Raising Kane

The Queen has ruled with an iron grip for years. But even an iron grip isn't enough. She needs more power. And there is one person that can help her. An inventor by the name of Kane. She sends out her most powerful assassins- teenage girls called Devias- to find him. All have failed, and been killed. And now it's Natalia's turn.

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29. Chapter 28- Good News- My Best Friend is Still Alive. Bad News- We're Both Going to Die

    I wake up with my wrists tied over my head. I feel cold air on my exposed arms, and look around. Eventually, my eyes settle on a single detail. Where I am. The palace’s courtyard.

    Across from me is a second post- identical in shape and size to the one I’m tied to. Bound to it is Tallima.

    She is motionless, head lolling, and just for a moment I think she might be dead. But then her chest rises in a soft breath, and I nearly sob with relief. She’s alive. For now. And so am I. Though there’s no guarantee as to how long that will last.

    “Tallima?” I whisper. Then again, louder, “Tallima!”

    She stirs, and after a second lifts her head to look at me.

    “Natalia…?”

    “I’m here,” I say quickly, relief flooding through me. I almost want to laugh-  she isn’t dead. She’s alive. Then, of course, reality returns to me. We still could die at any time.

    “You look alright…” she murmurs, cracking a smile through bloodied lips.

    “You look awful,” I reply. She does- her face is nearly black with bruises, and countless small cuts have opened, leaving small trails of blood down the side of her face.

    “Could be worse… Could have been my family that did this. Oh wait, it was…” she let out a weak laugh.

    “How can you still laugh?” I ask in disbelief. “Our situation isn’t the best.”

    She smiles back at me. “You don’t sound angry anymore.”

    “I’m not!” I say hurriedly. I had hurt her enough as it was- I didn’t want to hurt her more. “I’m sorry for what I said. I shouldn’t have spoken to you the way I did. You’re the only true friend I’ve ever had- I was just angry, after what happened with Kane. Maybe… maybe you can forgive me?”

    She smiles, and warmth fills me even before she answers.

    “Of course I can, Natalia. I don’t want to hate you. I guess I never did. It’s just… well, you know how the Devias think of you. You’re a goddess to them. The embodiment of justice. If it wasn’t for your friendship with me, you could have convinced them to let you go. They would have done it. They don’t want you to die. They don’t want to hurt you. Me, they don’t care about. But you? You were always something special to them. After all the girls you saved from beating, all the hits you took onto yourself, just to keep someone else from being hurt… they remember you for it, and they honor you. Even after they believe you’ve turned on them, there’s still that shred of hope. You heard how Iya told the other Devia to stop hurting you.”

    “You also heard her order the other Devia to drug me.”

    After you defended me,” she points out. “They were only willing to hurt you after you had expressed your allegiance to me.”

    “And I would do it again,” I say firmly. “They’re not real friends if they are willing to hurt me so easily.” My voice breaks slightly as I say this. The other Devias had always been my friends- no, more than that- my family. But now, they had cast me away. Rejected me for being loyal to the only person I’d ever dared to call my real friend.

    She looks up at the sky, taking in the clouds above us. “You think it’ll rain?”

    I look up as well. Those clouds definitely don’t look so good. “It might,” I admit with a little sigh.

    There are footsteps, and my head snaps up, instantly searching for the sound. A small surge of fear runs through me as I see Iya and Mila approaching. Mila looks furious- it’s obvious that she hates me. I study Iya with a glare that could burn through solid steel. I feel a flash of dark pleasure as she looks away.

    “Iya. Mila.” Tallima speaks, her voice dripping with poison. “Good to see you two again.”

    “Quiet, Tallin,” Mila growls. She turns to look at me, a dark light shining in her eyes. “You’ll pay for that little trick, Natalia. What did you think you were going to accomplish? Honestly. When the others talked about you I was under the impression that you were nearly invincible. ‘Only two Devias? Don’t we need more?’ But no, you went so easily. It was almost disappointing.”

    “Untie my hands, and I’ll show you why I’m so dangerous!” I snarl. “Unless you’re afraid, that is.”

“Sorry. Traitors like yourself don’t get the privilege of self defense. You’ll suffer the punishment, and no one is going to defend you. I’m not afraid of you. I’m just not going to give you the chance to shield yourself. I want you to feel each and every blow, while knowing that you are completely and utterly helpless to stop it!”

“No,” Tallima growls, surprising me. “She’s not the one you want to hurt. Iya. I know you don’t want to hurt her. I know you don’t hate her. She saved you- all of you from dying. She found Kane. She avenged the memories of the girls who died trying to find him. You don’t want to hurt her. Hurt me- punish me. It’s no less than I deserve. But Natalia? She doesn’t deserve the pain- pain I know you don’t want to give to her.”

“She’s a traitor to the queen,” Mlla replies sharply. “She betrayed us for the two murderers that killed our family. Kane, and you. If anything, she should be beaten first. Her betrayal is unforgivable. Don’t try to defend her. Besides,” she gives Tallima a dark smile, “I would be worrying more about your own skin right now.”

“Worry about my own skin?” Tallima laughs harshly. “And where did that get me? Nowhere. If I only cared for myself, my life would have no meaning. It’s in caring for others that my life becomes something worthwhile.”

“Caring for others?!” Mia’s face became one of pure fury. “You’re one to speak of caring, you little murderous worm! Where was your caring when your dagger took Julia in the heart?! Where was your kindness when she was dying?! Where was that when you killed my sister?!?!!”

Tallima’s eyes flash, surprisingly, with pain. “No amount of apology will replace your lost sister, Mila,” she whispers. “If I had been given any choice- any at all- I would have spared her. But I could not.”

“Why?!” Mila hissed, kneeling in front of Tallima and looking her in the eyes. “Tell me why. Before I kill you.”

“The Queen- the very woman you follow now- ordered me to kill your sister. She placed the blade in my hands, and threatened me- warned me that I must obey her. The woman you serve like a dog is the one who ordered your sister’s death.”

Mila’s eyes widen with shock and rage. “No. You’re lying!”

“I wouldn’t lie about this,” Tallima murmurs, her expression becoming sympathetic. “It’s the truth- no matter how ugly. I discovered it the hard way- and so did Natalia. I never would have touched Julia. The Queen forced me to obey her. To take up the blade, and kill your sister.” She takes a deep breath. “It isn’t too late to help us. If you hurt me for her death, you’d be punishing the wrong person. Just let us go. Turn a blind eye. Or come with us.”

Mila was silent for a moment. She and Iya exchanged glances, and for a moment I dared to hope. Maybe, just maybe, we would be able to get out of this alive and unhurt.

Those hopes are dashed as Mila’s eyes narrow again. “You’re a liar, Tallin. You’d say anything to save yourself. And either way, in the end it was you that wielded the dagger. Iya, give me the whip.”

Iya hesitates, and I actually believe she is going to refuse. Help us. But she simply sighs and hands Mila a long, braided whip. Tallinn’s head drops, and she falls silent.

“You’re not going to beg,” Mila comments.

“No,” Tallima agrees.

“Good.”

The whip sings in Mila’s hand, then falls, laying a line of blood across Tallima’s unprotected side. She throws her head back with a soft gasp, but otherwise makes no sound. Despite Mila’s earlier statement, this only seems to anger her. She brings the whip snapping again, across Tallima’s face. Another cut opens, and blood pours down her face.

I jerk against the ropes holding me, trying to get to her- to help her in some way. However, the ropes hold firm, and I am forced to watch as Mila whips her.

With each blow, Tallima remains stubbornly silent. Again and again she is whipped, but she somehow doesn’t so much as whimper.

I find myself begging her silently. Please, just one sound. That’s all she wants from you. Make just one sound, and she’ll stop beating you. She will beat you to death! Just give her what she wants, and she’ll stop!

Tallinn must have realized this as well, and I can see the fight in her eyes. Finally. sense wins over pride, and she lets out a soft whimper of pain.

As expected, Mila drops the whip, smirking. “Don’t worry. I’m sure that’ll heal quickly. Especially with the warrior’s magic that runs in your blood.” She turns to look at me, smirking darkly. “Don’t worry, Natalia. You’re next.” She picks up the whip and turns, walking away from us without another word. Iya follows, refusing to meet my eyes.

“Well…” Tallima murmurs weakly. “That worked…” then her head drops against her chest as she passes out.

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