she’d used the perfume to mask the blood from other celestials who probably lurked in the deep forests.
He took a breath in, then thought back to the time she’d first called him after centuries. Three nights ago. His skin tightened. Perhaps He should’ve stayed. A’Mara had summoned him to the forest. Her hideaway was deep within Dunia, Kekere-Daun. A’Mara had a fight; she and Kerria. Her anger was pestering, and Kerria had slipped into the woods to calm herself down.
A’Mara had called again. This time, it was without words. He’d felt it through their bond; something was wrong. As He stood close to her, He felt the pain. Her emotions were always entangled with His, especially after they bonded. He felt everything she felt, from the slightest bit of anger to inexplicable joy. He was used to it.
Yet He couldn’t bring Himself to be used to the pain. He was more than able to tolerate pain Himself. He’d lived through it; the power-surges the seals, Iyùn’s pull in His veins. It was her. A’Mara shouldn’t have to feel pain.
Three days ago, A’Mara was upbeat, lively. Her attire reflected it. Silk dress flowing over her skin like smooth red paint, she’d resembled the Empress He knew her to be: sensuous and confident. Now she was draped in white—tattered white. The chiffon silk was tired and worn, ripped in conspicuous places. Around her neck was the rose-gold pendant He’d given her. A clean-cut ruby was enclosed in the metal brackets hanging just below her collarbone.
Perhaps she’d worn it, and whoever had come after her tried to take it from her. He’d given the chain to A’Mara as a bond gift. He let His embers wrap around her, then cupped her chin in His palms. Her face was red and puffy, stained from the tears. Once, her face was golden, filled with life. Now it was tired, bleached of its rich umber color, and replaced with a pale, ghastly red.
Who could have caused her this pain?
Who could have caused this unbearable magnitude of anguish that seeped through her skin and into His? This was torment bludgeoning His back. Knives stabbing into Him with no rest creating wounds that would never heal. He turned her. His fingers trailed the edges of her skin to where her wings once were.
Blood seeped through the white dress.; it was shredded where her back muscles were. The wounds were deep and upsetting. Dread settled on His stomach. The wide cuts hadn’t been created with any ordinary knife; the dagger was dipped in Sẹda—Chaos. Whoever stabbed her, cut out her wings, must’ve been an Ancient One. He swallowed.
A’Mara buried her face in her hands and sobbed.
Two wounds in the place of wings. She’d never get them back. Her fore-bones and joints had been sliced away with a clean cut. He dared not to touch it, not to cause any more pain. He pulled His fingers away from her.
Her wings were gone…
She was ruined. They did it to prove a point to Him. His mind flashed to a list of suspects who could’ve done it….
He’d long considered the Ancient Ones for years as they lurked in the shadows of Dunia’s dark forests. But most of them were locked away in the Abyss, sedated. Unless…
He didn’t want to think that they’d escaped. But how? And when? Maybe it was someone else. Someone darker and more twisted than even they were. But who else could’ve been old enough and powerful enough to compete with the Ancient Ones? No other Asaylin would dare to breach another Asaylin’s bond mate. And this was Chaos. No ordinary Sẹda. Not Sẹda of the Titans or the Almases.
He’d told her to trust Him.
And she did.
The longer He stared at the wound, the more Iyùn bubbled. Revenge became the fuel that ignited the Sẹda that surged beneath His skin. He’d promised her He’d never do this. But now He was tempted. Tempted to break it, to break the seal.
He let His energy subside. A’Mara stood there, clutching herself.
What would He say to her?
She’d risked her life to be with Him. She risked her life to save a clan that fell no matter how hard He tried to help them. What would He say to the Empress whose love was the very thing that created these realms? What would he say to the Empress whose life He once saved and whose trust He’d gained? For the times He’d been with her, she endured suffering served to her by gods who thought it was their duty to take matters into their own hands. And now, here she was, battered and broken. Defeated.
She never matched the other females in the realms. She was different. She fought for what she believed in; she helped those who needed her help. No other female could match her courage. No other female could stand up to her loyalty.
She still trusted Him.
He took A’Mara in His arms, her skin hot to the touch. Streams of tears ran down her cheeks, soaking her dress. Her heart thudded against His. Her energy matched His. Her breaths were staccato, dancing against His skin, desperately trying to fight the pain.
Her heart wove a song. There was something unique about it. Something familiar. Her song intertwined with His. There was something complex and daring and true about the love she had for Him—the love He had for her. He promised her His protection; in return, she promised Him her love. Power had once been the fuel to create these realms, but love was the power that kept the realms thriving. Though He held the power, she held the love that fueled it.
Night after night, that love tortured Him. It tortured Him no more. Whoever did this to her, He would find them. And they would wish they had never been made.