Illustrations by Jowhara Mohammed
The world stood still around Anya. and the cold numbness she feared overcame her as she saw Adrian ride toward her. She could barely feel Luca’s protective grip on her or hear Julia’s shouts as she ran to them. This can’t be happening, she thought. Panic paralyzed her, but the fear for Luca, who stood beside her, made her fight it.
Her head began to spin as she thought of ways to make them safe. Protective spell? She could try, but Adrian was too powerful. She wasn’t prepared to face him. She needed potions, strength spells, and the thing that she thought could stop, or at least weaken him: the jewels in her bracelet. But even the jewels wouldn’t be enough. She couldn’t even remember the spell to enchant them. She wasn’t prepared. She wasn’t ready!
“You have to go,” she said to Luca.
“To where?” Julia asked, terrified. “He will stop us with a flick of his finger.”
“We can fight,” Luca said, and she saw that he had his sword ready in his hand.
“Are you mad?” Julia said, her panic rising. “You think we can fight, oh, the most powerful sorcerer in all the four kingdoms?”
“We can try,” Luca eyes sharp in a way Anya had never seen, causing the fear in her heart to transform into courage.
“Yes, we can try,” Anya said and grabbed Julia’s hands.
Julia looked at her for a few seconds and then nodded. “We’re going to die eventually anyway, I guess,” she said with a quivering smile as she gripped Anya’s hands and started to chant.
Anya followed suit and put her heart into the spell. Adrian would not hurt Luca. He couldn’t, and Anya would make sure of it, even if it was the last thing she did.
As they chanted, she felt Lex sit between her and Julia, and she felt him helping her with the spell. Luca stood in front of them. Even though their spell would be stronger than his sword, she appreciated his will to fight with them. Deep down in her heart, she knew that even if they weren’t trapped, he would still fight for her, and for that she put her soul into the spell to protect him.
A circle of rushing wind formed a shield around them, and the pounding of horses’ hooves and shouting men made her believe the spell was working, so she kept chanting, not daring to look up and get distracted. She had to focus, to draw on all the pain, the hurt, and guilt she suffered since the moment she left the castle.
But as soon as she felt hopeful, a rope of flaming fire cut through the circle of wind with such force that made her let go of Julia’s arms. She was thrown onto her back.
She scrambled to her feet and saw Adrian standing before her, with three or four men behind him. His icy gaze pierced into her soul, only to bring back a mountain of emotions that paralyzed her and drained the courage out of her heart.
“Stay behind me,” she heard Luca say, before he shielded her from the approaching men. Next to him Lex stood, baring his teeth and ready to pounce. On their other side, she rubbed shoulders with Julia.
“We are so dead,” Julia murmured.
Anya’s heart stopped. It was Adrian’s voice. So calm and gentle, yet so cold and loud enough for all of them to here. “I came to take you home.”
“You’re not taking her,” Luca shouted, his sword raised, ready to strike.
She heard Adrian laugh softly. Anya wanted to see what he would do, to predict which magic he would perform, but she couldn’t move. She could hardly take a breath. She hated her weakness and helplessness.
“Stay back,” Luca said again as he pushed her behind him, while he took a step forward.
The four men behind Adrian walked toward them, weapons in hand. Luca braced himself for the clash, while sparks flew from Julia’s hands.
“Oh, I won’t die by a novi’s hands!” Julia said as threw the first blow, which hit one of his men. He swayed from the impact, and from the panicked look on Julia’s face, Anya knew the blow was meant to deliver great harm.
The man she hit with her spark rushed toward her with an ax. She whispered a spell and flicked his hands at him. This time the hit knocked him off his feet and Julia clapped her hands in victory, which didn’t last long as two other men rushed forward to attack.
Anya started casting a spell to help her, but the men around Julia made it hard for her to aim at one without harming Julia. Anya was shaking too much, and the sound of metal clashing rang in her head. She panicked.
Luca, on the other hand, was fighting a huge man whom she recognized as Cedric, Adrian’s first man. Unlike the other men, she knew Cedric had never been the object of strength spells or any type of magic, which gave Luca a chance to beat him, but with Luca’s injured leg, she could never be sure. She had to help him, but her mind could think of nothing, nothing but the dread of meeting Adrian’s eyes again.
“Clara,” she heard Adrian say again and suddenly time stood still.
Her breathing was shallow, and her heartbeat slowed down. It was as if she was in one of her dreams. Maybe it was a dream and Lex would bark soon to wake her up.
But, as she turned her attention finally to Adrian, she knew it was real. It was so real, she could feel his living soul touching hers.
Oh, how she had loved him, how she had believed in him. Yet, he had betrayed her and hurt her family. But, you did that, a voice told her. You listened to him and did what he asked without question. The image of her parents and brother lying in their own blood passed through her mind, and every nerve and muscle in her body shivered. Yes, I did it with my own hands, she thought as anger burned her heart.
Because you love him, the voice said. Because deep down in your heart you know he was right. That throne is yours. You deserve it.
No, I don’t.
Yes, you do, and you will rule beside him, the one you love; the only one who loves you. The one who gave you everything you wanted and was denied. Because you are as dark as he is. You deserve him.
You love him.
I love him. I do. She knew it now.
You will be his queen.
“I will be his queen,” she whispered.
Luca’s warrior’s instinct sprang to life as he fought one of Adrian’s men. His body knew what to do. After two blows, Luca managed to hit the man’s jaw with his elbow, which gave him an open window to see Julia firing magical blows on two men. Next to her, he caught Anya standing still, her eyes wide with terror. He was about to go to her, when he caught a glimpse of the man lunging his sword at him. Luca swayed to his right to avoid the strike, intending to return the blow, but the man was too fast and their swords clashed again.
Luca needed to end the fight quickly, as his worry for Anya grew stronger by the second, but the man was strong and a very skilled swordsman, and the rising pain in Luca’s leg was starting to weigh him down.
He tried to hide the pain, but after a couple of strikes, he could tell the man caught his weakness. He smiled viciously and, with a few maneuvers, managed to hit his left legs with the sword’s hilt. The pain shot straight to Luca’s head and forced him to collapse.
As he hit the ground, he saw, to his utmost horror, Adrian walking toward Anya and Lex barking at him. He thought it might be the pain that made his vision blur, but he could see clouds of sparks shooting out of Lex’s mouth.
No! Luca wanted to scream. Adrian flicked his hands and Lex dropped to the ground with a whimper, but Luca’s pain was now unbearable.
The man drew the sword away in order to strike the final blow, when something sharp hit the blade and knocked it away. Luca breathed in the pain and rolled over to grab his own sword. He was still too weak to hit the man, and he felt a kick on his side, which flipped him again onto his back. He expected to see the man’s sword pointed at him for the second time, but to his surprise, something hit the man and knocked him aside.
Luca thought it was probably Julia or even Lex, but as he tried to stand with the help of his sword, he saw a man walking past him. He was headed toward Adrian.
Puzzled by this new man, Luca felt a hand on his arms, and he turned to see Julia helping him to stand.
“Are you hurt?” she asked.
“Anya!” he said. He needed to go to her, but he could not even take one step toward her without the pain rising.
“We need to get her away from him,” Luca said. He couldn’t give up, not now. He had to go get Anya.
“You can’t fight him off, Luca!” Julia shouted at him. “And besides, I think these guys are here to help.”
“What guys?” he said, trying to keep upright despite the pain.
“The men who saved us,” she said, and Luca noticed a young man with a sword fighting three men at the same time, with a speed he had never before seen in any other man.
“I think they’re sorcerers as well,” Julia added. “That man is on some kind of speed spell. He came just in time, before I was drained of power.”
“And the other man saved me as well,” Luca said, as he saw the old man facing Adrian.
“He is powerful,” she said, then added with a nervous laugh, “Maybe we won’t die so soon after all.”
Feeling the pain easing, Luca tried to move closer to where Anya stood with Adrian, whose arms were wrapped around her shoulders, a sight that infuriated him.
Julia kept pulling him back, but he kept moving. Only when he could hear what the old man was saying did he allow her to stop him.
“I didn’t expect to see you so soon, Galen,” Adrian said in such a calm cold way that sapped the life and color from anything alive.
The old man who Luca assumed was Galen replied, “I knew you would make a mess sooner or later, Adrian, but I never thought it would be to this extent.” He pointed at Anya.
“Every step I took was for this,” Adrian said, looking down at Anya.
“She broke from your spell before and she will do so again,” Galen said. “Every magic has its flaw, if you remember. I taught you that.”
“Oh, not this time,” Adrian said with pure menace, “This time, I’m planning something very special for my dear Clara,” he added as he stroked Anya’s cheek with the back of his hand.
Luca wanted to cut that hand off and get Anya away from him.
As if Julia could read his mind, she tugged his arm and whispered, “Don’t alarm him, or he’ll hurt her. Let’s wait and see how this goes.”
“I can’t do nothing!” Luca snapped at her in a whisper.
“That,” she pointed at the old man, “if I’m not mistaken, is Galen, the previous grand sorcerer of Tharun. And if what I heard about him is correct, he has the biggest shot to fight off Adrian.”
That soothed Luca’s anger a little bit, but the blank look on Anya’s face and the way her body stood still made him anxious.
The two men stood face-to-face, both smiling, but Luca could see that their bodies were alert, waiting for the first strike to be thrown.
And Galen was the first. Luca saw him slip a small bottle from his sleeve and throw it at Adrian, who caught it magically in midair and tossed it behind them. The bottle shattered as it hit the ground, and fog floated out of it.
“Don’t try this, Galen. I would hate to kill such a talented fellow sorcerer,” Adrian said. His voice was empty of sympathy as he stomped on the ground. A vine of green lightning sprang out of Adrian’s foot and headed for Galen, who held the lightning bolt with the same invisible grip Adrian had used on the bottle. Galen threw it back at Adrian, who flicked his finger, and the bolt shot into a rock beside him.
“We should move back,” Julia said, as they saw Adrian release his grip from Anya and start to chant.
And then Luca saw a window of opportunity.
“Let’s get Anya as they fight,” he whispered to Julia.
“Can you move fast enough?” she asked. She didn’t sound worried, but she was excited by this turn of events.
“Yes, let’s go!” he said as Adrian shot another spell at Galen.
Luca was focused on Anya and not following what was happening with the two sorcerers, but as they circled them to get to her, Julia shielded them with whatever power was left in her. Sparks, bolts, and bottles flew around them.
When they reached Anya, Luca saw that Galen was on his knees with Adrian, ready to deliver the last blow. Without thinking twice, Luca pulled out a knife from his belt and threw it at Adrian. It hit his side.
Adrian flinched and whatever magic he was preparing vaporized. He took one look at the blade and pulled it out. Blood poured out, but he clasped one hand on the wound and started chanting, and Galen took that chance to fire another spell at him.
“We have to move, Luca,” Julia said, shaking him back to their original plan.
It pained him to see the blank look still on Anya’s face, but he would fix that once she was away and safe from Adrian.
But the plan to save Anya turned out to be harder than they thought. The moment Julia touched her, Anya, with one word, flung her away.
“Anya?” Luca said in the same tone he used whenever Anya was too scared or too angry. “Anya, we need to leave.”
But the only response he got was a burning pain in his head.
“I am Queen Clara and you cannot speak to me like that,” she sounded proud and condescending.
She released her grip on him and walked to Adrian. Luca followed her. He saw the damage the sorcerers’ fight had caused: half of the grass under them was burned to ashes. One of them must have fired such a strong spell that their side of Tolia’s wall was cracked. On top of the wall stood a line of soldiers, each with a bow and arrow ready to be released on order.
Anya probably saw them, too, because she raised her hand at them, chanting a spell that widened the crack so fast that the wall burst open. Luca stood still. He had never realized how strong Anya’s magic was.
Does she even know she is that strong? he wondered. Does she even know what she is doing?
He didn’t know what to do. He knew he couldn’t shake her out of that state, and for a split second he was taken aback by the knowledge that he had lost Anya. She was gone.
And yet, he remembered his promise to never let her go, and he vowed to fight till the end. Snatching a sword from one of the men who lay motionless on the ground, he ran with the intention to slay Adrian, who was aiming his magical fire at Galen.
Luca was about to swing his sword when his whole body froze, like it had in the Wanderers’ tent. Rage burned through every vein in his body.
“We can’t fight him!” Julia said, as he saw Anya mount one of the horses with Adrian.
They were leaving. Luca had lost and Adrian had taken Anya from him.
AUTHOR: Kummam Al-Maadeed is an author from Qatar, who believes in magic
and the existence of fairy worlds. She started writing in 2007 when she was
attending Qatar University to study Mass Communications. She now works
at Qatar University as a Section Head of Media & Publications, as she
dreams about her next novel. The Lost Rose is her debut best-selling novel.
ARTIST: Jowhara Mohammed is a self-taught portrait artist from Qatar, whose passion in life is to express beauty and emotions through art. She is addicted to pencil, in love with water colors and charmed by oil colors. Her arts were featured in many local novels such as The Lost Rose and the upcoming Arabic novel, Broken Heart Syndrome.